Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Retailer Lewis made 55% of its revenue from selling merchandise in the first half of its 2019 financial year — a change from a decade ago when more than half its top line came from interest, insurance and other fees its customers ended up paying when they bought furniture.

The introduction of the National Credit Act severely constrained Lewis’s traditional business practices, resulting in its final dividend getting cut by two-thirds and its interim dividend getting halved in its 2017 financial year.

Its results for the six months to end-September released on Wednesday morning showed that its efforts to move from credit to cash sales is gradually taking shape.

After two years of holding both its final and interim dividends at R1, it declared a small rise to R1.05 for the first half of its 2019 financial year.

Overall revenue grew 9% to R2.9bn, boosted by a 26% jump in merchandise sales to R1.6bn.

Besides its flagship Lewis chain, the group owns Best Home and Electric; Beares, which it acquired in 2014 from bankrupt Ellerines; and UFO, which it acquired in January.

Wednesday’s results showed “finance charges and initiation fees earned” contributed 22% of total revenue — about the same as 10 years ago.

The contribution of insurance revenue, which was historically about 15% of the total, has shrunk to about 11%, while the contribution of “ancillary services” has narrowed slightly to 12% from 13%.

The retailer raised the contribution from cash sales to 43% during the reporting from 31% in the matching period.

“Lewis continues to open smaller-format stores, which now account for 43% of the brand’s stores,” CEO Johan Enslin said in the results statement.

The group opened 14 stores and closed eight during the reporting period, taking its total to 779 at September 30. 

The number of stores in the neighbouring countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland increased by six to 116, including the opening of the first five Best Home and Electric stores in Namibia.

laingr@businesslive.co.za