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.
‘’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.
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.
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.