#CoronavirusSA: Clarity this week for retailers – 27 April 2020

Our weekly tracking to curate and update our readers on the latest developments in South Africa and Africa around COVID-19 and its impact on the brand and retail value chain.

It’s #LockdownSA Level 4 from May 1, 2020, and cigarettes are back on the shopping list for some consumers. No alcohol though until we hit Level 3, which all depends on the rate of infection.

It was a quiet long weekend until Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu provided light relief with his faux pas on national television about hospitals needing more vibrators. He meant to say ventilators of course and later apologised in a tweet. Retailing Africa launched its COVID-19 news tracker for the retailing eco-system in South Africa and Africa mid-March; and will be continuing to update our readers with relevant news for our brands and retailers each week of this pandemic.


SATURDAY, 25 April

Condolences to Checkers

Checkers staff had nothing to smile about this past week as they mourned the death from COVID-19 of two staffers at the Bayside Mall in Tableview, Cape Town, in clip that has gone viral. Absolutely heartbreaking. Our sincere condolences to the group and all its employees. Let’s hope the regulation that everyone has to wear a mask or cover their faces with a scarf or bandana when leaving home now makes a difference and keeps staffers in the retail frontlines safer.

Level 4 clarity

Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel gave more clarity on Saturday about which industries would reopen under stringent health and safety guidelines for physical distancing in the workplace. A lifeline was given to the restaurant industry which can now deliver meals; although no takeaways were allowed to prevent movement of people; cigarettes can be sold by retailers; no ecommerce is allowed; the sale of winter clothes for all ages will be allowed, including other products to aid families during winter to stay warm, such as heaters and blankets. Computers and mobile phones, stationery and other home office equipment is on the list. The regulations were published for comment and further clarity will be given this week by Ministers in live updates scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. Patel did call on all South Africans to buy local.

FRIDAY, 24 April

99 employees positive at GSK Cape Town

Despite a home page dominated by COVID-19 and GlaxoSmithKline’s global response to the pandemic, the company’s Cape Town factory has been closed by the Department of Labour after 99 workers tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The Labour department will only allow the Epping factory to reopen if the current health and safety protocols are in place. It also mandated GSK to continue paying salaries despite the factory closure. GSK announced in April that it was collaborating on the search for a vaccine: “We announced on 14 April that GSK has joined forces with Sanofi, bringing together two of the world’s largest vaccines companies in an unprecedented collaboration to fight COVID-19. The two companies will combine innovative technologies to develop an adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to enter clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if successful and subject to regulatory considerations, aim to complete the development required for availability by the second half of 2021. This would be a significantly faster timeline than for normal vaccine development and teams from both companies are starting work on this urgently.”

Consumer opinion on essential goods

Ahead of the continued phased approach of lockdown being announced, BMi Research conducted a survey using an online panel from Borderless Access to ascertain current perceptions on essential goods. Almost two thirds (61%) of people interviewed, think there will be enough essentials if the lockdown is extended even further. This is skewed to older, higher income, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal respondents. Less than half of Gauteng and those who earn a lower income believe there will be enough essential goods. 45% believe that cigarettes should be an essential good whilst only 32% believe that alcohol should be essential. Of the 68% who said that alcohol should not be an essential good, domestic safety in a lockdown environment was a concern: “Not having alcohol available, is the safest option. Alcohol inhibits a person’s mind. This is especially dangerous for people in abusive relationships.” BMI asked South Africans what other essential goods and services should be available during the lockdown. Groceries is the most sited essential need (16%); followed by hardware supplies (14%). Respondents cited the need to use their lockdown time to fix and repair items in their homes. Clothing, baby items, healthcare and take away food were also noted to be essential goods during the lockdown. For more.

