Business Maverick

SHOPPING FRENZY

No need to panic: South Africa’s stores will be well stocked for Black Friday and festive season

Consumers shop during Black Friday at Canal Walk shopping centre on 23 November 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Esa Alexander)

Retailers have been scrambling since the second quarter of 2020 to pre-order and stockpile goods at warehouses so that stock can be available on shelves during Black Friday and the December holiday period.

SA’s biggest retail chains say they are well stocked for the busy Black Friday shopping frenzy in November and the festive season despite global supply chain problems that have made it difficult for retailers to source goods ranging from toilet paper to coffee from international markets. 

And there’s no need for consumers to panic buy and repeat the scenes of empty shelves especially in the toilet paper section that were seen in grocery stores before the start of the hard lockdown in March 2020, local retailers have cautioned. 

The pandemic has made it increasingly difficult for SA retailers to access international markets and source consumer goods because factories closed under strict lockdown regulations. 

And new threats have come to the fore, affecting supply chains and thwarting global economic growth in the process. The UK is facing a shortage of skilled truck drivers, resulting in finished goods and cargo failing to make it on time for shipment at ports.  

Factories in Western economies are still trying to ramp up production to pre-Covid-19 levels but are failing to do so in the face of rising demand for products by consumers, especially in Asia and the US.  

There have also been efficiency problems at ports, some of which closed at the height of the pandemic, resulting in shopping containers piling up in North America and not arriving back at harbours on time. 

The port script has also played out in SA where the retail market has been hit by inefficiencies at Transnet ports, caused by the July cyberattack and multiple fires at the state-owned entity’s Richards Bay terminal. But the SA retail market has largely managed to escape the impact of global and local supply chain problems.  

Retailers have been scrambling since the second quarter of 2020 to pre-order and stockpile goods at warehouses so that stock can be available on shelves during Black Friday and the December holiday period. 

This means consumers should be able to purchase what they want without having to panic buy. SA’s biggest retailers, including Pick n Pay, Clicks, Woolworths and Massmart (the owner of Game, Makro and Builders Warehouse), largely rely on local suppliers for goods, and imports constitute a small percentage of their sourcing. 

So, the global supply disruptions won’t have a big impact on their operations. In fact, the import of products for retail counters such as Pick n Pay and Clicks constitutes under 11% of their total buying/sourcing. Retailers rely on imports for general merchandise products such as kettles, electronics and kitchen and bathroom products.

Clicks, for example, relies on imports when it comes to some private label products. Although Clicks hasn’t seen a “significant impact” on the import of these products, its outgoing CEO, Vikesh Ramsunder, says its factory partners have “seen some level of supply chain disruption”.

Woolworths, which is more exposed to imports, told Business Maverick that “currently half of our product is sourced from southern Africa”, inferring that the balance of goods are sourced from markers outside of the African continent. 

But the upper-market retailer doesn’t believe that its reliance on imports will be affected by the supply chain disruptions. 

“Overall, this [the supply chain disruptions] has had minimal impact on stock availability in certain areas of the business. However, we are confident that we have sufficient stock for Black Friday and the festive period.” 

Massmart also believes that it will have products ready for its customers for Black Friday and the December holidays two periods that are normally a boon for the retail industry.  

Says Massmart spokesperson Brian Leroni: “Our buyers work up to 12 months in advance to secure the necessary products to meet our trading requirements, including for our Black November and festive season promotions. We are, however, monitoring supplier service levels closely.” 

Pick n Pay buys 95% of products locally, says its CEO, Pieter Boone. He adds that the retailer’s buying team had already sourced imported items well in advance to ensure that there is enough stock on shelves over the next few weeks.  

Pick n Pay and other retailers have launched strategies to increase their local sourcing of goods to rely less on imports. Pick n Pay and Woolworths are increasingly forging deals with local producers for the supply of clothing at their stores. DM/BM

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