Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed manufacturer and retailer of fashion apparel and related merchandise, Truworths Zimbabwe, has a long history marked with success against all odds.
Truworths Limited was incorporated in Zimbabwe in 1957 and operated as a retailer since then.
It is part of Truworths International; an investment holding company that sells fashion wear and accessories under brand names like Daniel Hechter, Truworths Man, Ginger Mary, Zeta Inwear, Identity and LTD. Truworths brands are also sold through specialist retail outlets such as Naartjie.
It got listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange in 1981 with 14 retail outlets under Truworths and Topics chains. Until 1990, the number had risen to 21.
Subsidiaries include, Truworths Management Services, Number 1 Stores, Major Merchandising, Bravette Manufacturing, Truworths Chain, Topics Chain, Top Centre, Effective debt collection and Number 1 Malawi Limited.
The manufacturing subsidiary, Bravette, is based in Harare and initially manufactured ladies’ wear sold through Truworths Ladies and Topics Ladies. It also produces garments for the export market.
The company opened seven new stores in 1992, bringing the number to 28. Two Number 1 stores were opened in Malawi via a joint venture. The stores remained profitable despite effects of the implementation of the Economic Structural Adjustment programme (ESAP), notably a threat to the local currency’s value.
1994 saw the liberalisation of the economy and foreign exchange market and the subsequent proliferation of imported clothing products on the Zimbabwean market, thereby threatening the group’s sustainability. Truworths depended on the success of agriculture. Against this background, the drought that ensued impacted on the company’s sales.
In 1996, Truworths succumbed to the closure of companies, particularly those in the clothing manufacturing. The company’s customer and supplier base as a result had diminished. More retailers had to rely on imports than locally produced merchandise. Ironic was it that the country tops as the world’s producer of best quality cotton.
Again in 1996 the group signed a management and technical agreement with Select Retail Group, South Africa, its major shareholder then. This enabled Truworths to tap into the expertise of the Select Retail with regard to retailing, marketing and other technical aid.
1997 brought major expectations of growth with favourable rains and by 1998 the group had 47 retail outlets. By 2000 the number had risen to 101 stores compared to 14 in 1980.
In 2003, additional machinery was sourced for Bravette manufacturing. Further, a significant number of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were engaged to augment merchandise supplies on a Cut, Make and Trim (CMT) basis for the retail chains. This boosted factory capacity. A new Truworths store and one Number 1 store were opened during the year.
In June 2007, a directive was given to reduce prices of goods and services by 50 percent and this resulted in unprecedented demand for products. Sales boosted while stocks depleted, making it rather difficult for the group to balance supply and demand. The group had in the year ceased to grant credit to its customers but seldom helped. Relief came when the Government licensed retailers to trade in US dollars on September 30, 2008. This tamed the loss of value in merchandise.
By 2011 the group was trading with a combined store base of 59 stores, notably, 16 for Truworths chain, 25 for Topics chain and 18 for Number 1 chain.
The launch in 2013 of the In-store Credit Card changed the group’s face and helped driving up sales. This helped lessen the amount of heat the business felt from increasing informalisation of the economy that saw the proliferation of flea market activity and trading of merchandise at sub economic prices.
Since then the group had been soldiering on and posting positive financials despite difficult operating environments. The 2019 festive season was entered with preparedness as the group was well stocked for the period.
As updated on January 7, 2020, the group held a market capitalisation of $7 297 283 and a share price of 1,90 cents.
Bekithemba Ndebele is the group chief executive officer.