Edgars. Picture: Freddy Mavunda
Edgars. Picture: Freddy Mavunda

In 1996, Edcon launched beauty boutique Red Square. The standalone stores were glamorous jewel boxes of cosmetics with glossy black interiors, perfectly groomed shop assistants and rows of newly launched Estée Lauder Pleasures and Calvin Klein’s CK One.

Now, 22 years later, this world of "free gifts with purchase" and sneaky sprays of expensive cologne is no more. Last week Edcon CEO Grant Pattison announced the closure of the store and its homeware sibling, Boardmans.

But make no mistake: this is as much a story of failed vision and management as it is one of a company driven into the ground by capricious owners unwilling to invest.

Both these brands let themselves go. Just ask shoppers — something Edcon evidently didn’t do. Their once-polished veneers got tatty around the edges, while apathetic staff lazily hawked JLo scents and Brabantia dustbins.

While it seems obvious to blame the demise of both on Edcon’s purchase by Bain Capital in 2007, that doesn’t do justice to the systemic mismanagement of both brands by various leadership teams.

It’s a shame. Red Square was our equivalent of the French beauty store Sephora (owned by LVMH), which last year boasted growth and international expansion. If different decisions had been made, this could have been Red Square.

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