While the last story told about Payless was about an imminent bitter divorce with its direct competitor – Choppies Enterprise, and that the latter wanted it sold, the man who has been given a task to “keep” the business going on behalf of the shareholders and creditors – Emmanuel Bane believe that the brand does not have to die.
Bane is a seasoned Motswana retailer who previously worked for Sefalana Group, Game Stores, Samsung Electronics, Multichoice Botswana and state owned – BTCL Limited. He was appointed the Operations Director by the liquidator – Kopanang Thekiso in May 2020 when Payless was placed under provisional liquidation by the High Court. The final liquidation of the stores was confirmed by the High Court some three weeks ago and the first creditors meetings is slated for July 2020.
Bane tells Sunday Standard from his office located at the BBS Payless that the interim management as appointed by the liquidator is doing a lot of things to try and create a buzz around the shops to get customers who were gone back.
“Our desire is that the brand continues, whatever happens at the liquidation we want it to survive. We would not allow it to die as we intend to reclaim our market share and stay there for the longest time”, says Bane.
Facing financial crisis and imminent liquidation, Payless closed most of its stores across the country in April 2020 after one of the creditors – Choppies Enterprise petitioned the High Court. As is so common with every company struggling to effect a turnaround strategy in the wake of financial difficulties, job losses was one of the things that happened at Payless.
The company has however since re-hired over 200 of its former employees and only 35 are still without jobs.
“They will be considered first for employment should trade get better”, says Bane.
At the time of closure on April 6, Payless was trading on empty shelves and largely classified as ‘dirty’ by the fast-moving goods consumers. Bane says that is now history as things have changed since re-opening the eight stores beginning May 2020.
“All the re-opened stores are stocked up and have thoroughly been cleaned. The rebranding exercise is also ongoing to make the stores attractive again”.
The company has re-opened eight of its nine stores – Bontleng, BBS, Block 6, Mainmall, Molepolole, Tlokweng, Mochudi, Old Naledi while the G-West branch remain closed for now.
Bane says as part of his strategy to re-awaken the retail giant, the company will be sourcing most of its products from local suppliers. He says he want to want to slam brakes on bureaucracy that local suppliers face when trying to sell their products through leading local retailers. This means that local suppliers and producers will not be subjected to too much paperwork and bureaucratic process which ultimately cause delays if they have up to standard product they want to sell through Payless stores.
“Everyone is this country speaks about supporting local suppliers but not everyone is practicing what they are preaching”, says Bane.
He adds that Payless is in the process of paying former local suppliers owed by the grocer without having to wait for the liquidation process.
“We want our former local suppliers back on board. We also want to get in talks with the Botswana Music Union to put up a deal in which we will play music of local artists at our stores and pay such artists for that”.
In the meantime, Bane and his management team are also putting up a training program for the staff in a bid to develop home grown retailers.
“I want to dispel the myth that Batswana cannot do retail. We had not been given an opportunity to prove our capability”, says Bane as a parting shot.