• Massmart – owner of Makro, Game and Builders Warehouse – has just announced its third high-profile Walmart appointee.
  • Sylvester John will head up the company’s ecommerce.
  • While its stores have seen massive growth in online sales during lockdown, Takealot and other more nimble competitors have stolen market share over recent years.
  • For more articles, go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

Massmart has appointed a Walmart executive to lead its ecommerce operations in South Africa, which includes Makro, Game and Builders Warehouse online sales.

Sylvester John is the Walmart North America’s vice president for so-called “last mile delivery”, products’ journey from the warehouse shelf to customer doorstep.

In a statement, Massmart said that John has been key in launching online grocery pickup in the US and establishing Walmart’s last mile delivery from more than 3,000 stores in the US.

Massmart has seen its market share shrink as more nimble online retailers, particularly Naspers-controlled online retailer Takealot, won ground.

But it has seen fast growth in online sales in recent months, as the lockdown and coronavirus pandemic forced consumers out of shops.

In the past six months to end June, Game doubled its online sales, while Makro grew these sales by 84%. Builders Warehouse saw a 160% surge in online sales.

Apart from at-home deliveries, Makro now also offers in-store collection (where consumers can order online, and pick up in store) as well as locker collections. Earlier this year, Massmart partnered with the same-day grocery and alcohol delivery service, OneCart, in some areas of South Africa.

“(While) we have seen significant increases in click and collect and online sales, we know there is more we can do, says Massmart CEO Mitch Slape. “The role of e-commerce is an important growth area for Massmart. To achieve this, we are extremely lucky to be able to draw on Walmart’s extensive knowledge and experience. They have been unwavering and very enthusiastic about sharing their expertise with us and Sylvester’s assignment is further evidence of their support.”

Walmart veteran Slape joined Massmart from the US a year ago, and recently bought almost R8.2 million in shares in the company, using his own money.

Massmart also recently announced that it is bringing in Martin Halle, who has been with Walmart in Latin America for more than two decades, to oversee the local company’s supply chain “reorganisation”. The company wants to save R1.9 billion in costs over the next three years – after suffering a headline loss of more than R1 billion in the past six months.

Sylvester John

The latest appointee, John, was born in Sierra Leone, and studied in the US. He worked for various non-profit organisations in Africa, including in Ghana, Nigeria and Togo before joining Walmart eight years ago.

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