Q&A: Consumer resilience – discovering joy amidst adversity

How are consumers dealing with rocketing grocery prices - what items are they cutting out, what are they keeping on the shopping list? Bateleur Brand Planning finds out.

Amid economic challenges, rising costs, and a whirlwind of uncertainties, South African consumers are proving their resilience by finding pockets of joy and positivity in the most unexpected places, found Bateleur Brand Planning in its most recent market research survey, the Vantage Point Insight series.

In the spirit of industry media collaboration, Bateleur tasked Retailing Africa with coming up with a couple of questions to include in this annual survey update, which comprises a diverse sample of 1,592 respondents across South Africa. We submitted:

1. How are consumers dealing with rocketing grocery prices – what items are they cutting out, what are they keeping on the shopping list?

2. How are consumers managing to find joy despite the cost-of-living crisis, ongoing loadshedding, and the barrage of negative news in South Africa?


Research revealed the stark effects of inflation on household consumption, says Gordon Hooper, Bateleur founder and MD. With an elevated inflation rate of 7.8% in 2022, many households have felt the pinch, leading to what the survey aptly terms “more month than money”. Although inflation rates have slightly moderated to 5.4% in June 2023, the cumulative impact shapes consumer behaviours.

How are consumers dealing with rocketing grocery prices – what items are they cutting out, what are they keeping on the shopping list?

A range of product categories has experienced a halt in purchases or a decline in frequency. Electronics and technical goods, once sought-after luxuries, have seen a significant drop in demand. A staggering 30% of consumers have stopped purchasing these items, while 19% buy them less frequently. Making do with previous-generation tech goods has become the order of the day for many.

Similarly, home and outdoor products have witnessed a downturn, with 28% of consumers halting their purchases and 21% reducing the frequency of buying. This shift reflects a transition from the pandemic-driven investment in home and outdoor spaces to a more frugal approach to expenditure. Even the world of toys has declined, as 27% of consumers have entirely ceased buying them, and 14% purchase them less often. The enthusiasm for gifting children with new toys has taken a back seat as parents and grandparents reassess their priorities against a backdrop of economic constraints.

Ready-made meals, once a symbol of convenience, have also fallen out of favour. A notable 27% have completely ceased purchasing them, and 22% are buying them less frequently. This shift highlights a return to basics as households opt for more value-for-money meal options. Once a popular indulgence, energy drinks are no longer immune to budget considerations. With 23% completely discontinuing their consumption and 21% buying them less often, the allure of caffeine and ’a sugar rush’ are diminishing in the face of financial constraints.

Processed meats, known for convenience, also feel the brunt of inflation. An 18% complete cessation and 20% reduction in purchases demonstrate a preference for more cost-effective alternatives as households navigate tighter budgets. The survey further revealed a shift in consumer habits in the realm of indulgence. Even the enjoyment of wine and liquor is affected, with 18% completely stopping and 23% reducing their purchases. This trend is more prevalent among younger consumers, signalling a broader shift in spending priorities.

How are consumers managing to find joy despite the cost-of-living crisis, ongoing loadshedding, and the barrage of negative news in South Africa?

Amidst the struggle, South African consumers are demonstrating remarkable creativity in finding joy and maintaining positivity. The survey revealed various strategies individuals employ to counterbalance the relentless barrage of negative news and financial constraints. The majority of respondents, a full 54%, embrace the power of simple pleasures. In a world that often glorifies extravagance, South Africans find happiness in everyday moments – whether it’s a warm cup of tea, a sunset stroll, or laughter with loved ones. It’s a refreshing reminder that joy can be found in life’s smallest details.

Personal relationships are proving to be an anchor for many. An impressive 53% of respondents focus on maintaining and growing healthy relationships, with grandparents taking centre stage in this movement. It’s a heartening testament to the resilience of family bonds, reminding us that the strength of connection can weather any storm.

Expressing gratitude and showing empathy is another beacon of positivity, embraced by 42% of respondents. In a world that can often feel overwhelming, taking a moment to appreciate the good things and extend kindness to others brings a ray of light.

A significant 40% of participants actively seek positive news – a conscious effort to counterbalance the overwhelming negativity that often pervades the media landscape. This inclination toward positive news reflects a commitment to nurturing one’s mental well-being in the face of adversity. Nature also provides a sanctuary for 40% of respondents, with a special resonance among older citizens in regions like KZN and the Western Cape. The healing power of the great outdoors offers a soothing balm to weary souls, reminding us of the beauty surrounding us.

Moving forward, what does the future hold for SA consumers?

As digital landscapes continue to evolve, 36% of respondents are utilising social media to fuel personal growth. This trend is particularly prominent among younger individuals, showcasing the potential for online platforms to be catalysts for positivity and self-improvement. Practising mindfulness and self-care takes centre stage for 34% of respondents, predominantly among younger females. This emphasis on self-nurturing reflects a shift toward prioritising mental and emotional well-being — a critical strategy for navigating turbulent times. Resilience is the backbone of South African consumers, as 30% of respondents embrace challenges head-on with determination to adapt to new circumstances. This attitude, often embraced by older participants, demonstrates the power of flexibility and the ability to find strength in change.

The survey also unveiled a spirit of exploration and self-expression in the face of adversity. From discovering new hobbies and celebrating achievements to engaging in volunteer work, South Africans are unearthing new avenues for joy, reminding us that there’s always room for growth — even in difficult times.

What are your tips for navigating turbulent times?

As South Africans continue to navigate the stormy seas of economic and social challenges, Bateleur Brand Planning offers practical tips for consumers for weathering the storm – all of which represent opportunities for brands and retailers in various product categories, customer experiences in store and through content marketing to their communities of loyal customers:

  • Embrace simple pleasures: Find joy in the small moments and everyday experiences that enrich your life.
  • Nurture relationships: Strengthen connections with loved ones, especially across generations, to build a support network.
  • Practice gratitude and empathy: Express appreciation and kindness, both to others and yourself, to foster a positive mindset.
  • Seek positivity: Actively seek positive news and stories to counterbalance the negativity around us all.
  • Invest in self-care: Prioritise mental and emotional well-being through mindfulness, self-care, and personal growth activities.

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