In the almost 40 years I have been analysing the SA retail sector, I cannot remember a time when so many JSE-listed retailers were exhibiting such poor results on such a sustained basis. Moreover, the prognosis is rather dismal, with little or no relief in sight in the languishing SA economy. And yet, to look at the numbers reported in Statistics SA’s latest monthly November 2018 publication on retail sales growth, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were compiled in a different, far more buoyant economy. I have been puzzled by the growing divergence between what Stats SA publishes regarding retail sales growth and what is being exhibited by the listed retailers. This began about two years ago. Economists differ in their interpretation of the Stats SA figures. Most appear to embrace them without question and look for possible answers to fit the statistics. Retail group CEOs are much less accommodating, variously describing them as “wrong”, “rubbish” or more kindly “Stats SA...

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