How some retailers were able to manage stock availability better for post-protest recovery

Hendrik Bredenkamp, GM of NEC XON Retail

Caption: Hendrik Bredenkamp, GM of NEC XON Retail

Managing stock availability has always been important but it became more so as ecommerce gained traction due to how we now live and the effect it had on our shopping experience.

But the challenges in managing stock have never been so acute as they are now for retailers affected by the looting that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng mid-July 2021.

Manufacturing facilities, warehouses, distribution centres (DC), retail outlets, and the vehicles used to shift goods between them were all affected. Simply knowing if stock was available, where it was, and when it would likely reach shelves to make it accessible to customers, was a major challenge. For some it still is because they don’t have the means to rapidly and accurately get back on track.

Dozens of household brand name retailers had hundreds of stores looted, burned, or wrecked. Amidst the clean-up and isolated continuing action, they somehow had to activate the supplies and resources from numerous DCs to where people could access it.

With many stores closed, some customers who were in dire need, had to know where they could buy everything from basic food stuffs to medical supplies. Retailers with integrated digital systems linking the supply chain to the store front and ecommerce platforms were able to provide the quality of experience that saved lives, businesses, and thousands of jobs.

As retail teams moved back in to return order, they could quickly and accurately assess stock using the features of integrated digital retail systems, including electronic shelf labels. With their store infrastructure more quickly back in place, thanks to wireless and infrared technology, their packers could use flashing labels to correctly place incoming stock. Price, stock level, and other updates were done thousands of times per minute as required.

The widespread violence left many people feeling unsafe and unwilling to venture out. That drove up demand for ecommerce click-and-collect as well as home deliveries. Pick to light and near real-time stock availability updates, as well as information on pending deliveries from DCs, helped retailers keep their customers informed and supplied.

The technical challenges behind the quality of customer experiences that people have come to expect are complex. While the ability to provide consolidated systems via comprehensive cloud and managed services generally transforms retail and customer experiences, it proved to be a critical difference immediately after the protests.

When business interruption was unavoidable, more than 5 million electronic shelf labels at over 530 stores helped some retailers get back to serving their communities faster and more accurately. And it helped restore order amidst the chaos so that ordinary people could get on with their lives.


NEC XON is the combination of XON, a Systems Integrator providing custom ICT and security services and solutions in Southern Africa since 1996 and NEC Africa, the African business of the global technology giant NEC Corporation. NEC Corporation implemented its first communication solution is Africa in 1963 and established NEC Africa in 2011 to grow its business ICT and public safety.

Kapela Holdings, XON’s B-BBEE partner since 2012, continues as NEC XON’s B-BBEE partner in South Africa with Israel Skosana as chairman of the board of directors of NEC XON.

NEC generates global revenues in excess of $30 billion by orchestrating a brighter world for public entities, enterprises, telecoms carriers, and providing system platforms for businesses.

The combined NEC Africa and XON (NEC XON) operations seek to more fully explore the opportunities for safe city, energy, cyber security, telecommunication solutions, retail, energy, managed services, cyber defence services and cloud (both public and private) among others in sub-Sahara Africa.

NEC XON maintains its head offices in Gauteng, South Africa with a footprint that covers all nine provinces in South Africa and 16 Countries in sub-Sahara Africa.

Media enquiries: Mark Harris, NEC XON
Contact details: (011) 237-4500,

Issued by: Michelle Oelschig, Scarlet Letter
Contact details: 083-636-1766,