Retailers start to feel sting

2012-10-09 00:00

FOOD retailers across the province have set in motion contingency plans to ensure shelves will not lie empty as a result of the transport strike, which business leaders have described as bad news for the national economy.

The strike by South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) drivers has seen stock supply shortages in retail outlets and sporadic violence and intimidation across the country.

Spar Group marketing executive Mike Prentice said that due to the nature of their central distribution centre, they have avoided stock shortages in their 200 stores across the country.

“It would appear that our suppliers are bending over backwards for us and with the distribution system set up as it is, we haven’t experienced supply issues,” he said.

A statement issued by Woolworths said that “adequate contingency plans were in place to keep our stores open and to deliver fresh produce as well as other products to our stores”.

“We have experienced some driver absenteeism in certain areas,” read the statement.

Spokesperson for the Shoprite Group, Adele Gouws, said that “very few” of their top selling items were out of stock and if there were, substitutes were available.

“The Shoprite Group of Companies has its own well-established central distribution facilities in place and has stock control of most of the top selling items on the shelves of the group’s various stores,” she said.

“Very few of the top selling items are out of stock and if the specific brand and size is not on the shelves, there are a wide range of substitute products available.”

Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew Layman said the effects of the strike felt in KZN were mirrored across SA.

“I don’t think it affects KZN more than any other province in the country, this is primarily due to the location of the port and its importance in the national economy. The province is definitely not the worst- hit by the transport strike.

“It is very bad news for the economy, especially if Transnet workers make good on threats to join the strike action,” he said.

He said importers are not able to access the goods that they have ordered ahead of the festive season and Christmas, meaning that they will lose revenue and will be landed with stock after the season that they are unable to move.

“The strike also does nothing for international business confidence, as overseas customers who have placed orders with exporters expect delivery, irrespective of the circumstances in [South Africa],” he said.

“They are not tolerant of delays for any reason and this will have far- reaching effects on future business.

“Global business is intolerant and the workers in South Africa don’t understand that. They obviously are striking to affect change in individual circumstances, but they are seemingly unaware of the consequences of these strikes.”

Road Freight Employers’ Association executive officer Magretia Brown-Engelbrecht said the workers confirmed that a meeting with the unions will be held today under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

She said officials from the Ministry of Labour will be in attendance.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said no truck violence incidents were reported in KZN yesterday.

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