Investors seem to think it’s the retail turnaround story of the decade. But while it’s indisputable that CEO Richard Brasher has finally steered Pick n Pay out of the financial wilderness, the holy grail of fatter profit margins still remains elusive. Last week, the 52-year-old retailer unveiled its best annual results in a decade, as its pretax profit grew 24.4%. This is part of the reason why, amid something of a meltdown in retail over the past year, Pick n Pay’s share price has slid only 13.9%, compared with rivals like Shoprite (down 28.6%) and Woolworths (down 25%). The problem is, Pick n Pay’s trading margin of 2.4% is still nowhere close to that of Shoprite which, in one of its worst trading periods in years, still produced a profit margin of 4.4%. But Brasher, an Englishman who joined in 2013 when margins were as low as 0.5%, says it’s unfair to draw direct comparisons between Pick n Pay and Shoprite, which has a higher-margin furniture business and fewer franchises. (Of Pi...

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