Grand old Stuttafords, once the Harrods of SA, will be shutting up shop on August 1, representing perhaps SA’s largest corporate failure in recent years. The tragedy is that its demise could have been avoided had it not been for the apparent bad blood between the two main shareholders, the Ellerines and the Rubensteins.

Stuttafords, the 159-year-old department store synonymous with SA’s retail glory years, will shut its doors permanently on August 1. This makes it the largest casualty of the slow demise of the country’s consumer spending.

"Stuttafords was the epitome of Johannesburg fashion and culture," says Gerald Garner, who runs tour company Joburg Places. "It was like Harrods is to London — something of an iconic store. People would come by bus or train to Park Station, walk down Eloff Street, which was the glitziest retail street in the country, if not the continent. (They) would typically go to Stuttafords to shop and have tea, many of the ladies in white gloves."

The department store’s collapse is the largest corporate failure in SA’s fragile, post-Nenegate business world. But perhaps the most tragic element of this saga is that the demise was entirely avoidable.

This is a peek into Financial Mail's cover story where we look at the unnecessary death of SA’s last department store.

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