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Footwear Industry News

NCRF: All products can be sold, summer imports allowed, but lessons will have to be learnt

Published: 1st Jun 2020
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

Cape Town, W Cape, SA – Any apparel retailer can sell any item of apparel, all apparel retailers are allowed to have all members of staff at work, and the only restrictions now are hygiene - masks, sanitizers and social distancing. That's the situation as of today as far as the National Clothing Retailers' Federation understands it, executive director Michael Lawrence said on Friday.
       Also, the import of summer merchandise is allowed, he said.
       "As far as the regulations for retailers is concerned, there's no 'one size fits all'," he said. "Having all your staff at work, for example, may reduce the number of customers you can allow in at a time, because there's a mathematical formula, based on a retailer's floor space, which determines how many people may be in a store at a time.
       "We'll be learning a great deal over the next few weeks. Apparel shopping is normally unstructured, and people like to look around. Now, retailers will need to try to get them in and out as quickly as possible, but still make the sale, which will make the positioning of products very important. Consumers will have to get used to new ways of shopping.
       "I don't know the answer to fitting and returns. Clothing stores aren't obliged, by law, to allow people to try on items. In terms of the Consumer Protection Act, returns are allowed. But both of these are areas where there is potential for infection. Individual retailers will have to work this out for themselves."
       He said retailers had been asked to stagger opening and closing times to reduce customer numbers. "It could work quite nicely," he said, "but there are issues - overtime hours for staff, for example, and the safety and security of staff and customers being out or on public transport outside of normal shopping hours."
       He said the import of all apparel was allowed, although "the Minister may make rulings from time to time".
       A concern was that with the backlog of containers to be cleared from ports, checking would be less stringent, and illegal imports could increase significantly.

Euro Industrials: For the industry to recover, we all have to do 'the right thing'

Published: 1st Jun 2020
Author: Sergio Guerrera

Westmead, KZN, SA – We, as all non-essential businesses, had to close our doors on the 26th of March. We continued to work from home but in reality, as we are a manufacturing concern, all we really did was apply for TERS, Saft and the SMME Finance Relief Fund. The TERS was a nightmare to apply for as different formats were required and then 2 weeks into the application process it changed and we had to re-submit. We did, however, receive the correct payout with the payment schedule in the last week of April. TERS for May opened on the 28th of May and we have lodged our claim.
       Saft was straightforward and our staff are receiving their weekly amounts. The SMME FRF only sent through a communication this week telling us that we must apply to TERS for our wage bill expenses but no mention of any relief mechanisms for fixed operating costs such as rent etc which, as I understand it, is what the fund has been set up for.
       Two of us returned to work on the 4th of May to assess our position and plan a way forward. We contacted every customer to ascertain their position as well as get an update as to their order requirements. A number of customers cancelled orders, some reduced the quantities and/or pushed the delivery dates back. At least 60% of our customers are still not operational.
       What is very frustrating is the lack of communication from a number of customers, many of them well established enterprises. There has been no or little feedback on WIP order requirements, payment of outstanding accounts - many don’t reply to emails or return phone calls.
       We also proceeded with an aggressive cost reduction strategy to contain and reduce any overheads that are not directly related to manufacturing. We foresee some very lean months ahead and in order to try to survive, we cannot carry any expenses that don’t assist in the generation of income. Due to non-payment from most of our debtors for April and May - as well as some from February and March - we have not been able to cover most of our commitments to our creditors for April and May. I contacted each supplier personally to explain our position. Most are understanding but we are on a COD basis until we can bring our accounts up to date.
       We approached our landlord, ITHALA, prior to lockdown to discuss options for assistance as we knew that we would be very negatively affected by the lockdown and subsequently reduced turnovers. We have not generated any turnover since the 26th of March. We have not legally been allowed access to our premises since the 26th of March. Although we were allowed back from the 4th of May, running with 30% of our staff is not feasible for our particular production process.
       I put forward some proposals to the landlord and we were finally informed last week that we could take a payment holiday for April, May and June and cover the shortfall over the next 6 months in equal payments. As much as I understand that an agreed rental amount is in place and that the property rental business, like any other business, has expenses, it needs to meet halfway if your customer has had no income and their reserves are low -which is the case for many SMMEs. Surely commonsense will dictate that one cannot pay without funds available? Nor in this current climate can an astute landlord expect to find a replacement tenant at the drop of a hat. Rather negotiate with the existing tenant to achieve a cost effective compromise?
       We are only at the beginning of this catastrophe in terms of damage to our economy, as well as infection and death rates. This is the time for us to work together to save as many businesses, jobs and lives as possible. This is also an opportunity for us to change our economy in terms of localised production. Far too many retailers import large percentages of their stock. This is short-sighted and they are merely chasing short term profit. Who do they expect their customers will be if our unemployment rate tops 50%? It may explain why so many of them have and are pursuing opportunities outside our borders.
       That said, I fear that it may be too late for a number of industries who, over that last 20 years, have been decimated by imports. What manufacturing capacity is left?
       While I don’t share many of President Trump's ethics and viewpoints, I do resonate with his call to “put your country first”. Not to the detriment of others, but look after your own first. Globalisation in some ways has become a way of chasing cheap labour in countries and regions that don’t always meet the OHS and remuneration standards of the region that the products are sold in.
       Many companies seem to have double standards - one set for their “corporate face” and another for their business model. Doing the right thing cannot only apply to your employees. Doing the right thing means ensuring that your suppliers are working to your and your customers' standards. Locally a number of manufacturers use CMT shops avoid paying their particular sector's wage rates and levies, etc.
       Life is going to be tough and challenging in the months and years to come. We have an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of many South Africans if we choose to look after own first and do the right thing.

