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LEWIS GROUP HEADLINE EARNINGS UP 21% DESPITE TOUGH TRADING CONDITIONS

Cape Town – Lewis Group today reported a strong merchandise sales and operating performance for the year to March 2022 despite weakening retail trading conditions, with headline earnings increasing by 21.2% to R561 million.

Headline earnings per share increased by 37.7% to 849 cents, reflecting the positive leverage effect from the group’s aggressive share repurchase programme.

The total dividend was increased by 25.9% to 413 cents per share.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said the group reported a competitive performance against the backdrop of the tightening domestic economy, the July 2021 civil unrest as well as local and international supply chain challenges.

The strong operating performance from the Lewis, Best Home and Electric, and Beares brands was adversely impacted by impairment charges totalling R131 million. Operating profit before impairments and capital items increased by 4.3% to R767 million.

Merchandise sales increased by 11.5% to R4.4 billion, with credit sales growing by 16.7% and cash sales by 6.4%.

Enslin said the group continues to carry higher inventory levels to ensure stock availability to meet customer demand and counter the ongoing challenges in the supply chain such as the global shortage of shipping containers and severe port congestion.

Sales in the group’s 129 stores outside South Africa increased by 11.9% and accounted for 17.9% of total sales.

The group’s store footprint increased to 819 following the opening of a net 12 new stores across all brands during the year.

The quality of the group’s debtors’ book continued to improve. Collection rates strengthened to 79.0% from 71.8% in 2021 while the percentage of satisfactory paid accounts increased to 79.0% from 74.4% last year. Debtor costs continued the declining trend, reducing by 13.6% over last year.

Cash generated from operations totalled R863 million and the group’s balance sheet remains robust, with the net asset value per share increasing by 10.4%.

The group has continued its earnings enhancing share repurchase programme, buying back 8.7 million shares at a cost of R353 million. Since the start of the buy-back programme in 2017, the group has repurchased 26 million shares for R829 million.

On the outlook for the group, Enslin said the current challenging retail trading conditions are expected to persist in the short- to medium-term. “There is increasing pressure on disposable income with rising interest rates, transport costs, energy and food prices while the ongoing load shedding is disrupting trade and impacting sales patterns.”

“In this constrained environment we plan to increase market share through innovative marketing strategies which will be supported by new merchandise ranges across all of our brands and high levels of stock availability,” he added.

Enslin said despite the difficult trading conditions the group will continue to expand its store base, with a net 16 new stores planned for the 2023 financial year while a further 150 stores will be revamped.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

For further information kindly contact
Graeme Lillie
Tier 1 Investor Relations
082 468 1507

LEWIS GROUP INCREASES EARNINGS BY 40% WITH DIVIDEND UP 47%

Cape Town – Lewis Group delivered another strong financial performance in the Covid-19 impacted trading environment for the six months to September 2021 as merchandise sales increased by 20.7% to R1.99 billion and headline earnings grew by 24.5% to R226 million.

The group’s headline earnings per share increased by 39.7% to 330 cents due to the positive leverage effect of the group’s share repurchase programme.

An interim dividend of 195 cents per share was declared, an increase of 46.6%.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said the group generated strong sales growth despite the impact of the civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on trading in the July to September quarter.

Credit sales grew by 24.4% and cash sales by 17.1%, with credit sales accounting for 50.6% (H1 2021: 49.1%) of total merchandise sales.

He said sales growth was supported by high levels of stock availability during a period of significant supply chain challenges. “We continued to pursue our strategy of increasing inventory levels to ensure adequate stock cover to meet customer demand and to counter the ongoing challenges in the supply chain. Our good stock position is a competitive advantage going into Black Friday and the festive season,” he said.

The health of the group’s debtors’ book continues to improve, with collection rates strengthening to 78.7% (H1 2021: 66.5%), the percentage of satisfactory paid accounts increasing to a 14-year high and debtor costs reducing by 32.8%.

Solid merchandise sales growth and reduced debtor costs contributed to operating profit increasing by 23.3% to R341.2 million, with the operating profit margin improving from 16.8% to 17.1%.

The group expanded its store footprint to 817 with the opening of a net 10 new stores across all brands.

In the KwaZulu-Natal civil unrest 57 stores were damaged and looted, 51 of which have reopened and the remaining six will reopen once the damages have been repaired. The group’s SASRIA claim amounted to R79 million, with R43 million having been paid out and recognised in the results to end September. The balance of the insurance claim of R36 million is expected to be received before the end of the financial year.

