Once upon a time, Stuttafords was considered the “Harrods of South Africa”.
But now, 159 years after its first store opened, Stuttafords is the latest victim of a “global shift to online retail and a domestic economic slump,” reports Times LIVE.
As a result, it will close its nine stores across South Africa, two stores in Botswana and one in Namibia. Yeah, it has joined Nine West and Mango as yet another high-end retailer to fail in the current South African market, taking a beating from weak consumer confidence.
Here’s a brief history of the retailer:
The first shop was opened in Cape Town in 1858 by Samson Rickard Stuttaford with the vision of creating a Harrods-like department store in what was then Britain’s Cape Colony.
Its main Cape Town store, opened in 1938, was designed by in-house Harrods architect Louis David Blanc and echoed the British store’s famous frontage in London’s exclusive Knightsbridge district.
Through various changes of ownership, it never lost its focus on the middle and upper-class South African market, despite the economy’s failure to recover fully from a deep recession in 2009 sparked by the global financial crisis.
Although Times LIVE could not reach Chief Executive Robert Amoils for comment, he defended his approach to the tough conditions:
“I believe the path we set was correct,” he told business website Fin24. “We ran out of time. The market downturn was so swift, so severe.”
Laywer John Evans, who is overseeing Stuttafords’ closure, said he had “received a last-minute approach that could salvage two Johannesburg outlets, in Sandton and Eastgate, which would save the jobs of 300 of the group’s 950 staff”:
“There’s a chance we’ll save Sandton and Eastgate. If we do, we should be able to save 300 jobs,” he said.
If they want those two stores to succeed, they are going to have to revitalise what it means to shop at Stuttafords, because if you want to claim a Harrods-like status you’ll need to raise that bar.
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