Truworths: Business update and trading statement (May 25, 2020)

Published: 1st Jun 2020
Author: Stock Exchange News Service (SENS)

- Future of UK Office chain on the line
- Group may record a loss for the year
Cape Town, W Cape, SA (May 25, 2020)  – The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and its declaration as a worldwide pandemic has had a significant impact on the businesses which the Group operates, especially the requirement to close all retail store premises in all countries of operation during lockdown periods, some of which remain in force.
       Management of the Group has been actively engaged in executing operational steps and various strategic responses to best mitigate the impacts of this unprecedented and continuously evolving situation.
       With Group revenues reduced materially whilst stores were required to remain closed, the Group’s primary financial objective has been to curtail expenditure and preserve cash.
       The COVID-19 lockdown has materially affected both the Truworths business, being the Group’s fashion retailing business in South Africa, and the United Kingdom based Office footwear business, which had for many months prior to the lockdown been contending with negative consumer sentiment and Brexit- related uncertainty.
       As a result of the consequential impact on the profitability and liquidity of the Office business, the Truworths International board is considering all possibilities for Office, including various restructuring options, and the Group has engaged advisers to assist with this process.
       In light of these developments, an impairment of the Group’s carrying value of the Office trademarks and right-of-use assets relating to store leases will be required during the 52-week financial period ending on 28 June 2020 (“the period”). Such impairments, which are yet to be quantified, would impact the Group’s basic earnings per share (“EPS”), but would be excluded from the calculation of headline earnings per share (“HEPS”) and would not have cash flow consequences.
       The unprecedented economic crisis caused primarily by the severe negative impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in diminished revenue, reduced collections and an increase in the doubtful debt provision in respect of the debtors book in the Truworths business.
       Based on various scenarios, including the impact of the lockdown on trading and the performance of the debtors book up to the end of the period, as well as the duration of the lockdown in South Africa and the United Kingdom, the board currently anticipates that the Group will record a reduction of at least 30% (174 cents) in HEPS for the period, when compared to the prior period reported HEPS of 580 cents.
       As regards the impairments of the Office trademarks and right-of-use assets, the Group has considered various scenarios and their impact on the Group’s EPS for the period. Based on the outcomes of these scenarios, the Group will record a decline, and possibly a loss, in EPS for the period when compared to the prior period reported EPS of 145 cents. Given the current uncertainties in quantifying the impairments, it is not possible to provide an indication of the percentage decline in EPS with reasonable certainty at this stage.
       The board will provide the anticipated range of the decrease in HEPS and EPS for the period when it has reasonable certainty in this regard, in a further trading statement.
       The board further advises that, having regard for the Group’s currently projected financial performance and position in the short to medium term, it is unlikely that a final dividend for the period will be declared.
       The continued uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown resulted in trading levels of the Truworths business in South Africa, since stores re-opened on 1 May 2020, increasing in the first week, but thereafter declining following the initial surge in demand, when compared to the prior corresponding period.
       The board is able to advise that the Truworths business has successfully extended the term of its borrowing facilities and thus has access to liquidity in the medium term. Management is committed to the execution of various strategies aimed at managing inventory, the account portfolio and expenses prudently during this time.

