SOUTH AFRICA – South African retailers are working round the clock to replenish shelves with groceries, food and other essential supplies in hundreds of stores which were looted in one of the country’s worst unrest in years.

Supermarket owners have indicated that they are racing to keep stores unaffected by the violence stocked, as some shoppers were stripping shelves with panic buying, though blocked roads and disruptions to supply chains were hampering their efforts.

In the affected areas i.e., KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, retailers are gearing up to rebuild the affected stores and are prepping for re-opening.

According to a report by National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, extensive damages had been caused to 161 malls and shopping centres, 11 warehouses, 8 factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors.

This might not be the exact tally of the vandalization witnessed in the country, but the unrest has resulted in major loss of both property and potential business worth billions of rands.

Retailers like Woolworths have begun rebuilding indicating that, “As the situation has stabilised, we have been able to open stores on a case-by-case basis, once it has been deemed safe and feasible to do so.”

The supermarket chain has been working with its suppliers and partners to ensure ongoing availability and continuity of stock, reports IOL.

“This is largely dependent on the re-opening of key transport routes, the ability of local suppliers to continue production, the ability of our staff to access our stores, and the safety of our logistics and distribution operations,“ it added.

The retailer said it has also seen a marked increase in sales of certain products online and in-store.

“As the situation has eased, we have already reopened many of our stores in KwaZulu-Natal and the affected parts of Gauteng. We plan to reopen even more in the coming days.

Pick N Pay

Meanwhile, grocery retailer Massmart said protesters looted 18 Cambridge stores, ten Game stores, eight Builders stores, three Cash and Carry, and two Makro stores during the unrest.

The retailer said it focused on providing South Africans with essential goods by leveraging on partnerships with Uber Eats and OneCart.

“Our ability to deliver online orders has been affected in some areas, such as Durban and surrounds, where routes have become inaccessible or unsafe.

“We are proactively communicating with customers and doing all we can to minimise delays, including re-routing orders to operational stores and facilities.

“Our focus during this time is to ensure that our customers can shop essential items safely and conveniently,” Game’s vice president Andrew Stein said.

In addition, the Shoprite Group, the country’s largest retailer has revealed it is working around the clock to repair and re-stock looted and damaged stores.

The group said some of the stores are operational and are re-opening for business by the hour while the safety of both customers and employees remains paramount.

“Supply lines to the majority of stores are currently running smoothly, and deliveries to stores in KZN has commenced,” the supermarket group said.

It also assured customers that the bulk of its supermarkets Shoprite, Checkers, Usave, and franchise OK Foods around the country, are stocked and operational and that there is no need for stockpiling food supplies and health products.

“We appeal to all South Africans to remain calm as our supply chain is now able to supply into most stores again,” it said.

Pick n Pay said while the situation remained fragile, it wanted to assure its customers and communities that its and Boxer teams were working to bring essential supplies from Gauteng and the Western Cape into the affected areas.

“As the situation has eased, we have already reopened many of our stores in KwaZulu-Natal and the affected parts of Gauteng. We plan to reopen even more in the coming days. As we do this, the safety of our colleagues and customers remains our priority,” the company said.

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