The group repurchased 5.4 million shares at a cost of R194.5 million during the past six months. Since the start of the share repurchase programme in 2017, the group has bought back 22.7 million shares at an average price of R29.52 per share.

On the outlook for the remainder of the financial year, Enslin said while sales and collections momentum has continued into October, management expects trading conditions to become increasingly challenging in the second half of the financial year.

“High levels of unemployment, rising interest rates and the sensitivity of our core target market to higher fuel and food prices is expected to constrain spending in the months ahead. This will be compounded by the widespread electricity load shedding which is disrupting trade and impacting sales. Covid-19 continues to pose a risk to the trading outlook,” cautioned Enslin.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

For further information kindly contact
Graeme Lillie
Tier 1 Investor Relations
082 468 1507

LEWIS GROUP OVERCOMES COVID-19 IMPACT TO LIFT EARNINGS 126%

Cape Town – Lewis Group overcame the adverse impact of the Covid-19 trading restrictions to deliver a strong operating performance for the year to March 2021, with headline earnings increasing by 126.4% to R463.0 million.

A total dividend of 328 cents per share has been declared, an increase of 77.3% over last year.

The group’s balance sheet remains robust with no borrowings while cash generated from operations increased by 46.8% to R915 million.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said the growth in operating profit of 174.2% was driven by buoyant merchandise sales which recovered strongly following the lockdown, together with the improving quality of the debtors’ book and tight cost management.

Merchandise sales increased by 6.7% to R3.9 billion. Following a decline of 4.9% in the Covid-19 impacted first half of the year, sales grew by 17.0% in the second half of the year. Cash sales increased by 25.9%, while credit sales declined by 7.9% as a result of the hard lockdown.

Enslin said sales were supported by new merchandise ranges introduced in the second half of the year and high levels of stock availability. “We took a strategic decision not to cancel any orders when the country went into lockdown which ensured that our stores were well stocked to meet the post lockdown demand.”

The group expanded its gross profit margin by 80 basis points to 41.8% while the operating profit margin more than doubled from 6.9% to 17.7%.

Operating costs continued to be tightly managed and reduced by 2.9%. Debtor costs reduced by 19.5% over last year when an additional Covid-19 debtors’ impairment provision of R189.5 million was raised. This reflects the improving quality of the debtors’ book which is being supported by enhanced collection practices.

The health of the debtors’ book continued to improve during the year, with satisfactory paid customers increasing from 70.5% in 2020 to 74.4% in 2021. After losing approximately R250 million in customer account collections when stores were closed in April and May 2020, collection rates recovered steadily after lockdown and averaged 71.8% for the year compared to 74.5% in the previous year.

The group repurchased 5.4 million shares during the year at an average market price of R20.92 per share. Since the start of the share repurchase programme in 2017, the group has bought back 17.3 million shares at an average price of R27.38 per share.

Over the past year the group opened 24 and closed 11 stores, increasing the store base to 807. A net 10 Beares stores were opened while UFO expanded its store footprint in the Eastern Cape and opened its first store in the Western Cape. Enslin said the group plans to open 15 to 20 stores in the new financial year, mainly in the Beares and UFO chains.

On the outlook for the group, Enslin said the sales momentum has continued into the new financial year, supported by good stock availability.

“We have increased our inventory to ensure adequate stock levels to counter the challenges in the supply chain, including the global shortage of shipping containers and severe port congestion.”

Enslin cautioned that the group is expecting trading conditions to become increasingly challenging in the months ahead. “The potential impact of a third wave of Covid-19 infections, together with Covid relief grants being discontinued, could result in further economic pressure on our customer base,” he said.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

For further information kindly contact
Graeme Lillie
Tier 1 Investor Relations
082 468 1507

LEWIS GROUP PROFIT UP 13.6% ON STRONG SALES GROWTH POST LOCKDOWN

Cape Town – Lewis Group overcame severe trading restrictions in the first two months of the national Covid-19 lockdown to recover strongly and increase operating profit by 13.6% for the six months to September 2020.

Headline earnings per share increased by 9.9% to 236 cents and the board declared an interim dividend of 133 cents per share, 10.8% higher than last year.

The group owns the Lewis, Best Home and Electric, Beares and UFO brands. All stores in South Africa were closed from the start of the national lockdown on 27 March 2020 and reopened on 1 June 2020.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said the group experienced strong customer demand following the reopening of the stores at the beginning of June.

