July 31, 2019 / 4:47 PM / 4 months ago

South Africa's Woolworths pulls plug on Ghana

JOHANNESBURG, July 31 (Reuters) - South African department chain Woolworths has pulled the plug on its Ghanaian business after closing its two stores there, in a second retreat from West Africa.

“Following a comprehensive review of our operations in Ghana, we have closed our two stores in the country,” the Cape Town-based clothing and food retailer said on Wednesday in a brief emailed response to questions. It did not give reasons for the closures.

“We remain confident in our overall Africa investment strategy and we are experiencing healthy growth in the majority of our African countries.”

This will be the second time the retailer, which also sells homeware, pulls out of West Africa after exiting Nigeria in 2013 due to high rents and duties as well as difficulties marketing to consumers in Africa’s most populous country.

When Woolworths opened its second store in Ghana in 2014, it was betting on year-on-year economic growth, coupled with rising household incomes, increasing urbanisation and a significant emerging middle class, according to its 2014 press release.

Ghana’s economy was considered one of Africa’s most dynamic for a decade until 2014 when it was hit hard by a slump in global prices for its gold and oil exports. It has been recovering over the past couple of years with gross domestic product growth seen at 7.1% this year, according to Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta.

The owner of Australian upmarket department chain David Jones has operations in 11 African countries outside South Africa including Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Mozambique.

In its 2018 annual report it said: “We will continue to build the brand in the rest of Africa by focusing on our top countries and stores, growing space in East Africa and Mauritius.” (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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