Retailer Woolworths announced on Monday that it was actively pursuing operational steps and considering strategic options to best mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus crisis and to ensure the appropriate robust response in this developing situation.
“In recognition of the challenging circumstances, the Woolworths board, group CEO and senior executive team members have decided to forego up to 30% of their fees and salaries over the next three months,” the company informed investors on The JSE SENS news.
“The savings arising from this will be used to provide additional financial support to staff who find themselves in extreme hardship as a result of the current crisis.”
The South African government announced a national lockdown which required the closure of non- essential businesses between 27 March 2020 and 16 April 2020 and has implemented various regulations and directives which impact the way Woolworths do business.
“We have, therefore, temporarily closed our Fashion, Beauty and Home stores and continue to operate only our Food stores. During the current lockdown period, we will continue to remunerate all our staff, and those who are part of the essential workforce will receive an additional appreciation payment for the duration of the current lockdown period,” the company said.
“Our business operations across other African markets have also been significantly constrained due to slowing demand, store and border closures in response to local government requirements and responses to the COVID-19 virus.”
Most Woolworths Food stores currently remain open.
“Our strong supplier partnerships are ensuring a consistent supply of product during this critical time. The period immediately prior to the lockdown saw unprecedented demand on specific products that consumers considered essential,” the company said.
“This demand has begun to moderate, as shopping patterns are re-set and as confidence in the food supply chain grows. Significant focus is being placed on our online business in order to contend with significantly increased demand.”
Sales in the four weeks to the end of March have increased by 27.6% on the prior comparable period compared to a growth of 7.5% in the preceding nine weeks of the second half.
Woolworths Fashion, Beauty and Home (FBH)
The shift of customer spends to essential products, as well as the compulsory closure of FBH stores during the current lockdown period, will have a material impact on the segment’s results for the second half of the financial year.
“We are however encouraged by the growth of our online channel which remains available to customers, notwithstanding that order fulfilment can only be effected post the lockdown period,” Woolworths said.
Sales in the four weeks to the end of March declined by 27.8% on the prior comparable period, compared to a 1.9% increase in the first nine weeks of the second half of the financial year.