Current state of property affairs - Pareto CEO Marius Muller

Marius Muller ParetoCEO Marius Muller ParetoCEO

This is a very difficult year for retailers. 

What we’re seeing is a symptom of the huge public debt incurred in a depressed economy.

The root cause for last year’s big increase in public debt was that customers, that’s shoppers and consumers, don’t have the disposable income they had before. It’s all linked to the state of the economy. The (earnings) numbers we keep seeing from retailers paint the picture clearly.

At the end of the day, you have to look at like-for-like growth – unfortunately that’s been fairly pedestrian of late and the sentiment has also turned negative at this point in time. There is significant concern about possibility of being downgraded to junk bond status.

So if you’re working in long term projects you’ll have to look at what’s happening with the yield curve – the long end of the yield curve is up significantly. So, the market is anticipating an increase in interest rates and a credit rating downgrade, possibly. As things stand at the moment it could prove a little bit difficult to fund long-term projects.

This situation is concerning for me and, I think, for many people out there. There’s a lot of instability around the world – political unrest and turmoil. All of these things weigh on the mind of the consumer and that get manifest in declining footfall. This reflects on the retailers and, by consequence, it reflects on the landlords as well.

A weakened exchange rate, per se, may be good for the economy.

But I think the challenge that we have in South Africa is that ours is a very volatile currency as well. Whether the exchange is strong or weak isn’t a challenge on its own. The major issue is the level of volatility, that’s what brings uncertainty. The positive of having a weakened currency is obviously our exports.

Our tourism industry also benefits from this but there’s still a lot that we need to do. The fact of the matter is that we’re not the only currency that’s weakening right now.

For retailers, because they import stock (priced in foreign exchange) from abroad, there’s a lot of pressure at the point of sale.

Excerpts from February 2016 Interview

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