“While sales growth was initially supported by pent up demand and savings accumulated during lockdown, this momentum was maintained which contributed to sales increasing by 20.1% for the four months to September 2020.”

Cash sales for the four months increased by 46%, with credit sales growing by 1.5%.

Enslin estimated that the group lost approximately R360 million in merchandise sales and R250 million in customer account collections as a result of the lockdown. “Owing to these trading conditions, merchandise sales for the six months were 4.9% lower at R1.65 billion,” he said.

The group expanded its gross profit margin by 20 basis points to 40.5% while the operating profit margin improved by 120 basis points to 9.1%.

Enslin said the group’s robust balance sheet and cash position ensured that no bank funding was required as the business remained cash positive during the lockdown period. At the end of September 2020, the group was unborrowed.

The group’s debtor book performed satisfactorily in the six months to September 2020 and the board believes that the impairment provisions are adequate to meet future bad debts. Collection rates declined to 66.5% for the six months owing to the slow collections during the initial stages of lockdown but recovered to average 73.2% for the second quarter.

During the past six months the group opened a net 11 new stores, increasing the store footprint to 805. This includes 125 stores in the neighbouring Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini and Lesotho. Enslin said the group remains on track to open 20 new stores across its trading brands in the 2021 financial year.

The group repurchased 1.6 million shares during the reporting period, at an average market price of R16.91 per share. Since the start of the share repurchase programme in 2017, the group has bought back 13.6 million shares at an average price of R28.65 per share.

On the outlook for the group, Enslin said trading conditions are expected to become more challenging into the 2021 calendar year, with customers in the group’s lower to middle income target market being vulnerable to the rising levels of unemployment.

“Extensive merchandise and marketing promotions have been developed for the two biggest trading periods of the year, covering this week’s Black Friday and the festive season in December, which we believe is an opportunity for the group to gain market share,” he added.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

For further information kindly contact

Graeme Lillie
Tier 1 Investor Relations
082 468 1507

LEWIS GROUP DECLARES DIVIDEND DESPITE MAJOR IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON ANNUAL EARNINGS

Cape Town – Lewis Group delivered a solid trading and operational performance for the year to March 2020 before being impacted by Covid-19 and the national lockdown which contributed to headline earnings per share declining by 30.8% to 260 cents.

Covid-19 adjustments reduced profit before taxation by R339 million and headline earnings by R224 million. This includes an increase in the debtors impairment provision of R123 million as a result of lost collections in March due to store closures during lockdown, a further increase of R190 million in the debtors impairment provision for the potential economic disruption of Covid-19 and its impact on future customer account payments and an impairment charge of R27 million for the possible future impact of Covid-19 in terms of the IFRS 16 lease accounting standard.

Despite the financial effects of the pandemic and the resultant lower earnings, the directors have shown confidence in the group’s prospects by declaring a total dividend of 185 cents per share for the year (2019: 234 cents), a dividend payout ratio of 79%.

Chief executive Johan Enslin said the group’s business model proved resilient during the lockdown trading restrictions. “The strength of our balance sheet and cash position ensured that we did not need to access any bank funding during the lockdown period, despite all our stores being closed for an extended period,” he said.

After increasing merchandise sales by 6.9% for the first 11 months of the year, the group lost crucial trading days over the March month-end period at the start of the lockdown on 27 March 2020. This resulted in losing merchandise sales of approximately R80 million and customer account collections of R180 million. Merchandise sales growth for the 12 months therefore slowed to 4.7%.

Other revenue, consisting of finance charges and initiation fees, insurance premiums and services rendered, increased by 5.8%. Total revenue, comprising merchandise sales and other revenue, increased by 5.2% to R6.5 billion for the year.

The group’s gross profit margin at 41.0% (2019: 41.2%) remains at the upper end of management’s target range of 38% to 42%.

The credit health of the group’s customer base pre-lockdown is reflected in the decline of R41 million in net bad debts for the year. Net bad debts as a percentage of debtors reduced to 13.9% from 15.1% in the prior year.

Collection rates increased to 77.3% for the first 11 months of the year to February 2020. Owing to the loss of key trading days at the end of March due to lockdown, the collection rate for the year slowed to 74.5%.

Cash generated from operations totalled R636 million and the group’s gearing ratio was 12% at year end.

The store footprint was expanded to 794 following the opening of 19 and closure of 9 stores during the year. The group plans to open 20 new stores in the 2021 financial year.