Flash rolls out electronic food vouchers

Retail technology service provider, Flash, a subsidiary of the Pepkor Group, has partnered with the DG Murray Trust to launch Phase One of a R2 million electronic food voucher system to approximately 7000 at-risk households in five food insecure communities across the country, commencing this week. The CoCare voucher programme, which was successfully piloted in Ceres earlier this month, channels essential food aid in the form of a R150 voucher to vulnerable households and beneficiaries via participating Flash retailers and spaza shops. Developed and funded by Flash, the CoCare pilot project was successfully implemented in Ceres by non-profit organisation, The Development Action Group (DAG) from 9 April, and will be ongoing. Originally targeting 1000 food-insecure households living on or close to the breadline, the Project reported an 80% redemption rate within one week of the electronic voucher being delivered to beneficiaries’ mobile phones. GrowGreat, a leading food security advocacy and support Non-Profit Organisation, is partnering with Flash to provide access to its network of registered community-based organisations in the five identified communities in the Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. Phase One of the voucher programme will target between 1000 and 1500 people in each region, providing one R150 voucher per household, redeemable within seven days.

THURSDAY, 23 April

Dis-Chem faces heavy fines

Dis-Chem is facing massive fines after being referred to the Competition tribunal after inflating masks – including surgical and dust masks – as well as other hygiene products, by as much as 261% in some instances and 43%, ahead of South Africa entering lockdown in March to combat the pandemic. Members of the public reported the pharma retailer. The retailer is contesting the finding by the Competition Commission. It faces a massive fine of 10% of its turnover if found guilty.

Spur Group ceases trading during restrictions

“Keep calm… We’ll be grilling again soon!” is the Spur statement on its website. The popular 50-year-old South African themed-franchise closed its doors on 25 March at 5pm at the start of South Africa’s lockdown and will only reopen when things are back to normal, probably several months away. This affects over 600 restaurants and about 30 000 employees. The Spur Group consists of Spur International, Spur Steak Ranches, Panarottis Pizza Pasta, John Dory’s Fish Grill Sushi, The Hussar Grill, RocoMamas, Spur Grill & Go and Casa Bella. It currently has 569 outlets worldwide, with restaurants in various parts of Africa, Mauritius, the Middle East and Australasia. “We’ll keep you updated as to when we’ll be reopening, but for now please stay safe, stay healthy and stay home! – The Spur Family.”

Effie Awards SA postponed to 2021

The Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) announced that the 2020 Effie Awards South Africa programme has been cancelled and that the inaugural Effie Awards South Africa for marketing effectiveness, are postponed with the events now scheduled to take place in July 2021. Mathe Okaba, CEO, Association for Communication and Advertising, notes that in response to the continuing developments of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in South Africa and abroad, the decision has been an extremely difficult yet necessary one to make. “At the heart of Effies is effectiveness and highlighting the incredible value our profession adds to business success. Agencies find themselves in a tumultuous period, having to effectively manage their own business needs while guiding and assisting brands through this difficult time. Focusing on this is key, and we do not wish to apply additional pressure in any form at this time. Our top priority is to protect the health and safety and overall wellbeing of the advertising and communications industry, our partners and stakeholders and therefore believe the decision is the correct one.” New entry dates and deadlines will be communicated in due course, as will updated campaign eligibility periods and adjudication dates.


It has been a busy week, with President Cyril Ramaphosa popping up onto our screens on a Tuesday night to announce the R500 billion economic and social stimulus package. He will be back on Thursday night in another episode of #LockdownSA Season 2, to announce the phased-out approach of ending this lockdown period.

80% drop in income for road freight

Road freight operators are predicting an 80% drop in their income for the lockdown period, which started on 26 March 2020 and is scheduled to end on 30 April. This is according to the results of a weekly survey conducted by the Road Freight Association (RFA) amongst its members during lockdown. This figure has increased by 10% – in last week’s survey, respondents indicated a 70% loss in income. According to the survey, less than 30% of companies’ fleets are currently active. “Only vehicles transporting essential goods are on the road,” confirmed the RFA’s chief executive Gavin Kelly. In addition, 25% of trucking companies’ staff are working on site. Looking ahead, 28% of survey respondents said that they would become fully operational “immediately” after lockdown. A further 33% said it would take them two weeks; with another 10% indicating it would take them two weeks to one month.

