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Battle of the retail giants: Woolworths vs Shoprite vs Pick n Pay vs Spar vs Massmart

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South Africa’s retail sector has come under pressure over the last two years as consumers suffer through economic hardship and increasingly struggle to make ends meet.


While the latest financial year has shown some recovery in the industry, retailers are looking for new ways to catch the eye of customers and how better to serve their needs in this changing landscape.

Groups like Shoprite have thrived in the ‘new’ environment, growing revenue and retail footprint while developing innovative new ways to connect to customers – like its hugely successful Sixty60 delivery platform.

Pick n Pay, meanwhile, has embarked on a total repositioning in the market, launching a new chain of stores – QualiSave – in a bid to carve out more of the growing middle and upper markets.

Other retailers have struggled, however. Massmart, for example, has continued to post losses as it struggles to find footing in South Africa.

So which of these retail giants – Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Spar Group and Massmart – stands tallest, or is the biggest?

BusinessTech looked at the most recent annual financial reports (from 2021/22) and compared the country’s five biggest listed retailers on 10 key metrics – from financial performance to investment and reach.

The data below covers both group and South African operations – for example, group data was used for finances, while South African data was taken for stores and employees. Share prices, market cap and P/E rations were taken from Bloomberg data.

The data covers the following reporting periods:

  • Shoprite – FY 2022 (ended July)
  • Woolworths – FY 2022 (ended June)
  • Pick n Pay – FY 2022 (ended February)
  • Massmart – FY 2021 (ended December)
  • Spar FY 2021 (ended September)

Investment indicators

Shoprite is by far the biggest retailer when looking at market capitalisation, coming in at a total of R131.4 billion – more than double the next on the list, Woolworths.

The group also has a larger share price than the other retailers assessed. Given its substantial size, it makes sense that the group is considered quite expensive to invest in, with a price-to-earnings ratio of 21.41.

However, this is slightly lower than Pick n Pay, which has a ratio of 22.04. The ‘cheapest’ retailer is Spar, with a P/E of 12.02.

RetailerMarket CapShare priceP/E Ratio
Shoprite R131.37 billion R222.57 21.41
Woolworths R64.66 billion R62.86 16.48
Pick n Pay R27.45 billion R55.64 22.04
Spar R26.95 billion R139.92 12.02
Massmart R13.3 billion R60.69 n/a

Group Finances

Across the major retailers, Massmart is the only group assessed to have posted a loss over the last financial year. While the data below covers the full year to December 2021, the group’s recent interim results show that it continues to struggle while other retailers make do.

Shoprite is the leader in terms of turnover and headline earnings in the sector, making R184.1 billion in sales and posting earnings of R5.8 billion in 2022.

Spar, meanwhile, has the highest earnings per share, at 1,196 cents per share.

RetailerTurnoverHeadline Earnings/LossHEPS (cents)
Shoprite R184.1 billion R5.75 billion 1 048
Spar R127.9 billion R2.30 billion 1 196
Pick n Pay R97.9 billion R1.26 billion 263
Woolworths R82.3 billion R3.83 billion 399
Massmart R77.7 billion (R980 billion) (182)

Basket prices

BusinessTech does an annual measure of basket prices among retailers. In 2022, we looked at house brands.

Several analyses of the retail sector and household affordability in South Africa have shown that consumers are increasingly dropping expensive name brands from their shopping basket and turning to private label brands to save money.

Looking at a basket of 18 house brands across the retailers, Pick n Pay’s No Name brand offered the most affordable rate. This is followed very closely by Checkers.

Massmart was not covered in the review.

RetailerHousebrand Basket
Pick n Pay (No Name) R656.82
Shoprite R659.82
Spar R682.82
Pick n Pay R709.32
Woolworths R874.82


Shoprite claims to be the biggest private sector employer in South Africa, and with 123,750 permanent employees in the country (2021 figure) it far outstrips its competitors.

Pick n Pay’s employee count is 88,000, while others sit around the 30,000 employee mark.

While it appears that Spar has low employee numbers – listing 4,476 permanent staff – the group’s business model lends itself to franchising, thus the number excludes the thousands of independent retailers and their employees.

The franchise model also adds a wide network of stores for Spar, which tops the list of having the most outlets across its various brands.

RetailerSA EmployeesSA StoresStore Brands
Shoprite 123 750* 2 162 12
Pick n Pay 88 000 1 910 11
Massmart 34 255** 302 8
Woolworths 33 000 765 4
Spar 4 476 2 440 9

* FY2021
** Group figure

The various retail brands are listed below:

ShopritePick n PaySparMassmartWoolworths
Shoprite Pick n Pay Supermarkets Superspar Makro Woolworths Food
Checkers Pick n Pay Hypermarkets Spar Game Woolworths FBH
Checkers Hyper Pick n Pay QualiSave KwikSpar Builders David Jones
Checkers Foods Pick n Pay Liquor Spar Express Rhino Country Road
Usave Pick n Pay Clothing Tops! Fruitspot  
LiquorShop Pick n Pay Express SaveMor Jumbo  
House&Home Pick n Pay Market Stores BuildIt Shield  
OK Furniture Boxer Supermarkets Pharmacy@Spar> Cambridge Foods  
PetShop Boxer Punch OnCore    
Littleme Boxer Build      
Food World Butchery Boxer Liquor      
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