Massmart have confirmed that it is in the process of shutting down 34 stores across South Africa, and that includes all surviving DionWired stores. The axing of Dion Wired comes 50 years after the chain first opened its doors and just twelve years after its previous near-death experience. Pour one out for the fallen franchise.
Since 1970, the name Dion has been associated with one of South Africa’s largest and most recognisable retailers. It’s a storied history for a once-successful retail franchise. Following a massive surge in popularity in the 1970s and 80s, the Dion chain of stores owned the largest retail store in Johannesburg. It was the most successful retailer of hard goods in the entirety of South Africa, according to Business Insider. It was the best of times and the worst of times for company founder Dion Friedland as the success of his business attracted the attention of megachain Massmart, who bought ownership of the company. This reads a little like an obituary for the company. Because, well, it is.
Following a long and complicated saga of hedge funds and corporate shenanigans, all you need to know is that in 2011 Massmart was acquired by American corporation Walmart. Dion had already been struggling under Massmart who saw more value in Game, which Massmart bought in 1998. Mergers happened, DionWired was opened as an offshoot of Dion and the retailer was able to stay alive a little longer. But everyone’s luck runs out sometime.
DionWired, launched in 2008, was meant to be the first place people would check for new technology and tech-related furniture that would otherwise be difficult to find in standard retailers. Problem is, this was at the start of the big Internet boom of the 2010s. DionWired only jumped on that bandwagon in 2012. Unable to complete with online retailers who were consistently undercutting them, they simply couldn’t keep up.
Thus we end up at the end of the line for the Dion brand. It’s not set in stone, however, as the final decision on what fate befalls the chain is still to be determined (based on negotiations with staff and unions). Still, it’s not likely that DionWired will survive the exodus of Walmart. For a thorough history of the brand, we recommend a read of this Business Insider South Africa article. It’s really interesting to learn how Dion became an established force in South Africa.