JOHANNESBURG – Last week we wrote about the cost of living. This week we look at prices and whether price is a perception of value or one of quality.
In these days of tight budgets, we understand price sensitivity, but we have to correct a misconception among many South Africans that locally made products are more expensive than imported items. This is a sweeping generalisation and is not true!
Simply rejecting Proudly South African goods based on the belief that they cost more is a lazy response to our call to buy local to save and create jobs. When considering the price of a product, it should be judged on the value you derive from it and if we use this criterion, we can shift perceptions that locally manufactured goods are both expensive and of inferior quality.
Of course, “fong kong” items are cheaper, but it is important to compare apples with apples and not compare cheap, poor-quality goods with well made local items of excellent quality.
We are working hard to effect a fundamental change in attitude towards home grown, manufactured and produced goods. And because resistance to making buy local choices comes from more than just the price point, we believe that we can achieve this. Consumers in the mid- to higher-LSM categories do not hesitate to purchase premium imported brands of alcohol, clothes, accessories and grocery items, but they baulk at paying a similar price for an equally tasty or stylish local equivalent.
Does this mean that we do not believe in ourselves? Our art, artefacts and designer clothes have been bought by international celebrities. A local chandelier from a Karoo-based company made it into the Obamas' White House.
Beyoncé has given a nod to Maxhosa by Laduma designs, which have also been worn by Alicia Keys.
Laduma is someone who is not afraid to put a high price tag on his beautiful woollen range of designer clothes. We know that he could produce them cheaper with imported wool, but he is keeping it local, giving jobs to spinners and dyers by buying local. His clothes stand up to quality and value for money scrutiny against any international fashion house.
A local designer of jeans, Tshepo Mohlala, better known as Tshepo the Jean Maker, created a storm when he put a R950 value to a pair of his jeans.
While a pair of mass produced jeans in any one of our major retailers might cost only around R500, they cannot compare. Rather compare Tshepo with True Religion, Replay or Diesel. These retail in some cases as high as R5 000, so if you're in the market for a pair of jeans in this price range, why not go local instead of imported?
We can make a more every day comparison with detergents and washing powders. Bliss Chemicals, manufacturers of Maq dish and clothes washing products, retail at lower than some of their main competitors, but are of equal if not superior quality to most. It is important for us as a nation to ask ourselves why we don't believe in what we produce.
Is it some kind of inferiority complex, or maybe we assume that everything foreign is exotic and better?
Price is a perception of quality, and if we took the time to understand what goes into the production of local items we would see that the quality justifies the price.
It is also worth noting that a number of international brands manufacture their products here, and yet are never questioned on price.
In his hit song Mandla Spikiri says, Fak’i mali u zo bona, which loosely translated means “cough up, and you will see”, so cough up on local products and you too will see and enjoy the quality.
The importance of buying local is critical in retaining many of the skills that allow us to maintain quality. Should we lose them, the result will be a decline in quality, then we will be justified in our poor opinion of local products.
But for now, we have artisans, designers, crafters and large manufactures who produce goods that, in a direct price and quality comparison with imported equivalents, are worth every cent.
It requires some research and thought before we rush out and buy. But as the Maq example shows, it isn't only our designer jeans and clothes we should think twice about before sending rand and jobs overseas. We make many excellent, competitively priced products.
Local is not inferior. And you can rest assured that anything that bears the Proudly SA logo is of the highest quality and should be judged equally against its imported peers.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.