South Africa's Edgars to be repositioned as mass market brand, says new owner


By Nqobile Dludla

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 22 (Reuters) - South African retailer Retailability Ltd plans to reposition Edgars as a mass market brand catering to fashion and beauty products and exit from its homeware division, its chief executive told Reuters on Monday.

Last Tuesday Durban-based Retailability closed a deal to acquire 130 out of 194 stores of the 91-year old icon of South African high street.

"For us a big focus in repositioning the Edgars brand is bring it back to the mass market South African space," Norman Drieselmann said in an interview.

Edgars opened its first store in Johannesburg in 1929 and over the years became a symbol of fashion in the apartheid era of South Africa, creating a retail empire with hundreds of stores by the turn of the century.

In the 2000s, its swanky stores, diversified range of apparel, beauty and accessories and fashion shows gave it a ubiquitous repute of being a one-stop shop in the upper end of fashion.

"My personal view is that the Edgars business started shifting too niche and ultimately it took the big box retailer further and further away from the average South African," Drieselmann said.

This new strategy will entail getting the right balance between private labels and international brands that have recognition to the local market and have the right value proposition, he said.

Edgars, owned by Edcon, saw its fortunes dwindle and debts rise over the past decade as more international brands made way into South Africa at a time when the country was in the throes of weak consumer spending and poor economic growth.

Edcon, under CEO Grant Pattison, restructured some of its debt in 2019 to stave off bankruptcy. But plans did not reach fruition as the coronavirus pandemic forced the beleaguered retailer to temporarily close, pushing it into a form a bankruptcy protection in April.

"We really want to narrow our focus and so let's do what we do well," Drieselmann said, adding that the Retailability's competence lies in the fashion space and he will exit Edgars homeware business.

Retailability, founded by its current chairman, Clifford Lines, as a second hand clothes importer, runs Legit for young women's fashion, Beaver Canoe for men's fashion and Style for families. Its outlets are largely located outside core metropolitan nodes where a majority of its low-to-middle income target market exists.

Drieselmann plans to relaunch Edgars now defunct e-commerce website by end October and restructure its back office, he said.

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Steve Orlofsky)

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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