Woolworths: Trading update (May 27, 2020)

Published: 1st Jun 2020
Author: Stock Exchange News Service (SENS)

Cape Town, W Cape, SA (May 27, 2020) – Further to the operational update published by the Company on the Stock Exchange News Service (SENS) of 6 April 2020, the spread of COVID-19 continues to have a pronounced impact on the Group. Given these unprecedented times, the Company provided shareholders with an update on the trading and operational environment across the business and the strategic initiatives underway to reposition the Group to deliver sustainable long-term shareholder value.

Trading update: As previously reported, Group turnover and concession sales in the first nine weeks (to 1 March) of the second half of the financial year ("H2") was broadly in line with that of the prior comparable period (+1.9% in constant-currency terms). The temporary closure of the majority of the Group’s non-food stores, coupled with the significant decline in foot traffic and consequent loss of trade, saw turnover and concession sales decline by 18.5% in the subsequent eight weeks to 26 April (-18.8% in constant-currency terms). The pace of decline has since slowed as lockdown restrictions have begun to ease. The 2019 financial year included a 53rd week, which resulted in a shift in trading weeks in 2020 compared to the prior financial year. Adjusting for this, Group turnover and concession sales grew by 4.2% in the first nine weeks of H2, versus a decline of 17.0% in the subsequent eight weeks (all other sales growth figures referenced below adjust for this same shift in trading weeks to provide a more comparable basis of performance).
       The Group expects constrained trading conditions to persist over the remainder of the second half of the financial year. Management has intensified its focus on liquidity, minimising operating and capital expenditure and managing working capital across the Group. Investments in strengthening online capabilities continue to be prioritised, given the growing importance of this channel. To stimulate trade and manage inventory levels throughout this period, management has executed a series of focused promotional and clearance initiatives targeted at generating and preserving cash, which will negatively impact this financial year’s gross profit margin.
       Notwithstanding the considered actions taken by management, the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic and consequent lockdowns will be likely to have an adverse impact on the Group’s Adjusted headline earnings per share (HEPS) and cash flow in the second half of the financial year. A further trading statement to that issued on 6 April 2020 will be issued to provide specific guidance once the Group is reasonably certain regarding the HEPS and earnings per share (EPS) ranges for the 52-week period ending 28 June 2020.
Current focus and strategic initiatives: Given the high levels of uncertainty and significant business disruptions during this period, management has been focused on the health and safety of our customers and employees, stabilising the operations, and cash flow. To this end, a range of cash generation and preservation initiatives, which were expanded upon in our update of 6 April 2020, is being successfully implemented across all business units.
       The board and management team have also initiated several key strategic projects across the business, targeted at protecting and strengthening our balance sheet and establishing a platform which enables us to position the Group for sustainable, longer-term growth.
       In support of the strategic project work, a number of underpinning initiatives have been launched including, amongst others, the following:
*Proactively engaging with the Group's South African funders - given the continued impact of the adverse trading environment across the Southern African operations (notably in FBH), the Group has had positive discussions with the South African banks with regard to any potential covenants impacts. The business has significant liquidity headroom in terms of its forecast cash flows and existing facilities. The Group has also successfully renewed its South African Revolving Credit Facility ("RCF") funding lines.
*The provision of funding support of AUD75 million to the Australasian businesses from WHL, in the form of a loan secured by a second lien. The funding support is conditional upon securing the suspension of covenant testing from the Australasian funders. Provision has also been made for further in-principle support to the business to the value of AUD25 million, to the extent that it may be required.
*Proactively seeking suspension of covenant testing for the Australasian funding - the COVID-19 impact and the challenging trading environment is expected to reduce headroom for the June and December covenant periods. The lending banks have granted the requisite suspension of covenant testing and the process with the bondholders has commenced and is expected to be concluded by the end of the financial year.
*A review of the capital structure of the Australasian entities has been initiated and will include the restructuring of its borrowings to ensure a more sustainable funding structure. UBS Australia has been appointed to support this process and will conduct a full review of options relating to the Australasian property portfolio. Any proceeds generated as a result of our capital management initiatives will be applied to the repayment and cancelation of debt facilities. *Discussions with Australasian landlords are underway in relation to an accelerated restructure of the David Jones network of stores/locations and reduction in floor space.
*The board believes that it is in the best interest of the Company for distributions to WHL shareholders to be suspended until such time as the situation arising from COVID-19 stabilises. The board will consequently not declare a final FY20 dividend and will consider dividends thereafter in the context of the conditions prevailing at the time.

