Traditionally January and February are known as being quiet months in the retail industry, as customers are typically recovering from their festive season expenses. This year South Africans aren’t merely suffering the consequences of zealous Christmas gift shopping, but also of a hefty tax increase implemented in April 2018 and the after effects of the 2017/2018 drought. To top this off, 2019 is host to the sixth South African general elections. Will this give retailers even more reason for concern?
Leading retail and consumer research expert, Associate Professor Gary Mortimer, is of the opinion that “while anecdotally it has been suggested that uncertainty around elections causes shoppers to close their wallets and purses, there appears very little evidence to support the claim that an election campaign will negatively impact consumer spending”.
Customers, however, do tend to take on a ‘wait-and-see’ approach in uncertain political climates and retailers will notice customers continuing to buy the basics such as food, fuel and basic clothing, but that the purchasing of luxury or rather ‘big ticket’ items such as furniture, electronics and vehicles are likely to be postponed till after the elections. According to retail, sales and marketing pundit, Richard Wynn, the flipside to these cautious consumers are those who expect to be the recipient of ‘election sweeteners’ such as infrastructure projects and job opportunities. They tend to increase their spending during these times. Wynn states that “once consumers anticipate a specific positive outcome will occur, they believe their subsequent thoughts and behaviours will actually help to bring about that outcome”.
Anxious and hopeful consumers will therefore ensure a welcome balance during unsure times. It is, however, the retailer’s responsibility to ensure that all feet coming through their door, whether basic or luxury-orientated, have an unforgettable in-store experience that their loyalty won’t waive during stressful times.
Andreana Holmes, founding member and CEO at The Blue Room, mirrors this sentiment, “Over the past 18 years, I have seen many retailers succeed, and many fail. The common denominator amongst those who succeed, remains their drive to create loyalty amongst their customers and generate a shopping experience that brings return visits and reaches additional, new customers via word-of-mouth.”
With a foundation in retail marketing and communications, The Blue Room, offers a wealth of expertise and professionalism, and can assist your retailer or shopping centre in attaining your objectives, be it increased spend, dwell time, or foot traffic, to mention only a few.
Written by Annuschka du Preez, Account Executive: The Blue Room