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Celebrating retail talent this December

By Marius Meyer – 

South Africa is blessed with a thriving retail and wholesale sector.  In fact, the country has the 6th most shopping centres in the world making it one of the top ten retail nations in the world.  The moment you think there is no more space for a shop, a new centre arises from nowhere, and guess what: The new shop is full of customers immediately despite difficult economic conditions, let alone the poor savings culture among South Africans.

While an abundance of shops, trollies, tills and Christmas specials are the visible expression of a thriving retail sector, especially during the festive season in December, the unsung heros of this sector are the country’s retailers – the masterminds behind every shopping bag and every cent spent this season and indeed throughout the year.  Every shop is managed by a branch or shop manager, with several departmental supervisors making things happen on the shop floor.  And of course, sales and support staff being available to assist customers in the shop.  Let alone all the retail planners and other corporate retailers and staff who manage group planning and operations at head or regional offices.

The impact of our CEOs at our top retailers cannot be over-estimated.  When Whitey Basson started at Shoprite, it had 8 stores in the Western Cape.  Today it has 1855 all over Africa and counting.  From a socio-economic perspective, Shoprite has made a huge contribution to job creation in South Africa.  The company employs more than 137 000 employees, making it one of the largest private sector employers in South Africa.   The retail sector is very competitive and growth has been phenomenal in recent years. It is therefore also not surprising that South African retailers have expanded to other African countries with significant success.

At the heart of South Africa’s retail sector is a highly skilled pool of retail talent.  The Wholesale & Retail Sector Education and Training Authority is at the centre of skills development in the sector. Likewise,  Human Resource and Talent Managers have played a key role to ensure that the right talent is attracted, developed and retained in this highly competitive sector of the South African economy.

While most of us will take our December holiday break, we are mindful of the fact that this is peak season for our colleagues in retail.  They will work longer hours serving a greater number of clients.  Moreover, in key tourist centres such as Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, the value of retail in support of local and international tourism cannot be over-emphasised.

On behalf of the Talent Talks editorial team I would like to thank our retail employees for the hard work throughout the year, and the extra hard work during December.  Not only do you keep our holiday makers and tourists satisfied, you are playing a key role in strengthening the South Africa economy.  We realise that this sector is highly dependent on good talent to keep shops open and running in a professional and customer-friendly manner.


Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).

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Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP), the professional body for HR practitioners and Education and Training Quality Assurance Body for HR in South Africa.


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