When the grand dame of retailers, Stuttafords, applied for business rescue in October last year, it signalled a deep disjuncture in modern retail, which had been operating on legacy and luck for too long. Stuttafords, which employs about 950 people in eight department stores and 16 standalone stores, is the latest SA department store retailer to realise that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Like other “large-box retailers”, it tried to appeal to younger, fashionable and tech-savvy black consumers. Patently, this didn’t work. Now, its saving grace may be to complement its existing brands with “off-price” clothes (top-quality branded items from the previous season, selling at a discount) and parallel imports (clothes selling at a discount to the countries where they’re made.) Though still in business rescue, Stuttafords continues trading. The “rescue plan” will be presented to creditors this month. Stuttafords CEO Robert Amoils says his retailer isn’t a traditional department store,...

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