Conclusion: The Group expects to release a further trading update for the 52 weeks ended 28 June 2020 on SENS on or around 16 July 2020, ahead of the formal FY20 results on or around 27 August 2020.

Pepkor: Interim results March 2020

Published: 1st Jun 2020
Author: Stock Exchange News Service (SENS)

Cape Town, W Cape, SA (May 27, 2020) – Mr Price Group wishes to affect a capital raise of up to 10% of the company’s ordinary issued shares at an appropriate point in time and as market conditions permit.
       The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about and highlighted significant risks across all business sectors. The company has established plans to mitigate these as best as possible in a very volatile and uncertain environment, with a focus on protecting existing operations. The nationwide lockdown in late March and April 2020 resulted in the group not being able to generate revenue. Despite this, the group’s current financial position remains sound, with positive cash resources and a debt-free balance sheet to support current business operations. This position has been achieved as a result of focus on a proven business model and strong financial discipline. Cash flow generation and balance-sheet strength will continue to be central to the group’s strategy and is aligned with the company’s founders’ mentality.
       Internal market research has identified attractive growth areas and a capital raise will enable the company to pursue and accelerate these growth opportunities, whether they are organic or acquisitive in nature. The board and management are of the view that market conditions will allow strong companies to capitalise on these opportunities whilst maintaining financial flexibility. The group needs to be well positioned to respond, with speed and agility, without being compromised by the status of prevailing equity markets at a particular time.
       In considering possible acquisitions, the company has set clear guidelines, including geography, market sector, growth opportunity, size and valuation. There is no ‘must acquire’ mentality as this would diminish financial discipline and the ongoing unwavering focus on investing for the long term. For the sake of providing further clarity to shareholders and potential investors, the company’s current focus is on identifying several growth opportunities in South Africa rather than favouring a single large acquisition or foreign markets.
       The following authorities will accordingly be requested from shareholders:
• the control of 10% of the authorised but unissued ordinary shares (equating to a maximum number of 25 704 573 ordinary shares);
• an issue of ordinary shares for cash not exceeding 10% of the issued ordinary share capital (equating to 25 704 573 ordinary shares); and
• the signature of documents.
Distribution of circular and notice of general meeting: The circular has been disseminated electronically and posted to shareholders today, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 and will contain the relevant notice to convene the general meeting of shareholders to be held at the Mr Price Group boardroom at Upper Level, North Concourse, 65 Masabalala Yengwa Avenue, Durban, on Monday, 29 June 2020 at 14h00 for the purpose of considering and, if deemed fit, passing with or without modification, the relevant proposed resolutions required to implement a specific issue of ordinary shares for cash.
       Copies of the circular may also be obtained from the group’s website at www.mrpricegroup.com or requested from the company secretary at jcheadle@mrpg.com.
Salient dates and times: Posting record date to determine which shareholders are entitled to receive the circular Friday, 15 May 2020
       Circular distributed to shareholders and announcement released on SENS Wednesday, 20 May 2020 Last date to trade in order to appear in the register on the meeting record date Monday, 15 June 2020 Meeting record date to determine which shareholders are entitled to vote at the general meeting Friday, 19 June 2020 Forms of proxy to be lodged with the transfer secretaries, for administrative purposes, by 14h00 on Thursday, 25 June 2020
General meeting held at 14h00 on Monday, 29 June 2020
Results of general meeting released on SENS on Monday, 29 June 2020
Action required by shareholders in relation to the general meeting
