Putting it diplomatically, Edcon, SA’s largest clothing retailer, is in a very difficult period in its life cycle. Putting it bluntly, it is in deep trouble, and CEO Grant Pattison will need to muster all his acknowledged retail skills to turn this iconic giant around. Pattison is not alone in his challenge and Edcon is not an isolated South African case study. Physical retail businesses around the world are bleeding due to the effect of e-commerce. Iconic retailers are rapidly downsizing and becoming more agile. Broadly speaking, there are four stages in the typical life cycle of a retail company: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Based on this timeline, Edcon’s flagship, Edgars, which has been around for nearly 90 years, should have gone into terminal decline some time ago. By the late 1990s, this segment was already into its maturity phase and was only saved by the 1998 appointment of American Steve Ross. He came with no baggage or preconceived ideas and experimented wi...

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