Retail stores emptier than expected after bans lifted

Could consumers be cash-strapped due to job losses?
The lockdown has taken its toll: liquor and tobacco products no longer seem to be a priority. Image: Michel Bega, Citizen

Liquor stores are once again open, but on Tuesday the expected droves of alcohol lovers never materialised.

The excitement around the lifting of the liquor ban the first time around was barely in evidence – in most areas it was as though nothing had changed since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of easing to lockdown Level 2 on Saturday evening.

Retail analyst Chris Gilmour attributes this to consumers being cash-strapped due to job losses over the lockdown months when most businesses ceased to operate.

“They feel there is no rush to stock up,” Gilmour says.

Sine Tshefu, who went to purchase just one bottle of wine, confirms this, telling Moneyweb that it’s because the ban was lifted mid-month. “I would have liked to buy more liquor but the lifting of the ban came a week before payday.”

What consumers were most concerned about was stocking up on tobacco products since legal issue, at standard prices, was last available five months ago.

Read: Smokers empty shops of cigarettes after ban lifted

‘’I wasn’t that much in need of alcoholic beverages since the last ban was put in place because I stocked up. But what I needed the most were cigarettes,” said Thembela Skot of Midrand.

Poor stocks

However, while smokers eagerly awaited the opportunity to purchase their favourite ciggies, in many places most brands weren’t available. Many retailers were waiting for delivery – despite having placed their orders before the ban was lifted.

Retail giant Massmart, which owns Game and Makro, says it worked extensively with suppliers over the past weeks to agree on actions that would enable it to resume responsible trade in liquor and tobacco as quickly as possible.

“The result is that we have secured sufficient supply to meet pent-up demand, in an exceptionally safe and well-controlled manner,” says Refilwe Boikanyo, communication manager at Massmart. “In terms of re-supply, we started transporting product today and have implemented a schedule of more frequent store deliveries to ensure that we keep pace with ongoing demand.”

Boikanyo says British American Tobacco South Africa has announced a price adjustment effective from August 24.

“We have, at [the] time of responding to this email, received no other notification of price increases.”

As Massmart is in a closed period it cannot comment on the specific impact of the prohibition of liquor and tobacco sales on its bottom line.

Read:
Wine industry: Ban lifted a little too late
SA has the world’s biggest illegal tobacco trade: Batsa

Pick n Pay communications representative Janine Caradonna says the supermarket chain is working hard to ensure that it has a steady supply of stock.

“As expected, there was strong demand for both tobacco and liquor when we opened our stores this morning [Tuesday]. We have worked closely with our suppliers to ensure there is plenty of stock in our stores, and we will replenish stock daily.”

Norman Goodfellows chief operating officer Jason McEvoy said customer turnout was low.

“We were busy all day, but nothing like last time when there was a queue to enter the store. The lockdown was devastating to our business, its employees and their families. Therefore we plan to keep offering customers great service and very competitive pricing. We will have to manage costs very carefully.”

It remains to be seen whether consumers will shell out more for liquor and tobacco come month-end.

Tongue-in-cheek, Gilmour says it would help consumers to have three months’ supply of liquor and tobacco just in case the bans are suddenly reintroduced once again.

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I have stopped smoking.

Welcome to the club! I have stopped 40 years ago. Unfortunately I did not keep track of prices, but at 20 a day, I must have saved quite a neat sum.

Well done guys! Many years back I did a brochure for the National Cancer Association on smoking. Was appalled at the facts. The burning tip of a cigarette is a chemical factory, spewing out thousands of different chemicals, including arsenic, cyanide and carbon monoxide. Nicotine itself is so poisonous that swallowing a pill-sized piece would kill you in minutes. So why doesn’t smoking kill you then? It does, just takes longer. My mother, a heavy smoker, died an awful gasping death from emphysema. It’s a truly horrible habit. If cigarettes were launched on the market today, they would be banned.

Well done and sincere congratulations. I know it takes determination and bperseverance.

Lockdown forced most people to developed alternative supply networks that can deliver a better product at a better price after lockdown has been lifted. No government on earth can successfully deprive innovative individuals of the stuff they need. Government intervention only creates alternative supply networks that have evolved to sidestep the tax system. Government is its own biggest enemy.

Semi-seriously, it could also be reaction to the fact that retailers in general appear to be jacking up prices in order to recoup losses. That’s like punishing the consumer who didn’t cause the problem in the first place.

I deliberately avoided the queues yesterday but thanks for the tip about getting in before the main paydays. Cannot understand what happened to the civil servants yesterday though. Most of them were paid last Friday, because their normal payday, the 15th, fell on Saturday.

well whilst a lot of employees of the private sector had to accept a cutback salary for the employer to survive retail stores simply can not expect that their sales will jump back to normal overnight

just a simple example of price increases – normal white rice with an average price of */- R22 per 2 kg 6 months ago, shot up to as high as R33 per 2 kg – same product, same brand – almost every item in the retail has increased

Agreed on prices yet the official inflation rate is supposed to be below 6%? It definitely does not reflect the increase in grocery prices.

Price increases are due to February’s national budget and increase in sin-tax. Both on ciggarettes and booze – don’t blame the retailers.
If there was no lockdown and ban, sin tax would have kicked in on 1 April already.

Here, most shops barely had smokes. Only Checkers pulled through.
And bottle stores were dead,all 4 in my area.

Retailers ran out of some cigg brands v quickly

I still have a months beer supply but will get back to the 3 month stock level in the next couple of days.

Cant trust this government. Luckily many saw this coming.

Not everyone fell for the lies even coming from the top. You have to be very naive to believe anything an ANC cadre says.

Lots of money now tied up in “stock” that should have supported other sections of the economy just because of an untrustworthy government.

True, I used to buy like the Europeans do (being married to a Hollander), a bottle or two with food, as needed. Got on the internet yesterday and am stocking up to the rafters, as inter alia a form of protest against the morons masquerading as a government. I mistakenly thought I lived in a civilized country, have been proven very wrong, sadly.

“civilised” South Africa will all its splendour is indeed destroyed from within

Civilization has become a mental space for intellectual South Africans.

The answer is obvious. People are buying their ciggies and booze elsewhere. In other words, illegally in the “cash” economy. No VAT, No Tax. No duties. Just cash. Cutting out the most corrupt middle man.

It’s about affordability in a time when the unemployment levels have shot past 40%.

I was a smoker who not only ended up paying R20 for one cigarette, but worst of all had to smoke the inferior black market brands as normal brands were nowhere to be found.
So hopefully the Health Minister and Me Dlamini Zuma reads this;
Did you consider the damage to lungs caused by the cigg ban when no proper brands were available?
In the 4 months of being forced to smoke the black market rubbish, my breathing has seriously packed up completely. I’m now ready to be hospitalised for lung treatment even without having contracted the virus at any stage.

The ‘illegal market’ has adjusted it’s prices. My regular garden helper negotiated a packet of cigarettes with his daily pay, which I buy from the local ‘china’ shop. Before lockdown it was R12/20. It is now R14/20.
I think legal cigarettes at spar are about R28/20. During lockdown it was R40/20 at ‘china’ shop.

Why can’t the bottle stores be open on Fridays and weekends? Again, this government is treating us like children. #voetsekANC

In addition people that run out will go the the shebeens that is more expensive than home and a much much higher chance of catching the virus.

Does not make any sense.

End of comments.

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