Massmart: Big daddy Walmart finally swaggers into town

Business

Massmart: Big daddy Walmart finally swaggers into town

Since shelling out $2.5bn for its African springboard in 2010, Walmart has been more of a silent shareholder

Giulietta Talevi


Many questions have been asked of Massmart over the years as its performance among SA’s listed retailers began to crumble. What future does a concept such as Game have? What’s with the food experiment? And why do I still need a Makro card?
But the biggest curiosity has been the almost total absence of parent Walmart.
Since shelling out a not-inconsequential $2.5bn for its African springboard in 2010, Walmart has been more of a silent shareholder than the force of nature that Massmart’s competitors expected from having the world’s largest retailer in their backyard.
Maybe Walmart’s purchase struck the right level of fear in the remaining locally owned players, keeping them competitive. It almost feels as if Massmart, more than its peers, came off worst from the Walmart link.
Finally, however, the absent parent appears to have woken up. Losing four-fifths of your investment can do that. Perhaps Walmart simply wanted to give its local management time to come right, but whatever the reason the Arkansas-based giant has now stepped in with the appointment of Mitchell Slape as CEO.
A Walmart lifer, having worked for the group since 1995, Slape has held leadership roles across the world and it’s telling that Massmart says Slape’s Walmart network will help him “leverage the relevant resources” needed to “elevate” Massmart’s operating performance.
You can be sure there isn’t much Massmart’s management hasn’t tried to improve the company’s fortunes, and it’ll be interesting to see how Slape tackles a turnaround in a no-growth economy. But perhaps it’s time for the parent to take responsibility.

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