Only Truworths Stores registered a growth of 7,4% while Topics and Number 1 stores were down 0,9% and 1,6% respectively, he said.
Year on year, Truworths’ sales rose 16,1%, Topics grew 4% and Number 1 was up 3,1% resulting in to an overall growth of 7,6% for the group.
Ndebele said the major challenges facing retailers was the lack of liquidity in the economy, which was mainly evident in the late payment of salaries. This had an effect of slowing down sales, he said.
Ndebele said trading conditions would be difficult for the remainder of the financial year but remained confident that the business would remain profitable.
He said the company would report a flat outcome at the full year results in June.
The group had adopted a strict policy in terms of opening new accounts to minimise the risk of defaulting.
The number of active accounts in the six months to January 8 had grown to 67 078, an increase of 26% from the comparable year ago period. At the close of the books, 87% of the account holders were able to make purchases while 13% of the value was in arrears.
Trade receivables before doubtful debt allowance were at US$7,06 million. Credit sales as a percentage of retail sales were at 76%. The group made a doubtful debt allowance of 5,2% against a net bad debt write-off of 3,2%, an over-provision of 2%. Ndebele said this was a comfortable position.
January collections were at 82,5% of now-due balances while February collections were down to 75%.
In the six month period, 85% of the book had been collected against 60% last year.
Truworths and Topics have credit facilities while Number 1 is 100% cash. Truworths is 80% credit and Topics 89%. Average account spend is at US$145 for Truworths and US$85 for Topics.
Management said Truworths Ladies First Street would undergo a major refurbishment this month at a cost of US$465 per square metre.
Ndebele said that this cost should give a better feel and valuation of fixed assets, which he feels are undervalued at US$1,819 million.
In the 26 weeks to January 8, the group reported a 56% drop in the bottom line to $698 000 from US$1,57 million. Operating profit declined 57% to US$944 236 because the group had lower merchandise sales. Total revenue was down 9% to US$12,4 million.