Supermarket group Pick n Pay on Wednesday updated the market about the impact of last week’s riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on its business, confirming in a voluntary Sens announcement that 136 stores across the company were “looted and/or damaged by fire”.
Half (68) of the affected outlets were Pick n Pay-branded stores and the other half were Boxer stores, which largely targets the lower end of the South African grocery market.
Of the overall total, the group noted that 28 were Pick n Pay company-owned supermarkets, 15 were Pick n Pay franchise stores and 64 were Boxer supermarkets.
“The remaining 29 stores comprised Pick n Pay Clothing stores , Express Convenience stores , independent Market stores  and Boxer Build stores . In addition, 76 liquor stores across Pick n Pay and Boxer were looted and/or burned, but were not in any event trading due to the government’s Covid-19 restrictions,” Pick n Pay said.
The group also highlighted that two of its distribution centres (DCs) in Pinetown Durban were looted and damaged.
Fellow Cape Town- headquartered food retail competitor Shoprite revealed on Tuesday that over 200 of its stores were affected in the two provinces.
“Alongside all South Africans, the Pick n Pay Group was saddened by the civil unrest and destruction last week in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng…. At the peak of the unrest, a significant number of Pick n Pay and Boxer stores in the affected areas were closed as a precaution,” the company noted in its Sens update.
“As a result of this swift action, casualties were kept to a minimum, and the small number of colleagues who were injured are now thankfully well on the road to recovery.”
“As the situation began to improve from Wednesday 14 July, the group was able to re-open stores in KZN and Gauteng that were closed as a precaution, and a large majority of all stores are now fully open and trading,” the company said.
“The civil unrest had a significant impact on the group’s operations in the affected areas – particularly in KZN – as a result of physical damage to property, looting of stock, and an interruption to trade.
“The group moved rapidly to implement its formal disaster recovery plans to restore affected operations in KZN and Gauteng, and to replenish stock levels in the affected regions,” Pick n Pay added.
The company noted that of the 136 stores which were looted and/or burned, 32 have already been cleaned, repaired and have either been reopened or will reopen by the end of this week.
“A number of looted liquor stores are also ready to be reopened when Covid-19 regulations permit.
“By the end of this week, we expect the proportion of the store network still closed to have reduced to 7%…. Through tremendous teamwork both of the [affected] DCs will have been repaired and restocked, and will recommence operations,” Pick n Pay added.
It pointed out that Pick n Pay and Boxer stores in KZN are currently being serviced from the group’s Boxer distribution centre in Lynnfield, near Pietermaritzburg.
“The process of restocking stores across the region has been greatly assisted by our national, centralised distribution capability. Well over 200 trucks have so far been routed into KZN from as far afield as the Western Cape and our Longmeadow DC in Gauteng to bring vital stocks to our stores in the affected areas,” it said.
“Although the situation remains fragile in some areas, the group is tremendously encouraged by the progress it has achieved in recent days, and is confident of its ability fully to restore its operations in the affected areas.”
Pick n Pay Group CEO, Pieter Boone, commented: “On behalf of the board and my team, I want to thank colleagues across Pick n Pay and Boxer – including our valued franchise partners – for your tremendous teamwork and unfailing morale during this very difficult period.”
“We ask for understanding from our customers for any remaining disruption as we work tirelessly to deliver an uninterrupted supply of food and groceries around the country. Pick n Pay and Boxer remain absolutely determined to serve customers in all the communities where our stores are located.”
Gareth Ackerman, chairman of Pick n Pay Group said: “Recent events underline the importance of food security in South Africa. Businesses like the Pick n Pay Group – alongside our valued partners, suppliers and producers – play a vital role in maintaining a sustainable and continuous food supply.”
He added: “In achieving this, businesses depend crucially on social, political and economic stability, effective security, and fully-functioning transport and other infrastructure.
“In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent civil unrest, all stakeholders must work together to achieve stability, security and growth. Pick n Pay has played an integral part in the lives of South Africans for the past 54 years, and will continue to do so.”
Meanwhile, Boone said that the group has seen good sales growth over the past week in areas unaffected by the disruption.
“We are working to restore a full service as rapidly as possible in the affected areas, and will not rest until every impacted store is repaired, restocked and reopened to customers.”