The shelves at several Dion Wired stores across Gauteng are standing near-empty.
This follows Massmart, which owns Dion Wired, announcing on 13 January that it had started consultations with workers’ unions over possible retrenchments at the company – and that it may close the chain completely.
“The Massmart Group has recently conducted a store optimisation project that highlighted a number of underperforming stores in its portfolio,” Massmart said.
“Consequent to this project, the Massmart Group seeks to advise shareholders that Massmart has commenced a potential store closure consultation process in terms of section 189 and section 189A of the Labour Relations Act.”
Bloomberg later reported that the plans involved closing Dion Wired’s 23 stores and 11 Masscash wholesale outlets, potentially affecting 1,440 employees.
MyBroadband visited three Dion Wired stores in Gauteng this week to see how the stores were performing in terms of customer traffic, and we found that the potential shutdown of the franchise appears to be affecting the stores’ stock levels and employee morale.
Empty shelves and low stock
In all three stores we visited, there were early signs of supply restrictions and only a few customers were browsing the shelves.
The floor stock of general accessories appeared adequate, but big spaces were left open in areas where larger appliances and electronic gadgets were normally displayed.
During our visit to the first store, we noticed that spots on the TV showroom walls were left open – although boxes with TV sets in were still plentiful.
The area where washing machines were on display was also quite empty, with a total of five display units in two rows that could normally fit 10.
The most noticeable shortage in the store could be found in the audio equipment section – which includes wireless speakers and soundbars.
Here, multiple rows of shelves were bare – containing only a few boxes and display units. One row only had a single Bluetooth speaker on display.
The shelves in the camera section were almost empty as well, with scattered display units and a few boxes in the shelves underneath.
In the second store we visited, general stock levels did not seem to be as severely affected.
The appliances department was sparsely populated, however, and open spaces could be seen between the various refrigerators on display.
Another section of the store contained only three dishwashing machines, two of which were the same model.
In the final store, we once again noticed that the display area for TVs had several gaps, some of which may have been for sound systems.
Once again, the shelves which contained speakers and other sound devices were understocked – with hardly any boxes or display units on show.
Things were particularly bad in the cellphone department, where a large stand had only a single device on display.
What staff members say
We spoke to several employees about how they were feeling about potential job cuts and their daily routine at the stores.
One staff member told MyBroadband that the employees were uncertain as to what was going to happen next. He said they had not been informed of any closure dates and were still awaiting updates.
At another store, MyBroadband asked an employee how the staff members were feeling.
She pointed to a group of chatting employees and said they were not “in the mood” to work, knowing they might lose their jobs.
On the question of stock levels, she said they were not receiving new stock on larger and more expensive devices, although accessories were still coming in.
Interestingly, a manager at one of the stores told us he would be able to offer us a massive discount on a refrigerator which was priced at R24,000.
He said he could knock R6,000 off the price, even though there was no indication of a promotion or discount on the product’s label.
When asked about discounts on the labelled prices, another staff member said we should not take the tags at face value and rather ask at the desk.
She said that for certain products, like the laptops, the prices could be marked down by thousands.
When asked about the discounts offered by Dion Wired staff, Massmart said managers were allowed to offer discounts on products.
“DionWired does have a price match promise in place. This means we will match the price of a like-for-like product, if the customer can show proof that it is cheaper,” the company said.
“This proof can be a quote or an advert.”
“Our managers in stores are also empowered to give customers marked down prices on items, within certain parameters. An example of this could be giving a customer a discount on an end-of-life item,” it added.
The company added that it remains engaged in a consultation process with unions regarding the closure of the franchise.
“Our Dion Wired Associates are fully involved in and informed about the section 189 consultation process with their representatives.”
“Our processes on refilling stock in stores remains unchanged,” the company said.
Photos showing the empty shelves and sparsely-stocked departments from our visit to three Dion Wired stores are below.