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COVID-19 continued to dominate and disrupt retail businesses across the globe, materially impacting the Group’s performance and our business operations for the entire financial year compared to only three months in the prior year.

The second and third waves of the pandemic in South Africa over the past year were more severe than the first wave experienced shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 when the country went into hard lockdown. Fortunately, our South African stores remained open, unlike the UK where our Office business endured 18 weeks of forced store closures as all non-essential retail activity was suspended in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

Management was steadfast in its determination to continue to follow the Group’s Business Philosophy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Operational measures included exercising rigorous operating and capital expenditure control, accessing government support schemes, managing inventory levels and the order book, ensuring greater focus on online sales and closely monitoring the trade receivables portfolio. The health and safety of employees and customers is paramount and strict COVID-19 protocols implemented at the start of the pandemic remained in force.

Shortly after the end of the reporting period South Africa experienced an outbreak of significant civil unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The wide-scale rioting and looting had a significant impact on the retail sector in particular, and a number of the Group’s stores were targeted which resulted in stock losses, damage to property and equipment, and loss of profits. The board believes the Group has adequate insurance to mitigate these losses.

On behalf of my board colleagues we commend our Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Michael Mark, and his executive team for their leadership during these times of challenge and crisis.

Management was steadfast

Strong financial turnaround

While the pandemic continued to impact the Group in the current period, most notably revenue growth and the recoverable value of right-of-use (property lease) assets, other areas of the business have recovered sooner than anticipated. The performance of the Truworths trade receivables portfolio has been better than expected, with a significant decrease in debtors costs and the return of several metrics to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Government support schemes, specifically in relation to business rates and job retention in the UK, have further mitigated the impact on the Group’s cash flows and profits.

Our robust balance sheet supported the Group throughout the pandemic while the resilient business model ensured that the business remained highly cash generative.

Cash from operations totalled R4.1 billion, with R1.9 billion being returned to shareholders through dividend payments and share buy-backs while borrowings of R1.7 billion were repaid.

Management continued to take advantage of the weaker stock market and repurchased shares on the JSE totalling R768 million during the period. Since the start of the programme in 2002, the Group has returned close to R4.5 billion to shareholders through share buy-backs, repurchasing 125.3 million shares at an average price of R35.52.

The net cash position has increased from R44 million in 2020 to R577 million in 2021, after the substantial investment in share repurchases during the current period. The Group’s net cash to equity ratio was 9.3% at the end of the reporting period compared to 0.7% a year earlier.

The directors demonstrated their confidence in the Group’s prospects and increased the annual dividend by 25% to 350 cents per share.

Board and governance

We welcomed three new non-executive directors to the board this year. Emanuel Cristaudo, who served in senior executive roles in Truworths for 16 years and left the Group in 2013, was appointed as an independent non-executive director in January 2021. Thabo Mosololi and Dawn Earp, who are both chartered accountants, joined the board in May 2021.

Thabo has extensive experience in the auditing profession, corporate leadership and as a non-executive director, and will add a wealth of audit, finance and risk management expertise to the board. Dawn has cross-industry experience in senior financial and executive roles, and as a non-executive director. Her expertise in financial management and reporting, finance and governance will add depth to the board’s skills in these areas and she has also been appointed to the board’s Audit Committee.

David Pfaff, who had been an executive director since 2013 and held the dual roles of Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), resigned from the Group in February 2021 to pursue a career opportunity in financial services.

Emanuel Cristaudo was appointed as CFO and an executive director of the company effective from July 2021, and he accordingly stepped down as an independent non-executive director.

After a career spanning 37 years with Truworths, our Merchandise Director, Doug Dare, retired from the Group in May 2021. He has served as an executive director since 2016. Doug has served Truworths with distinction and the board joins me in thanking him for his loyalty and commitment over more than three decades. Doug continues to consult to Truworths on a part-time basis.

Board priorities for 2022

The directors have identified focus areas to be addressed in the 2022 financial year while remaining responsive to new and emerging issues that could materially impact the Group.

Our primary responsibility is to ensure that the board provides ethical leadership so that the Group operates within a culture of integrity and compliance.

Operationally, the board will monitor the progress in the turnaround of the Office business and ensure that management’s strategies to maintain momentum in the current low growth trading environment enable the Group to deliver its strategic objectives. It will also consider the various opportunities that exist within Truworths and monitor their progress.

As a board we will seek to ensure that the Group’s strategies for managing its key risks and dealing with its material issues are appropriately implemented and regularly reviewed.


Shareholders will be aware of our CEO, Michael Mark’s prospective retirement. In preparation for Michael’s retirement, the Nomination Committee of the board implemented a succession plan in 2020 to ensure a smooth transition in the CEO’s office.

The succession strategy is well under way and encouraging progress has been made in the past year. Sarah Proudfoot was promoted to the newly created position of Deputy Managing Director of Truworths Ltd in January 2021 while Emanuel Cristaudo was appointed as CFO of the Group in July 2021.

Michael, Sarah and Emanuel are working closely in a consultative and collaborative relationship, and are increasingly involved in joint executive decision-making during this transitionary phase.

The Nomination Committee is also focusing on longer-term succession. In February 2021 seven new directors were appointed to the Truworths Ltd board, increasing executive level diversity and the depth of succession candidates. Additionally, a new Managing Director has been appointed at Office, bringing relevant and extensive retailing experience to the role.

Non-executive director succession

Succession for long-serving non-executive directors is a key focus of the board. In recent years we have followed a succession process of refreshing the non-executive component of the board. This enables us to maintain continuity from long-standing directors while newly appointed non-executive directors grow their knowledge and begin to influence board deliberations.

Our board has a healthy balance of longer-serving directors and those who have been appointed more recently. Over the past 42 months, 6 new non-executive directors have been appointed to the board as part of this succession strategy. The more recently appointed directors are being elevated to committee membership and leadership as long-serving non-executives retire from the board or stand down from committees.

Over the past 42 month

Increasing board diversity

Diversity and transformation in the boardroom ensures balanced decision-making and that the needs and concerns of our stakeholders are addressed. Our board is diverse in its skills, thinking and composition, which assists the board in adding value to the strategic direction of the business.

Diversity has been a major consideration in recent board appointments. At year-end female representation on the board was 36%, ahead of the voluntary medium-term target contained in the board’s gender diversity policy. Black representation was 29% relative to the 30% medium-term target in the race diversity policy.

During the year the board formalised a broad diversity policy. The policy reinforces that nominations for appointments to the board should be based on merit and the ability of candidates to contribute meaningfully to board and committee deliberations as well as board diversity.


Thank you to my fellow non-executive directors for ensuring the board meets the highest standards of governance and oversight, and for their supportive contribution to boardroom debate. We also extend a warm welcome to the directors appointed in the past year.

The Group’s leadership was again tested by the adverse trading conditions of the past year but was more than equal to the task. Thank you to our CEO and the executive teams in Truworths and Office for their committed leadership in delivering a strong performance despite the many headwinds in the macro environment.

Our stakeholders are integral to our success and we thank our shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers and regulators for their collaboration and engagement.

Chairman Signature

Hilton Saven
Independent Non-executive Chairman