By Steven Heilbron, CEO of the CONNECT Group of Companies

What would happen tomorrow if we could turn South Africa into a cashless society with a wave of a magic wand? Far from turning the country into a crime-free paradise of low transaction costs and widespread financial inclusion, it’s more likely that chaos would reign in many communities as millions of South Africans found themselves financially excluded and unable to transact.

South Africans are getting ready to fire up their braais and gather with friends and family over the Braai Day / Heritage Day weekend.

This coming long weekend gives retail business owners the perfect opportunity to boost sales as shoppers prepare for a few days of fun and relaxation.  But, only those retailers who would have been quick in their thinking with innovative ideas to make things happen would be able to take advantage of the opportunities to drive sales and increase profits, says Steven Heilbron, CEO of the Connect Group.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for SMEs to be flexible and innovative. Moving fast to take advantage of new business opportunities usually requires cash flow – thankfully, there are credible alternative finance lenders that can help retailers access the funding they need for a quick cash boost.

Steven Heilbron, CEO of the Connect Group, says that business finance has changed in South Africa, with credible, Fintech lenders offering financial solutions that make it easier for retailers to access working capital. These products enable businesses to be agile, responding to changes in their markets in innovative ways, so that they can survive and thrive in these unusual times.

Capital Connect, a member of the Connect Group, has won the Retail Business Funder of the Year title in the 2021 Wealth & Finance FinTech Awards.  This title was awarded to Capital Connect in recognition of the innovative business finance solutions it provides to the South African retail sector since its launch in 2018.

Nearly every small and medium-sized retailer in South Africa knows what it’s like to miss out on a special bulk pricing promotion from a supplier or lose the chance to stock up because it cannot access the financing it needs to grab the opportunity. Indeed, a 2020 PWC survey found that 22% of business owners ranked access to funding as their largest challenge.

At its heart, the retail industry is all about the efficient management of time and money. It’s about offering customers choice in payment method  while securely managing the cash that flows into the retail store. It’s about quick access to working capital necessary to pursue trading opportunities as they arise. And it’s about finding new ways to improve profit margin and increase revenues.

According to Steven Heilbron, CEO of the Connect Group, retailers have a key role to play in rebuilding the economy in the wake of the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to succeed in these difficult operating condition, small and medium sized retailers need to improve efficiencies, streamline cash flow and exploit new revenue streams.

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Following rumours that the President would introduce a fourth ban on alcohol sales over Easter, liquor traders should be relieved that there will only be a brief pause on alcohol sales for offsite consumption over the long weekend. In fact, many bottle store owners will benefit from brisk trade as people stock up ahead of the weekend, says Steven Heilbron, the CEO of the Connect Group.

The brief pause on alcohol sales will leave taverns, pubs, restaurants and other venues for onsite consumption unaffected, while bottle store owners will be able to enjoy strong sales leading to Easter and still get to enjoy a long weekend with their families.

Easter is a peak trading period for South African retailers. However, in the face of a global pandemic, Easter 2021 must be seen as a golden trading opportunity between Covid-19 waves. 

“Now is the time for retail merchants to innovate in preparation for consumer spending during the Easter weekend and school holidays. It is up to retailers to make the most of this opportunity to cash in ahead of the predicted third Covid-wave,” says Steven Heilbron, CEO of the Connect Group which provides a range of fintech solutions for SA’s retail industry.

Given the depths of the economic crisis South Africa is facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses would have hoped to have seen bolder economic reforms and more support from the 2021 Budget Speech from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, says Steven Heilbron, CEO of the Connect Group.

Heilbron says that the decision not to increase VAT or personal income tax is welcomed. It is positive that low to middle income earners will get a small amount of income tax relief from the Budget for 2021/22. Retailers and other SMEs will be relieved that the cash-strapped consumer will not be paying more PAYE.

Small and medium-sized retailers in SA will be hoping for some relief from the Finance Minister’s annual Budget Speech this year, following the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their finances and businesses. Measures such as extending the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) and easing red tape could help them to weather this turbulent time and get back into a growth mode.

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