It was a busy day in South Africa on Monday. Alcohol consumers went as far as calling it “the new year”.
Shop assistants once again wore their uniforms with pride after having been forced to keep them on a hanger for the past two months. And customers were delighted.
“I am so happy that I will finally have a bottle of wine with my supper this evening,” said Lilly Madima, a consumer outside Pick n Pay (PnP) Liquor in Midrand, Gauteng.
Madima’s comments echo the sentiments of many South Africans who were prohibited from purchasing alcoholic beverages, as the country battled to contain the spread of Covid-19 and prepare its health system ahead of the anticipated spike in cases.
As the country eases into alert Level 3 it means consumers may now stock up on alcohol between 09:00 and 16:00 from Mondays to Thursdays.
Madima, who said she’s “relieved” about the move, purchased Savanah from PnP and wine from Woolworths, saying she had been more than eager to do so.
Her eagerness was however nothing compared with that of Jason Smith, who described himself as being financially exhausted from buying alcohol on the black market.
In a state of excitement, he said: “I haven’t had red wine since the ban on alcohol [sales]. All the alcohol I purchased on the black market was so expensive and there was nothing I could do about it … I would buy drinks for as much as R700.”
Representing many South Africans who just “honestly” missed passing by the liquor store and purchasing alcohol without “breaking the law”’ is Senzo Kupeka.
“I was just at the shopping centre for some grocery shopping and I thought I should buy a carry pack as [the store] is not as packed as anticipated,” he said.
Many consumers waited outside liquor stores ahead of opening time, and this was anticipated by retailers.
PnP spokesperson Janine Caradonna said many customers visited its liquor stores on Monday and “shopped responsibly”.
“To ensure we can serve as many customers as possible each day, we introduced limits across all liquor categories, and this worked very well. Customers can be reassured that we are working closely with our suppliers and that all shelves and our online store will be restocked daily to ensure customers’ favourite brands are available for them to buy.”
Since the stores were packed today, it seems some consumers may have forgotten that there is the online shopping option.
“Customers also turned to our online shop and many placed a pre-order over the weekend for later delivery,” said Caradonna. “We started dispatching these pre-orders this morning [Monday] and customers will continue to get their orders according to the day and slot they selected, and in accordance with the Level 3 regulations.”
Caradonna said Pick n Pay’s same-day delivery service is in partnership with Bottles – an on-demand alcohol delivery app. “All orders placed on the Bottles app during the first week will be delivered the next day.”
Themba Skenjane said buying alcohol online to quench his thirst turned out to be more of an inconvenience than anything else.
“I tried purchasing alcohol online and my preferred brands such as Belgravia Gin were out of stock and my other preferences meant that I would have to wait two to three days for them to be delivered,” Skenjane said.
For others who may feel online shopping is too slow, Pick n Pay pointed out that “all liquor stores are following strict safety and prevention measures”.
“We limited the number of customers in stores, and queues were closely managed [on Monday]. Customers were asked to queue and shop with a trolley to maintain [social distancing] physically.”
Caradonna said customers were very understanding of the measures in place and patiently waited for their turn.
“Hand sanitiser was available for staff and customers, and masks were always worn. All our liquor stores have had perspex screens installed and stores will be cleaned even more rigorously, including sanitising all till points after each transaction.”
Massmart, which sells liquor through its Makro and Game chains, said it had worked closely with the major alcohol suppliers for the past month, in anticipation of the sales ban being lifted.
Enough to meet the demand, says Massmart
“We are confident that we will have sufficient stock to meet demand in a fair and responsible manner,” said Refilwe Boikanyo, communications manager at Massmart Group. “Our trading brands have also implemented customer purchasing limits. These limits are generally store-specific and are dependent upon the stock holding in the store.”
She said Massmart has been practising safety measures as demonstrated in this video.
‘’We have coupled these measures with actions that ensure orderly, safe and efficient customer transaction processing. This includes acquiring additional staff and security to improve customers’ check-in and check-out procedures and increasing resources to improve transaction processing.”
Tops at Spar had not responded to Moneyweb’s request for comment by the time of publishing.