How blackouts impact the shopper behaviour of everyday South Africans

Billions. By now we all know how much loadshedding cost the South African economy. But what was the cost to South African shoppers trying to get the most out of their rands? We used our people-led, proprietary research tool, 34° Families, to find out what changes come about when the lights go out.Goodbye budgets

“Ndithenga izinto ebendingazimiselanga ukuzithenga (I buy items I did not budget for),” says Theodora, a married mother of five from Philippi, Cape Town. For her, like others, the new items her family needs to withstand these unstable times make it harder to manage financially.

Theodora, a long-standing 34° Family member.

Tins are in

Non-perishable items find their way into trolleys and baskets. Ingrid, a caring mother of six and mall cleaner, says, “I buy non-perishables because I’m scared of waste.” The usual staples of bread, milk, rice and mielie meel have changed. Instead tinned fish, samp and beans, and meal stretchers have become the new essentials, at a cost.

The rotten truth

For all of our 34° Family members, inyama (meat) is the most expensive item on their grocery list every month. Meat is a staple in the diets of most South Africans. What’s tough to swallow is that it’s the product that generates the most waste as it spoils every time the fridges turn on and off. 

What’s cooking?

Gas stoves have become a fixture in the homes of our Families so that they can feed their own families when there’s no power. The average gas stove costs around R350 a month on a payment scheme or R4000 once off – an entire month’s transport costs for some. 

It’s not just the lights that go out

Beyond what is and isn’t going into baskets due to loadshedding, it affects social spending too. We asked Chantel, the primary caregiver and shopper in the family, how her lifestyle has changed. She told us she doesn’t go out as often as she used to, “All our money goes straight to every extra item we buy.” 

Where to from here?

Even with the new loadshedding winter plan in place, which promises to give us a more stable power supply when we don’t have one, it’s a bleak outlook for South African shoppers. However, the heroic optimism and resilience of our people drive us forward and our Family members are positive. “I believe one day we will wake up to a loadshedding-free South Africa,” says Ingrid, a sentiment corroborated by all our Families. 

It’s clear that loadshedding is far more than an annoyance to a lot of our people and people are important here at 34°. Our research tools aren’t used to sell, but to understand. They are used to secure and nurture relationships with communities of different people, because with a real-world understanding we are able to solve our clients’ business problems in a way that makes them relevant to their customers.

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