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Wooltru First SA Retailer to Join Global E-Marketplace

[Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA] Retail group Wooltru announced on Friday that it has become the first South African company to join the WorldWide Retail Exchange, a global e-commerce marketplace for retailers operating over the Internet.

This announcement, made last week by Wooltru Executive Chairman Colin Hall, will result in Wooltru entering the exchange as a charter member, a position which will entitle the group to participate in the governance and development of the exchange. Wooltru is the dominant South African retail brand with a shareholding in a number of top-performing brands including Woolworths, CNA, Game, Makro and Truworths.

This announcement boosts the governing group of the WorldWide Retail Exchange to 32 members, including seventeen founding organizations with combined sales in excess of $537 billion. This group includes a number of high-profile international retailers including the Dixons Group and Marks and Spencer from the U.K., Gap Inc., KMart Corporation and Safeway Inc. from the U.S., Japan's Jusco, France's Auchan and Germany's Edeka.

Wooltru is one of two new additions to the marketplace, with the U.K.-based pharmaceutical retailers Boots being the other company to align themselves with the electronic exchange. With Boots reporting total revenues of $7,8-billion and with Wooltru's 1999 sales amounting to over $2-billion, the marketplace has attracted two formidable global players. Wooltru operates over 1,200 retail stores throughout Africa, Asia, North America and Australia.

The South African enterprise will harness the skills of Affinity Logic, its e-commerce joint venture with technology company Datatec, to develop a program to ready its existing retail subsidiaries for integratation with the global exchange. By joining this electronic exchange, Wooltru expects to improve operating efficiencies and receive exposure to complementary businesses, thereby boosting current revenue levels.

Affinity Logic CEO Richard van Rensburg reveals a further agenda of this partnership. "Our participation in the WorldWide Exchange as a charter member will enable us to influence development priorities of the Exchange to cater for the needs of South African retailers and suppliers," he says. He discloses that the group will use its position of influence to create opportunities for local retailers to participate in the electronic marketplace, providing exposure to a wider global market and supplier base.

Colin Hall dismisses notions that partnering with the WorldWide Exchange will limit the company's ability to form similar alliances with other potential partners. "Participation does not limit our businesses from trading on any other local or global exchange," he argues, "Rather, it gives us more options." He cites the potential for collaboration with other global retail leaders as one way in which his group will be able to tap into trends and expertise in order to improve his company's service offering.



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