South African furniture retailer Lewis Group plans to use the business it bought from failed Ellerine Holdings to increase its appeal to customers from higher income groups, it said on Wednesday.

Lewis, which reported headline earnings per share (EPS) down 4 per cent to 882.7 cents in the year through March, bought the Beares chain of 61 stores from Ellerine, the furniture unit of failed lender African Bank, in November, and plans to open 10 new Beares stores this year.

[DATA LEW:Lewis] chief Johan Enslin said the retailer will use Beares to attract new customers in higher income groups, a market where it has limited exposure.

Rising electricity costs and high unemployment are squeezing lower and middle income consumers to such an extent in Africa’s most advanced economy that the company declined four out of every 10 applications for credit in 2014.

Headline EPS is the main profit gauge in South Africa that strips out certain one-off items.