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CityPress - - Business - DE­WALD VAN RENS­BURG de­wald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

he Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion’s in­quiry into gro­cery re­tail will delve be­yond the Big Four su­per­mar­kets and try to ad­dress the sup­posed root of re­cur­ring xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence – the al­leged com­pet­i­tive se­crets of for­eign shop­keep­ers. The terms of ref­er­ence for the com­mis­sion’s sec­ond whack at the gro­cery re­tail sec­tor was gazetted on Fri­day morn­ing, re­veal­ing an am­bi­tious at­tempt to scru­ti­nise the en­tire re­tail sec­tor, from street traders to su­permalls.

The in­quiry is premised on the prob­lem of a dis­ap­pear­ing small and in­for­mal re­tail sec­tor in the face of the rise and rise of shop­ping cen­tres in town­ships, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion’s back­ground state­ment in the terms of ref­er­ence.

In the terms pub­lished in the Gov­ern­ment Gazette, the com­mis­sion cites the four ma­jor su­per­mar­ket chains as now con­trol­ling 90% of the mar­ket.

Back in 2009, the com­mis­sion launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the four ma­jor su­per­mar­ket groups, which was even­tu­ally pared down to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ex­clu­sive lease agree­ments that turn one su­per­mar­ket into the mas­ter of any par­tic­u­lar shop­ping mall.

That in­ves­ti­ga­tion was aban­doned last year due to a lack of ev­i­dence, but now the lease is­sue is back on the ta­ble as part of a far more ex­pan­sive probe.

The com­mis­sion also seems in­ter­ested in su­per­mar­ket chains’ fran­chis­ing agree­ments as fran­chisees are in ef­fect branches of the fran­chisor with no dis­cre­tion in terms of pric­ing or sourc­ing stock. The im­pli­ca­tion is that even though the stores are owned by small com­pa­nies, they still con­trib­ute to the dom­i­nance of the com­pany un­der whose brand they op­er­ate.

Much of the new in­quiry’s scope is, how­ever, in the con­tentious ter­rain of small re­tail­ers – for­mal and in­for­mal – who claim they are be­ing dis­placed by

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