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Makro owner brings in Walmart executive to drive online in South Africa

| Innovation and technology

Makro and Game holding company, Massmart has appointed an executive from US retail giant Walmart, to lead its e-commerce operations in South Africa.

“Massmart has announced the assignment of (Theodore) Sylvester John, the Walmart North America vice president for Last Mile Delivery to lead the Massmart e-commerce team,” the group said in a statement on Thursday (22 October).


“John, who will report into chief operations officer, Richard Inskip has extensive senior level retail experience in the US and Africa, having worked in a wide range of business development activities including merchandising and operations.

“It is John’s experience in e-commerce, specifically omni-channel retail and last mile delivery however, that will be leveraged at his role at Massmart.”

Massmart is struggling financially, seeing its losses widen in a recent reporting period, and having closed tech store Dion Wired, while also warning that up to 1,800 Game Stores employees could be retrenched

Online sales however, have soared, particularly as a result of changing purchasing habits caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Massmart’s financial results for the 26 weeks ended 28 June 2020 showed that Game’s online sales increased by 100% compared to the prior year period. However, the group pointed to problems within its IT systems. “Teething issues from the SAP S/4 HANA ERP system implementation, after a four year journey, negatively impacted sales,” it said.

Makro’s online sales meanwhile, increased by 84% during the period.

“Shifting consumer patterns emerging from the lockdown led to an increase in retail customers, and a reduction in wholesale and commercial customers. Makro also partnered with OneCart during the period further enabling the sale and delivery of over 11,000 grocery items and 124 liquor items,” it said.

Commenting on the appointment, Massmart chief executive officer Mitch Slape said: “The role of e-commerce is an important growth area for Massmart. Covid-19 has further emphasized the critical importance of e-commerce to access changing customer expectations and while we have seen significant increases in click and collect and online sales, we know there is more we can do.

“The result is that we have placed high priority on investing in, and improving, our e-commerce competence. To achieve this, we are extremely lucky to be able to draw on Walmart’s extensive knowledge and experience. They have been unwavering and very enthusiastic about sharing their expertise with us and Sylvester’s assignment is further evidence of their support.”

Massmart noted that John has been key to launching and positioning Online Grocery Pickup in the US and establishing Walmart’s Last Mile Delivery organisation, delivering from more than 3,000 stores in +500 US domestic markets that account for more than 65% of US households.

This included leading Walmart’s Express Delivery, SNAP, Smart Substitutions and Instacart Marketplace initiatives.

“His remit in his new role will be to leverage his experience to assist his Massmart peers in establishing a market leading e-commerce and omni-channel capability within the Massmart group,” the group said.

“Massmart has laid the foundations for a successful omni-channel and e-commerce business, having been early adopters of click-and-collect and recognising the importance of last mile delivery through the acquisition of Wumdrop in 2017.

“Sylvester’s experience will be invaluable in leveraging this strong foundation and establishing Massmart as a market leader in e-commerce,” said Slape.

The group will be hoping for a bumper ‘Black Friday’ next month to recover some of the losses incurred during the national lockdown period.


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