Without doubt, running a business in SA requires enormous skill, energy and perseverance. Sadly, it seems that running a large one profitably is out of the reach of growing numbers of JSE-listed companies. 2020 is just a few weeks old and already three major retail chains have reminded us of how tough things are.

But as it happens, even benign economic conditions with a trouble-free Eskom would not have saved Edcon, Massmart and Woolworths from the headline-grabbing announcements made in the past 10 days. Each of these major retailers is suffering from self-inflicted wounds, which, in the case of Woolworths, have been festering for five years, and much longer at Edcon and Massmart...

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