Discussing trading patterns post year end, Enslin said sales have been strong following the reopening of stores from 1 June 2020 when the country moved to lockdown level 3. Merchandise sales for June increased by 22.3% and July by 16.8%.

“The current sales momentum is being supported by pent up demand from savings accumulated during lockdown.”

“We are expecting consumer spending to contract in a post Covid-19 recessionary environment. Customers in our traditional lower to middle income target market are also vulnerable to the rising levels of unemployment in the country due to the impact of the pandemic,” he added.

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

For further information kindly contact

Graeme Lillie
Tier 1 Investor Relations
graeme@tier1ir.co.za
082 468 1507

LEWIS GROUP EARNINGS UP 19% ON STRONG ALL-ROUND PERFORMANCE

Cape Town – Lewis Group increased headline earnings per share by 18.9% to 215 cents in the six months to September 2019 as the multi-brand furniture retailer delivered solid revenue growth, improved margins, reduced debtor costs and increased profitability in a deteriorating retail trading environment.

The group increased its interim dividend by 14.3% to 120 cents.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said the group’s strategy of diversifying across market segments and retail channels continues to gain traction.

Merchandise sales grew by 6.4% to R1.7 billion, with UFO sales up 8.8% and the traditional retail brands Lewis, Best Home and Electric, and Beares growing sales by 3.7%.

INspire, the omni-channel home shopping retailer launched in 2018, generated sales of R35.7 million for the six-month period.

Credit sales increased by 8.1%, benefiting from the change in the National Credit Act’s affordability assessment regulations, and cash sales grew by 4.1%.

The gross profit margin improved by 40 basis points to 40.3% following the launch of new merchandise ranges.

Operating profit increased by 8.9% to R211 million and the group’s operating margin expanded by 10 basis points to 6.8%.

The group’s balance sheet remains ungeared and the group has no borrowings.

Enslin said the credit health of the group’s customer base continued to improve, despite the weak consumer credit environment. Credit collection rates improved from 77.2% to 79.6% which contributed to debtor costs declining by 0.4%. He noted that the level of satisfactory paid customers at 74.2% is at its highest level since September 2008.

The group’s store base increased to 787 as 9 stores were opened and 6 closed. This includes 121 stores outside South Africa which accounted for 17.3% of total sales. The group plans to open a net 6 new stores in the second half of the year.

Discussing the outlook for the remainder of the financial year, Enslin said the group’s diversification strategy across target markets and sales channels will continue to offer resilience in the weak consumer spending environment.

He said marketing activity is being accelerated to drive sales growth, with all the group’s brands participating in Black Friday on 29 November. “We are also planning for robust festive season trading which will be supported by strong promotional campaigns and new merchandise ranges,” he added.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

Enquiries: Graeme Lillie 082 468 1507

LEWIS GROUP EARNINGS UP 24% ON STRONG SALES GROWTH

Cape Town – Lewis Group today reported the continued turnaround in the performance of its traditional retail brands in the year to March 2019, with strong merchandise sales growth and the early benefits of its diversification strategy driving headline earnings per share 24.3% higher to 376 cents.

The group’s total dividend has been increased by 17% to 234 cents per share.

Merchandise sales were boosted by the acquisition of United Furniture Outlets (UFO) and increased by 22.9% to R3.5 billion. Comparable store sales increased by 6.9%.

Cash sales increased by 51.1%, driven by UFO. Credit sales grew by 8.1% in the second half, reflecting the benefits of the change in the National Credit Act’s affordability assessment regulations on the group’s traditional retail brands of Lewis, Best Home and Electric, and Beares.

Operating profit grew by 16.8% to R443 million and the operating margin increased to 7.2%. Headline earnings rose 18.4% to R308.4 million.

The group’s balance sheet remains ungeared and the group has no borrowings, with cash and cash equivalents totalling R205 million at year end.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said the group’s strategy of diversifying across market segments and retail channels is starting to pay dividends. “UFO is proving to be a sound acquisition, with new stores trading well. UFO contributed sales of R478 million in its first full 12 months in the group and has enabled the business to access higher income customers.”

INspire, the start-up omni-channel home shopping retailer, is gaining traction and generated sales of R27.2 million in its first 10 months since launch. INspire has an extensive product offering across linen, bedding, tableware, cookware and small electrical appliances and targets customers in the LSM 4 – 8 categories.

Enslin said the group’s credit collection rates improved over the past year from 74.9% to 76.3% and resulted in an encouraging improvement in the debtor book despite the weak consumer credit environment. Debtor costs continued to decline and reduced by 11.9%.

