GEORGE NEWS - The founder of Tekkie Town, Braam van Huyssteen and his management team who walked out of Tekkie Town's George head-office in June this year, have announced the launch of a new clothing and shoe retail chain under the name of Mr Tekkie.
The stores are to open nationwide from November. There will be a branch in George too, according to former Tekkie Town CEO, Bernard Mostert.
Mr Tekkie will sell branded clothing and footwear.
Van Huyssteen was named South Africa’s Master Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 by Ernst and Young for founding and growing Tekkie Town. His investment of R20 000 in a single sport shoe store - and ten years of dedicated work - grew into a successful national retail chain of 389 stores.
He and his partners sold the business to Steinhoff in 2016 in a transaction that is now being challenged legally due to the fact that Steinhoff withdrew its published financial statements after it acknowledged accounting irregularities and fraud. Tekkie Town is now owned by Steinhoff subsidiary Pepkor.
Mostert said they are confident that their court application to get Tekkie Town back from Pepkor will succeed and that the new chain will be run side-by-side with Tekkie Town from the latter's head-office in George where Van Huyssteen has applied for an evicton notice of Pepkor. The property belongs to Van Huyssteen.
Said Van Huyssteen, “Entrepreneurship is in our blood. Whilst we are confident that the several legal actions that we have against Steinhoff and its listed subsidiary Pepkor will be successful, we also want to invest our talents into a new concept that will address a need in South Africa. We will offer a wide choice of quality branded footwear and apparel, good customer service and the best value for South African shoppers. We want to exceed both as a service provider and employer of choice.”
Mr Tekkie is launched with a management team comprising most of the founding members of Tekkie Town. The group includes Bernard Mostert and Dawie van Niekerk, formerly the chief executive and chief operating officers of Pepkor’s speciality division. Also in the group are Gert Claassens (Van Huyssteen’s first ever store manager), Michael Brown (previously the general manager and head of buying at Tekkie Town) and Willem Wait (former chief information officer of Tekkie Town). Robyn Seabrook will be the CFO.
“We deliberated long and hard as to whether and how we want to create and roll out Mr Tekkie,” said Bernard Mostert, chief executive officer at the new Mr Tekkie. “Dawie (Van Niekerk, who will be the new chief operating officer at Mr Tekkie), and I resigned from Pepkor in June due to a vacuum of good leadership that made it impossible for us to achieve the results we expect of ourselves.
'We did not want to be associated with a culture that does not align with our personal values, while our objections to destructive management decisions were met with hostility. This included their treatment of Braam, who exposed significant weakness in their property division, which led to him being ostracised.
“It is - as always - a privilege for us to run onto the field with Braam as our head coach and main investor to bring South Africa a new story with a positive narrative. We are highly confident that we can create a bright future for those who want to invest their careers in retail,” said Mostert.
Van Huyssteen, 53, is upbeat about the future. “Mr Tekkie represents a great opportunity for us. Whilst others may be negative about South Africa and its prospects, we understand the underlying resilience and optimism that drive South Africans from all walks of life.
“It is a privilege for me to make a significant investment in a new and exciting South African story. The more entrepreneurs we create, the better we will serve our country. We will inspire people to expect more of their retailers and to have greater ambition for their families. We invite people to vote with their feet and to follow us one transaction at a time.”
Commenting on the new chain, Pepcor chairman Jayendra Naidoo said, "We will enforce all our legal rights to protect our business and our interests. People who left are subject to certain legal responsibilities, including where applicable a restraint of trade and we will take all steps necessary to ensure that people adhere to their responsibilities.”
Pepkor CEO Leon Lourens commented, "Tekkie Town employs over 3 000 people, many of whom are based in George. We’ve taken pre-emptive steps to achieve clarity in a dispute that has become unnecessarily complicated, so that people’s jobs are safe. We can confirm operations are running normally and we are confident that Tekkie Town will grow both regionally and nationally given our extensive expertise.”