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Women homeowners’ clout prompts SA retailer to change

Italtile to bring a more ‘feminine touch’ to its stores, CEO says.

Increasing numbers of South African women are becoming homeowners, prompting Italtile to make changes at its stores selling tiles, bathroomware and home-finishing products.

“More and more women are becoming the decision makers on fashion purchases,” Jan Potgieter, chief executive officer of Johannesburg-based Italtile, said by phone Thursday. “So we are looking at ways to bring a more feminine touch to our stores, especially in our bathroom sections.”

Single women were the largest category of South African home buyers in 2018, and more women than men are expected to be buyers in the next two years, according to property research group Lightstone. The trend is partly driven by the growing ranks of single parents, Potgieter said.

South Africa’s weak economic outlook means most of the purchases being made by women are for renovations, rather than for newly built homes, he said. Residential construction has stagnated, especially in the upper end of the market, and commercial projects have also slowed, with an empty pipeline of projects likely to weigh on Italtile’s first-half, Potgieter said.

Beyond its domestic market, Italtile is enjoying strong growth in East Africa and Potgieter sees “lots of opportunity to open stores in the next five years.” The company plans 15 new outlets across the group this financial year.

Italtile shares climbed as much as 16%, the most in almost six years, after the retailer declared a special dividend of 50 South African cents a share, partly to mark its 50th anniversary. Net income rose 16% to R1.25 billion ($82 million) in the 12 months through June.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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