The group’s store base increased to 784 as 30 stores were opened and 19 closed. UFO opened eight stores and closed three, bringing its store footprint to 36. Five to ten new UFO stores are planned for the 2020 financial year.

The group has 120 stores outside South Africa following the opening of 10 new stores in Namibia.

On the outlook for the year ahead, Enslin said the strong sales growth experienced in the second half is expected to continue into the new financial year, with UFO complementing the performance of the traditional retail brands.

He said the group’s diversification strategy is expected to continue to support sales growth. “UFO has extensive expansion opportunities and INspire is anticipated to reach break-even point in the forthcoming financial year,” he added.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

Enquiries: Graeme Lillie 082 468 1507

LEWIS GROUP EARNINGS UP 11% ON STRONG SALES GROWTH

Cape Town – Lewis Group continued its turnaround performance in the six months to September 2018 as headline earnings per share increased by 10.7% to 180.8 cents, driven by strong merchandise sales growth and the early benefits of the group’s diversification strategy.

The interim dividend has been increased by 5% to 105 cents per share.

Merchandise sales were boosted by the recent acquisition of United Furniture Outlets (UFO) and increased by 25.9% to R1.6 billion. Excluding the sales from UFO, merchandise sales grew by 8.1%.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said UFO has performed well since being successfully integrated into the group and contributed sales of R230 million for the six months. UFO has enabled the group to access higher income customers and as a cash retailer has increased the group’s cash-to-credit sales mix.

Cash sales now account for 43% of total group sales compared to 31% in the prior period.

The group’s debtor costs continued to decline, reducing by 20.8% over the prior period. Collection rates improved from 76.2% to 77.2%, despite the deteriorating consumer environment. The level of satisfactory paying customers improved to 69.9% from 68.4% at the end of the 2018 financial year.

The group is highly cash generative, with cash and cash equivalents totalling R543 million at the end of September, while the balance sheet remains ungeared.

Enslin said the group’s strategy of diversifying across market segments and retail channels, which started with the acquisition of the Beares chain in 2015, has continued with the acquisition of UFO and the launch of omnichannel retailer INspire.

“We believe UFO is scalable with the potential to expand across South Africa and into neighbouring countries. Two stores were opened during the first half, another three stores opened in October and two more outlets are planned to open before December.”

INspire marks the group’s entry into the home shopping market with an extensive product offering across linen, bedding, tableware, cookware and small electrical appliances. The business is marketed through outbound call centres, agents and online shopping. “Our strategy is to attract customers in the LSM 4 – 8 categories to extend the group’s presence in urban areas,” said Enslin.

The group’s store base increased to 779 following the opening of 14 stores and closure of 8 stores during the six month period. The store base in the neighbouring countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland increased by 6 to 116, including the opening of the first five Best Home and Electric stores in Namibia.

Discussing the outlook for the remainder of the financial year, Enslin said the current sales momentum is expected to be maintained, with UFO complementing the performance of the traditional retail brands.

He said the change in the affordability assessment regulations of the National Credit Act has enabled self-employed and informally employed individuals to again apply for credit.

“We expect this to improve the performance of our stores in rural areas which have been most affected by these restrictive regulations. While it will take time before many of these individuals re-enter the credit market, sales to this customer category are encouraging and early payment performance is satisfactory,” he added.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

Enquiries: Graeme Lillie 082 468 1507

Lewis Group merchandise sales up 10% as recovery continues

Cape Town – Lewis Group continued its recovery in the financial year to March 2018 with stronger merchandise sales, tight expense control and lower debtor costs, supported by a strong cash position and ungeared balance sheet.

Merchandise sales increased by 9.9%, lifted by the inclusion of the recently acquired United Furniture Outlets (UFO) chain for the last two months of the year. Excluding the sales from UFO, merchandise sales showed competitive growth of 7.3%.

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said the performance for the year was negatively impacted by a decline in other revenue. “The reduction in other revenue is largely due to declining annuity streams resulting from lower credit sales in prior years, compounded by the implementation of the prescribed maximum credit life insurance rates in August 2017 which capped credit life premium income.”

Headline earnings declined by 26.5% to R261 million with headline earnings per share 24.3% lower at 302.6 cents. The total dividend has been maintained at 200 cents per share.

Enslin said the group remains highly cash generative. “Cash on hand totalled R580 million at year end after paying for UFO and undertaking share repurchases. Over the past 18 months borrowings of R1.5 billion have been repaid, resulting in the balance sheet being ungeared at year end,” he said.

