SOUTH AFRICA – Shoprite Holdings, Africa’s largest food retailer has reported a 4.9% fall in third-quarter revenue from its non-South African business attributing it to xenophobic violence.

The Cape Town-based company started a review of supermarket operations and its return on capital invested outside South Africa and would consider exiting certain countries if that would help reverse regional sales declines.

Currency devaluations and a need to close stores in Nigeria due to a backlash against xenophobic violence in SA weighed on the group’s results.

“We are not scared to take the hard decisions,” Chief Executive Officer Pieter Engelbrecht told investors, adding that leaving certain markets would be considered. “Other measures including cost reductions are underway”, he said.

The performance contrasted sharply with improved trading in South Africa, where quarterly sales jumped by 10% led by its Usave division even as Shoprite’s main lower-income customers battle with the impact of an economic showdown.

“Chains including Checkers and U-Save are benefiting from a new IT system and the revamp and opening of new stores”, the retailer said.

Last week, Shoprite launched its rewards programme, which had one million customers registering in just a few days.

 “This launch aligns with the group’s focus to ensure our customers save more every day, paving the way for smarter decision-making and precision retailing,” the statement reads.

“It also unlocks alternate revenue streams from existing and new cus­tomers.”

Across the group’s three supermarket trading brands — Usave, Shoprite and Checkers — 15 new stores were opened. This in­cludes eight Usaves, four of them the smaller eKasi format, four Shoprites and three Checkers stores.

Shoprite reported the update at the start of its annual general meeting, where former billionaire Christo Wiese was re-elected as a non-executive director despite some investor pressure over his three decades as chairman.

Shareholder All Weather Capital had last week nominated former Pepkor Ltd. head Jan le Roux as a director to try and reduce Wiese’s influence, though he received just 16% support.

Wiese indicated that the makeup of the board will change over the next year, while more attention will be given to succession planning. A decision on whether he continues as chairman will be taken later on.