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Vulnerability of Retail Sector

Vulnerability of Retail Sector

The recent taxi strike in Cape Town laid bare the vulnerability of the retail sector when public transport systems come to a standstill. With nearly 80% of the Cape Town workforce heavily reliant on public transport, the standstill had a paralysing effect on their ability to reach their places of work.

The repercussions of the strike extended across several transportation-dependent industries, and the retail sector in particular. Not only were employees affected, but the lack of accessibility to basic food supplies raised concerns about food security.

As a result, the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa called on SANTACO and the Western Cape government to find amicable ways to resolve the stalemate1.

According to Theresa Terblanche, Divisional Executive Property Management and Retail Leasing at Broll Property Management, the taxi strike did not just affect the already economically challenged retail sector, but influenced the tourism industry as well.

“Cape Town is the premier go-to tourism hotspot in South Africa. However, during the strike, international media issued warnings to its citizens to cancel or delay trips to the city. Not only did this affect the hospitality industry, but cast a shadow on sales figures for the retail sector,” adds Terblanche.

Fears of intimidation saw the majority of retailers in the region operating with limited staff, and, along with other businesses, they were forced to close earlier to ensure that staff could return home without incident. Some retailers were fortunate to maintain a full workforce by arranging staff pickups from safe locations and providing them with nearby accommodations.

“The reduction in trading hours meant that food retailers struggled to receive stock deliveries, if any, which resulted in stock supplies dwindling in some stores. It also meant that fewer consumers were able to purchase goods such as clothing, and even basic essentials such as bread and milk,” she says.

Both small and large enterprises suffered, with smaller restaurants and takeaway chains bearing the brunt of the strike’s impact. Losing eight days' worth of operational profitability saw an estimated loss of 25% to 35% of revenue, posing financial strain on these establishments, many of which rely on this revenue to cover expenses, and pay staff who rely on daily or weekly wages to survive.

Even retail giants such as Woolworth and Checkers felt the strain, suspending operations of their delivery services, Woolies Dash and Checkers Sixty60, until the situation eased. Despite the size of these retailers, these delivery services constitute a large portion of their turnover. 

To ensure business continuity during this crisis, Broll Property Group took proactive steps by ensuring that all safety protocols were in place, working closely with the retailers to keep abreast of the situation and the effect the strike was having on their operations.

To mitigate any risk to its retailers or consumers, Broll Property Group’s Risk division consulted with relevant security companies and organisers to agree on strategies in each centre. This empowered all parties to make quick decisions should any crisis arise.

Given that situations such as looting were a threat at the time, the company ensured that shopping centre gates would immediately be closed, store doors locked and armed response teams dispatched in the event of large gatherings in close proximity to their premises. Fortunately for Broll Property Group, none of its centres were affected.

While there are contingency plans in place for shopping centres should disruptions occur in the future, Terblache says that the greatest challenge lies in ensuring consumer accessibility and providing them with the relevant information to make informed decisions on whether or not to frequent centres during times of crisis. 

“Broll Property Group believe we have an obligation to protect our retailers and consumers irrespective of where they are. We can say with confidence that should any future incidences occur, we are well prepared to mitigate any potential risk and ensure business continuity,” concludes Terblanche.


1.         Luckhoff P. Worries about food security as CPT taxi strike hits retailers on all fronts [Internet]. CapeTalk. 2023 [cited 2023 Aug 23]. Available from:


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