Stores outside South Africa contributed 22.5% of total merchandise sales. Credit sales increased by 10.7% and cash sales by 8.2%, with group credit sales accounting for 65.7% of total sales.

The gross profit margin at 41.4% (2017: 42.4%) remains at the upper end of management’s target range of 38% to 42%.

Debtor collection rates improved to 74.9% from 73.8% last year, with debtor costs declining by 10.1%. The level of satisfactory paid customers at 68.4% is consistent with last year.

The group’s store network totalled 773 at year end following the acquisition of 31 UFO stores and the net closure of 19 stores across the Lewis and Beares brands.

“The integration of UFO has been successfully completed. UFO allows the business to access higher income customers while increasing our cash-to-credit sales mix. We believe UFO is scalable with the potential to expand across South Africa and into neighbouring countries, and 5 to 10 new stores are planned for the year ahead,” said Enslin.

Earlier this month the group entered the home shopping market with the launch of Inspire, an omni-channel retail offering to be marketed through outbound call centres, agents and online shopping at www.inspire.co.za. “Our strategy is to attract customers in the LSM 4 – 8 categories through our extensive product offering to extend the group’s reach in urban areas,” he said.

The group welcomed the outcome of two long-standing legal cases after year end. In the first case the court ruled in favour of Lewis regarding an appeal by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) in relation to club fees and extended warranties. A settlement was reached in the second case between the NCR and Lewis Stores in relation to loss of employment and disability insurance.

On the outlook for the months ahead, Enslin said the current sales momentum is expected to continue.

“The favourable outcome of the clothing industry’s court challenge of the affordability assessment regulations will benefit credit sales. Prospective self-employed and informally employed customers are no longer required to supply bank statements or payslips,” he said. “The group will continue to extend credit in a responsible manner.”

The group plans to open a net 15 stores across all its brands in the new financial year, while continuing to close marginal stores.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

Enquiries: Graeme Lillie 082 468 1507

Lewis shows early signs of recovery in tough markets

Cape Town – Economic conditions impacting the country’s lower to middle income market continued to weigh on Lewis Group’s performance for the six months to September 2017 as headline earnings declined from R173 million to R144 million with headline earnings per share 15.8% lower at 163.9 cents.

However, the group’s results show an improving sales growth trend, stronger gross profit margin, tight expense control and lower debtor costs.

The interim dividend has been maintained at 100 cents per share.

The group continues to generate strong cash flows, with cash of R685 million at end September. Over the past 18 months borrowings of R1.4 billion have been repaid and the group’s balance sheet is ungeared, compared to gearing of 18.8% in the previous year. 

Chief executive officer Johan Enslin said trading conditions remain extremely difficult. “Our core lower to middle income customer base continues to be impacted by increasing living costs, high unemployment and limited prospects in the current low growth environment in the country. In addition, credit sales continue to be restricted by the National Credit Regulator’s affordability assessment regulations,” he said.

Merchandise sales increased by 5% mainly as a result of new merchandise ranges and increased promotional activity across the three trading brands Lewis, Beares and Best Home and Electric. Comparable stores sales grew by 7.3%.

The group has 744 stores, including 110 outside South Africa which contributed 24% of merchandise sales.

The group’s gross profit margin strengthened by 40 basis points to 40.9%. The margin benefited from more competitive pricing on locally sourced product and margin expansion in the furniture categories, he said.

Debtor costs declined by 11.5% while collection rates improved from 74.6% in the first half of the 2017 financial year to 76.2% in the current period.

The group recently announced the acquisition of the luxury household furniture retailer United Furniture Outlets (UFO) for R320 million, subject to competition approval. UFO is a cash retailer targeting the higher income market and has a footprint of 30 stores.

“The acquisition of UFO aligns with our strategy of diversifying and gaining access to higher income customers and improving our cash-to-credit sales mix. We believe the business is scalable with the potential to expand its store footprint across South Africa and into neighbouring countries.”

“Following the acquisition of UFO, the group is well positioned to service customers across all market segments,” he said.

On the outlook for the remainder of the financial year, Enslin said the trading environment is expected to remain challenging and the group continues to focus on driving sales growth, managing expenses and reducing debtor costs. “The important festive trading season will be supported by strong promotional activity and new merchandise ranges across our three brands,” he added.

Ends

Issued by Tier 1 Investor Relations on behalf of Lewis Group

Enquiries

Graeme Lillie
082 468 1507