South Africans buying more takeaways to beat load shedding

Consumers have changed some of their behaviours in order to cope with increasing load shedding. Picture: Darya Sannikova/Pexels

Consumers have changed some of their behaviours in order to cope with increasing load shedding. Picture: Darya Sannikova/Pexels

Published Jul 20, 2023


So far in 2023, load shedding has reached an average of Stage 4, and this is negatively affecting consumer confidence, retail spending, business investments, and international perceptions.

On a positive note, PwC’s latest Global Consumer Insights Survey says it appears that the South African economy is growing more resilient towards load shedding, with the recent lower-than-expected impact of power cuts on GDP being driven by the adaptability of large companies and wealthy households.

That, however, tells only part of the story, with the other part being about the millions of small businesses that have a small impact on GDP but a large impact on employment, food security, and community stability.

“These small businesses are seeing production downtime, increased supply chain costs, reduced operating hours, and increased security risks due to the lights going out,” the July report, titled Key trends and insights impacting the South African consumer, states.

The report explores the key trends shaping the behaviour and preferences of South African consumers as well as the transformative effects of load-shedding on retailers.

The study found that, due to the high level of load shedding this year, 40% of respondents have bought more takeaway meals and convenience foods that can be quickly reheated and prepared. This trend suggests a growing preference for ready-to-eat options during periods of power outages. Similarly, 50% have changed the type of products they purchase to those that are less reliant on electricity and last longer.

Other respondent findings include:

  • 52% purchased non-perishable foods and bought smaller pack sizes to ensure groceries do not spoil
  • 51% sought out alternative power sources to ensure that they have electricity during load shedding
  • 31%, predominantly younger generations, purchased more goods online since going into stores is more difficult during load shedding hours

The option of shopping online more underscores the importance for retailers to enhance their online presence and cater to the needs of this expanding consumer segment, PwC states.

Load shedding has, however, presented a multitude of challenges for retailers, necessitating adaptations to cope with shifting customer behaviours while grappling with the financial burden of supplementing failing infrastructure. And the economic impact of load shedding in South Africa extends beyond GDP alone.

“Various channels of negative impact have emerged, including weakened consumer confidence leading to reduced retail spending, diminished business confidence affecting investment decisions, and negative international perceptions restricting foreign investment.”

Anton Hugo, PwC Africa retail industry leader, notes that retailers’ spending to support infrastructure is impacting in some cases their ability to service debt and in many cases their ability to seek out growth opportunities. Additionally the added costs of diesel and load shedding-related losses, such as spoilt goods, are not easily passed on to consumers who are already financially constrained.