Former Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson was the greatest retail executive South Africa has ever produced.
He grew Shoprite from a small eight-store chain worth R1 million to a retail powerhouse with a market capitalisation of R114 billion and 140,000 employees.
During his four decades in charge of Shoprite, he acquired numerous companies, including Ackermans food stores, Grand Bazaars, Checkers, and OK Bazaars.
Basson showed his incredible retail expertise by turning around Checkers, which comprised 169 stores and with losses equalling Shoprite’s turnover, in nine months.
He repeated this impressive feat with OK Bazaars, which was losing more than the Shoprite Checkers Group’s profits.
Basson was able to return OK to profitability, which created a retail giant with many of South Africa’s top brands.
In the process of acquiring and fixing the struggling Checkers and OK Bazaars, he saved thousands of jobs.
The next part of Basson’s dream was to extend Shoprite’s operation beyond South Africa’s borders.
The retailer opened new stores in Africa, which included modern supermarkets in countries as far north as Nigeria and Ghana.
In 2015, a year before Basson stepped down as Shoprite CEO, the company was named Africa’s largest retailer.
On 31 October 2016, Basson, then aged 70, announced during Shoprite Holdings’ Annual General Meeting that he would be retiring as CEO at the end of that year.
The charts below show Shoprite’s incredible performance under Whitey Basson’s leadership.
Shoprite share price
R100 invested in Shoprite in 1992 would have been worth R15,271 at its peak in 2016 when Basson announced his retirement. It translates into an annualised return of 23.3% for the entire period.
Acquisitions and strong organic growth helped Basson increase Shoprite’s revenue almost six-fold between 2002 and 2016.
Shoprite gaining market share
Shoprite gained significant market share from its biggest rival, Pick n Pay. Between 2002 and 2016, its market share against Pick n Pay increased from 54% to 64%.
Another impressive accomplishment is how Shoprite’s profitability improved as its market share increased. From 2002 to 2016, the group increased its net margin from 1.8% to 3.73%.