The more popular South African shopping malls are full to bursting point at this time of the year (end November), especially on weekends. If previous experience is anything to go by, about quarter of South Africans leave their Christmas shopping for the last minute and set off in the search of the perfect gift only in the second half of December.
That means that things will probably get worse for those who can’t stand the crowds. At least one online shopping place, biborbuy.co.za, played on the fear of the mall mayhem in their TV ad, dubbed It’s a Jungle Out There. The ad, which has recorded a respectable 17,000 views on YouTube in three weeks, follows a young couple as they navigate their way through a busy shopping centre, teeming with animals that personify some of shopping archetypes. The message of the ad is the expected one: ...”rather shop online”.
South Africans, like consumers everywhere, are joining the trend of shopping online, if not always to buy, than to check and compare prices. A Deloitte Year-end Holiday Survey, conducted in September 2011, revealed that South African consumers were very wary ahead of the festive season. Most of them declared that they were determined to spend less and get the best value they can: 69% said they intended to buy less expensive presents this year, and 78% said also that they will buy goods on sale.
The thrifty frame of mind was prominent not only among the traditionally budget-wise shoppers from lower and middle-class income groups. The research notes that the mood extends strongly across higher income earners, with 62% of them indicating that they would fill up their baskets with no-brand-name or discounted goods.
In the quest to spend less while still fulfilling their gifting season obligations, South Africans are embracing a holistic approach. The Deloitte survey shows the distinction between offline and online is blurred, with the price becoming that most important deciding factor. The consumers often research the internet before making a shopping decision, using their computers at home or office, as well as, increasingly, their cell phones.
Even though 62% of local shoppers surveyed by Deloitte believe that the South African economy is in recession, they are much more optimistic than the Europeans regarding what 2012 has in store for them: 69% South Africans expect their spending power to stay the same or to increase next year.
The mid-November figures from a survey released by the Bureau of Economic Research (BER) / Ernst & Young seem to point that this optimism is materialising in somewhat stronger purchasing than expected. The survey points that the majority of participating retailers reported higher fourth quarter sales volumes compared with the final quarter of 2010, among them the fashion groups Truworths and Foschini.
The upbeat attitude is supported by the figures from Statistics South Africa. They show that retail trade sales in September 2011 rose by 8.3% in comparison with the same period last year, which is well above market expectation. That seem to be a sound basis for the hopes that the final round of 2011 Christmas shopping season will bring some merry tinkling of cash register bells for retailers, both offline and online.
Image and graph source: Popai