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EF: Looking back, 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines. What do you think 2022 is going to be the year of?
BE: This year will be a year of normalization in terms of economic activity. Global supply chains will however continue to be under pressure, which has reiterated the need for businesses to source locally. Local suppliers are vital to the South African economy, which urgently needs sustainable and inclusive growth.
EF: What was the mission you set yourself when you were appointed CEO and how has this mission evolved?
BE: Entrenching our position as the customers’ first choice in the health, beauty and wellness sector is a priority. Not only is Clicks an iconic brand, but it is the preferred choice for millions of consumers when it comes to health and beauty retailing. Maintaining this position requires that we strengthen our engagement with all stakeholders – including customers – and highlight our achievements, particularly around our localisation strategy, empowerment and sustainability commitments.
EF: What's your perspective on the contribution of the healthcare retail market to the economy?
BE: The retail sector is one of the largest employers in the country and plays an incredibly important role in job creation given its capacity to absorb school leavers and provide them with an opportunity to achieve accredited portable qualifications. Both the direct and indirect job opportunities created by the sector are significant as they contribute to economic prosperity, encourage foreign direct investment and contribute to the fiscal coffers via value-added tax and corporate tax payments. In addition to employing school leavers, Clicks is the second largest employer of pharmacists in the country.
EF: What advice would you give to investors looking to put a stake in the South African healthcare system?
BE: Investors should be looking out for well-run, socially responsible companies with proven track records of sustained performance, strong market shares, a clear path to growth and who advocate for a sustainable future. I firmly believe that companies that integrate strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices into their strategic planning processes will experience sustained superior returns over time.
Sustainable businesses are those that prioritise people over profit and that measure their success by more than shareholder returns. At Clicks Group, for example, we have collaborated with Discovery to provide around 11 000 permanent employees who were not covered by healthcare coverage with a fully funded medical insurance product.
EF: What advice do you have for young women striving to become business leaders?
BE: First, be authentic. Know yourself, your strengths and the areas you need to develop. Accept any support that is offered. Encourage and be supportive of other women in leadership positions. Make time to replenish and reinvigorate yourself, reflect and care for yourself, and invest in relationships. Lastly, practice gratitude and generosity by giving back to others.
EF: Clicks opened its 800th store this year, do you have plans to continue expanding?
BE: As a group, Clicks is committed to investing in and growing the South African economy. We launched the 800th Clicks store in March and since then have launched another 25 stores. We have committed to opening at least 45 stores this year – which is close to a store a week – with an overall target of 900 stores situated throughout South Africa by 2026.
EF: How do you see the role of physical stores evolving over time in a post-COVID environment?
BE: Shoppers are looking for something different when they visit a physical retail store. When they visit a Clicks store, for example, it may be to get advice from a beauty advisor, to use augmented reality in the beauty aisle to test a product before purchasing it or to consult with a pharmacist regarding a particular vitamin, supplement or medication. In addition, we have facilitated access to virtual doctor consultations in some of our stores. As digital diagnostics become increasingly sought-after, we are cognizant that consumers looking for these solutions will need access to staff who have knowledge of this area.
EF: Are virtual consultations delivered within the store or at home?
BE: At the start of the pandemic, medical schemes approved for their members to dial in from home and to connect virtually with a doctor. However, patients can now access this service from one of our in-store clinics.
EF: As a leader, what would you like to be known for?
BE: I regard myself as an inclusive leader who listens and engages with people. I trust in people’s competence which helps to foster a collaborative and accountable culture. I appreciate the dialogue that introduces new perspectives and innovation. And I’ve never been afraid of being challenged, in fact, I encourage and value it.
I’d like to be known as somebody that embraces their humanity, is kind and generous with their time and has empathy. I try to be as authentic as possible – I’m the same person in my private life as I am at work.