The state of the South African consumer and economy have been difficult to read for the past few months. The different Easter trading periods in 2010 and 2011 and the base-effect of the 2010 FIFA World Cup have made interpretation of internal and external data difficult.

Notwithstanding this, it appears that the current economic environment is a mixed bag. On the positive side, there is low inflation, low interest rates and high real wage increases, but on the negative side, we see high inflation in Government-provided services, a disconcerting political environment and high levels of strikes and unemployment.

We believe we will only be able to form a firm view following the first three months’ trading of this new 2012 financial year. Early indications are however, that the consumer environment is perhaps slightly better than we may have thought.

We have settled almost all our collective wage agreements for the 2012 financial year.