TJM Products Australia and TJM Africa have discontinued their agreement with LA Sport in South Africa and Namibia. This follows a long standing relationship between the LA Sport Group and TJM Products Australia.
Lionel Lewis, MD and founder of LA Sport, said that during the end of 2013, TJM Australia decided to no longer run a bonded warehouse with TJM SA and appointed TJM Africa as master distributor for their TJM Products in Africa.
“This means there is now a middleman between TJM Australia and TJM SA in terms of TJM Africa. TJM Africa will be run by the Travelstar Group with the directors being Mr Geert Jurgens, his son Gary Jurgens and the former owner of one of the LA Sport branches, LA Sport Menlyn/Silver Lakes, Gary Swemmer,” he said.
It appears TJM South Africa then made a strategic decision to sell TJM SA and the branches in bordering countries to TJM Africa in the light of the rand’s weak exchange rate. TJM SA, TJM Australia and TJM Africa then signed a Memorandum of Understanding that TJM Africa would buy out TJM SA, said Mr Lewis.
According to Mr Lewis, TJM Africa said they would still supply the LA Sport retail outlets. With that understanding between the two parties, LA Sport head office invited Mr Jurgens to the LA Sport AGM so that they can tell the branches of the new plans.
“During the LA Sport Group AGM held in November 2013 in Pretoria, Mr Jurgens explained all the benefits of being a Master Distributor, i.e. stock holding, increase in product lines, better terms and advertising etc, and that the LA Sport Group would remain their retail outlet. But in the case that a branch did not perform they could open up a new TJM Shop in that area,” he said.
“Mr Geert Jurgens also mentioned that they wanted to have 40 shops by the end of 2014. Any LA Sport branch owner could also decide if they wanted to become a TJM shop or remain a LA Sport shop. TJM Shops would get a better price than a LA Sport shop,” Mr Lewis said.
“Jaco Stassen, owner of LA Sport Namibia, personally asked Mr Jurgens to put their business plan/proposal/criteria in writing. A business decision can only be made if you have the facts on paper and not on verbal promises.”
“On 21 November 2013 Jaco Stassen forwarded a mail to Mr Stephen O’Brien, president of TJM Products Australia, who he met in Australia during the 40th Anniversary of TJM Products, putting forward the importance to get the facts on paper. Mr O’Brien returned his mail with a telephone call and again made promises. Mr Stassen requested him to put it on paper. Again, no facts on paper.”
“We believe a secret meeting was called with certain LA Sport branches by TJM Africa, where it was made clear that TJM Africa will not supply any LA Sport branches, they needed to become TJM Shops. LA Sport head office, LA Sport Namibia and some other branches were not invited to this meeting. The meeting was organised three days ahead of a planned meeting that LA Sport head office arranged with all their LA Sport branches regarding the way forward.”
“In the meantime, TJM Australia cancelled TJM SA’s contract. TJM Africa did not pay TJM SA as agreed per MOU so TJM SA did not pay TJM as per MOU. Needless to say that TJM SA will probably go to court against TJM Australia,” said Mr Lewis.
LA Sport were of the opinion that with its loyalty to TJM SA over the last 12 years and the success it had with the TJM brand in the LA Sport Group, the company could come to some sort of arrangement regarding the retail of the TJM Brand, within the LA Sport Group.
“It seems that we were wrong. Loyalty over 12 years means nothing to TJM Australia. The current position that we are in is definitely not by our own doing, but due to decisions made by TJM Australia without any consideration for the South African/Namibian market,” said Mr Lewis.
Jaco Stassen and the other LA Sport store owners were contacted by Mr Gary Jurgens, Mr O’Brien and Mr Gary Swemmer to try to persuade them to become TJM shops. Mr Stassen requested again that he needed the facts on paper, their answer, “We cannot put anything on paper until you cancelled your LA Sport agreement”.
After the meeting, Mr Stassen contacted Mr Gary Jurgens and requested a meeting with either himself and his dad or Mr Swemmer at his shop in Windhoek to discuss the matter and how they could go forward.
His reply: “We cannot engage with you until you cancelled your contract with LA Sport”. On 16 December 2013 Mr Stassen then forwarded another e-mail to Mr Stephen O’Brian in Australia, see below:
“Good day Stephen
I contacted Gary Jurgens last week and invited him and either his dad or Gary Swemmer, to visit my shop in Windhoek to sit around a table and discuss the way forward.
I was of the opinion that with LA Sport Namibia’s track record, the success we had with the TJM brand and the loyalty towards the TJM brand within Namibia, we can come to some sort of arrangement regarding the retail of the TJM Brand, within Namibia. It seems that I was wrong. I followed up with Gary Jurgens regarding the visit and I was informed that “I cannot engage with you until you cancelled your LA Sport agreement”.
I am going to be very straight, no business and definitely not mine can and will be forced into a certain direction without choice and facts on paper. I have on many occasions asked for detail to be put on paper, no result as yet. The words and promises keeps on chancing.
Obviously personal vendettas and issues take priority over retaining the image of a product / brand and the growth thereof. It does seem that TJM Australia and TJM Africa for that matter has no interest in servicing/ maintaining and growing the existing TJM market in Namibia that LA Sport Namibia have built up over the last seven years.
The current position that we in is definitely not by our own doing but due to decisions that was made by TJM Australia without any consideration for the South African/Namibian market. We are just trying to save the integrity of the TJM product/brand.
LA Sport Namibia would like to remain a TJM retailer, but it is your choice. LA Sport Namibia will continue doing business, with or without TJM.
I would appreciate TJM Australia’s prompt response to my mail.
Needless to say, he did not receive any response, said Mr Lewis.
“To the 4x4 community in Southern Africa, our loyal clients, business partners and friends, the LA Sport Group has tried to resolve this matter with TJM Australia and TJM Africa, but they are definitely not interested in this market. The LA Sport Group will continue to serve you”.
“We have exciting products coming, designed for Africa in Africa with fantastic warranties and back-up and prices. The best part is that we will not be seriously affected by the ‘poor’ exchange rate. Be assured that we will continue to provide you with the best possible products, best possible prices and after sales service. You will still be dealing with the LA Sport Group, the same people with the same passion for 4x4ing,” said Mr Lewis.
Contact: Lionel Lewis or Annalie Lewis
Tel: (012) 808-9951/2