       As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown restrictions on travel and the holding of public gatherings, it is no longer permissible nor possible to hold a shareholder meeting in person.
       Consequently, the general meeting will only be accessible through electronic participation, as permitted by the JSE Ltd. and the provisions of the Companies Act and the company's Memorandum of Incorporation. To this end, the company together with its share transfer secretaries, Computershare Investor Services (Pty) Ltd. (Computershare) shall host the general meeting on an interactive electronic platform, to facilitate remote participation by shareholders. Computershare shall also act as meeting scrutineer.
       Shareholders who wish to participate electronically at the general meeting are required to contact Computershare on proxy@computershare.co.za; or alternatively contact their office on +27 11 370 5000 as soon as possible, but in any event, for administrative purposes only, by no later than 14h00 on Tuesday, 23 June 2020. However, this will not in any way affect the rights of shareholders to register for the general meeting after this date, provided, however, that only those shareholders who are fully verified (as required in terms of section 63(1) of the Companies Act) and subsequently registered at the commencement of the general meeting, will be allowed to participate by electronic means. Shareholders wishing to vote, shall be assisted by Computershare where required and only through means of submitting their vote on the appropriate proxy form issued by Computershare as provided at the general meeting.
       Shareholders are strongly encouraged to submit votes by proxy before the general meeting. If dematerialised shareholders without “own name” registration wish to participate in the general meeting, they should instruct their CSDP or broker to issue them with the necessary letter of representation to participate remotely in the general meeting in person, in the manner stipulated in their respective custody agreements. These instructions must be provided to the CSDP or broker by the cut-off time and date advised by the CSDP or broker for instructions of this nature. Aside from the costs incurred by the company as a result of the hosting of the general meeting by way of a remote interactive electronic platform, which shareholders can choose to access, shareholders will be liable for their own network charges in relation to electronic participation at the general meeting. Any such charges will not be for the account of Mr Price Group and / or Computershare. Neither of Mr Price Group or Computershare can be held accountable in the case of loss of network connectivity or other network failure due to insufficient airtime, internet connectivity, internet bandwidth and / or power outages which prevents any such Shareholder from participating at the general meeting.
       Voting remotely through the above platform will not be allowed or possible. However, shareholders are reminded that they are still able to vote normally through proxy submission, despite deciding to so participate either electronically or not at all in the general meeting. Shareholders are strongly encouraged to submit votes by proxy in advance of the general meeting.
       Completed proxy forms should be delivered by email at proxy@computershare.co.za or by post to, Computershare, Rosebank Towers, 15 Biermann Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg, before the person(s) so empowered seeks to exercise any right granted to it under such instrument, and are requested to be lodged timeously so as to be received, for administrative purposes, by 14h00 on Thursday, 25 June 2020.
       The chairman may reject or accept any form of proxy which is completed and/or received otherwise than in accordance with the proxy notes, provided that he is satisfied as to the manner in which the shareholder concerned wishes to vote.
       Proxy forms delivered on the day of the meeting must be delivered by email to the company at proxy@computershare.co.za with a copy thereof to the company secretary of the company at jcheadle@mrpg.com to be received by both of them before the person so empowered seeks to exercise any right granted to it under such instrument.

Tags: Pepkor, SENS
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