Cape Town - Thousands of jobs are in limbo in the retail industry following what the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has described as an underwhelming festive season for traditional retailers who have been hit hard by a struggling economy.
Marketing gimmicks like the “Black Friday” craze and a sharp surge in online shopping trends have also spelled disaster for the bottom lines of retail shops, many of whom have high rentals in town centres and fashionable shopping malls.
“People just do not have the money to spend and that is mainly due to the state of the economy,” Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said yesterday.
“The second reason is that shopping patterns are changing. First we had ‘Black Friday’ which produced an early peak for retailers and, consequently, less money for shoppers to spend during the festive season. More significant is that traditional shops in town centres and malls are facing more competition from online retailers.
“Indications from overseas countries are that online shopping is growing and could win an increasing amount of business (from traditional retailers).”
Myburgh said “it will be interesting to see evidence of how this trend is developing in South Africa” when the festive season wraps up at the end of the month.
General Secretary of the Agricultural, Food, Fishing and Retail Industry Workers Union (Afriwu), Gafieldien Benjamin, said: “We don’t want to see job losses in any industry, but sometimes we can’t stop it.
“Companies will have to follow the rule of the law because there are processes that will need to be followed before anyone loses their job.”
However, Benjamin was cautiously optimistic: “If those workers have the necessary skills, they’ll find themselves another job in no time.”
The festive season wasn’t entirely doom and gloom.
“On the brighter side, tourism seems to be flourishing, so we are hoping that this will brighten the picture,” Myburgh said.
Cape Town Tourism spokeswoman Kimala Ross said: “The figures for visitor numbers over December are not yet available, but by all accounts it would appear to have been a good year.”
She attributed this to “the big six attractions”: Kirstenbosch, the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island Museum, Cape Point, Table Mountain Cableway and Groot Constantia, which altogether boosted the local economy with year-on-year growth throughout 2016.
The Castle of Good Hope in the city centre netted its highest figures during peak season last month.