HOT FM assists local businesses

Johannesburg-based Hot 91.9FM has partnered with Jacksons Real Food Market, a small family run business in the North of the city, showcasing local farmers and producers. They sell nutrient-dense food, supporting local small and emerging farmers and keeping over 1000 South Africans in their jobs. The radio station is giving the retailer exposure on the station. Jacksons support over nine disadvantaged communities weekly and are running a Superhero fund for all the team members who work the frontlines in their stores. Customers are free to match Jacksons contribution to this fund. Jacksons Real Food Market stores have also introduced a Personal Shopper System so customers can order via Whatsapp and on collection, a Jacksons employee will bring your shopping to you. Jacksons also enable customers to shop online and have their groceries delivered in the Johannesburg North area.


Uber updates tech for essential delivery

To ensure continued access to medicines; assist those in need; and to unlock innovation, Uber has adapted its technology to offer Uber Direct, an on-demand and scheduled last-mile delivery solution for businesses. Businesses can use Uber Direct to move their goods within their supply chain, and between locations to better balance supply and demand, ensuring customers receive their orders when required. To date, Uber has partnered with The Western Cape Department of Health and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to enable several NGOs and their critically important community health workers to collect and deliver medication to those most vulnerable to COVID-19. In the first two weeks of the partnership, over 25 000 people received their medication, with many more safe and contactless deliveries being made daily.

SA Harvest, a food rescue organisation that aims to eradicate food waste, is using Uber Direct to expand and optimise deliveries to their beneficiary organisations in the Western Cape. This ensures more food-vulnerable people are being fed daily and will further allow SA Harvest to expand their deliveries in Gauteng in the coming weeks. Uber is ready to work with more cities, businesses, food banks, hospitals and others to move whatever matters most to them. Alon Lits, director for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa explains, “This is our broadest effort yet to help businesses meet unprecedented demand for delivery, and helping people stay at home while still getting the items they need. Uber Direct also allows us to unlock economic opportunities for delivery people and drivers now and beyond the lockdown. Safety continues to be a top priority, and we are regularly providing drivers and delivery people with information to help them stay safe.” Organisations, healthcare providers and governmental entities looking for support with rides or deliveries can submit their request directly through this form.

Drive-thru Woolies options

Following on from Dis-Chem, Woolworths is the latest retailer to implement a drive-thru option for shoppers, after online delivery slots became prime ecommerce real estate and delays have occurred as demand intensified under #lockdownSA. It’s a ‘click-and-collect’ order system that means customers won’t have to leave their cars, making it a safer option for staff too, as more essential workers, including retail frontline staff test positive for the virus. Payment must be made online ahead of the trip and staff will deliver groceries to your car boot. The drive through service is now available at 15 Woolworths stores. Earlier this month Pick n Pay announced a more localised version of in store grocery collection, which involves email shopping lists, direct payment to stores, and physical collection from the store. Retailers nationwide are expected to refine their options over time to make social distancing easier for both customers and staff; and as they play catch up on technology and the logistics of it all.

The cooked food threat

Following the outcry over the updated ban on cooked and hot food, Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, explained further that the ban was to stop people leaving their homes for anything but essential groceries and applied to every business, from supermarkets to township fast food outlets. He called large numbers of people moving about to get hot food as “vectors of transmission”.

The ban on booze and cigarettes stays because the sale of those products would undermine the reason for lockdown completely, said cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, updating Parliament’s Portfolio Committee. The reasons touted by various Government spokes over the past week after lockdown was extended and regulations tightened; is that alcohol related injuries overwhelm emergency rooms in any given week; and that smokers are more vulnerable to health complications with COVID-19 and would put additional pressure on stretched health resources. EWN reports that the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association is now taking Government to court as they believe that cigarettes fall under basic goods listed in the regulations that allow the sale of essential goods; and that business group Sakeliga said it would continue with its legal bid to have the ban on the sale of cooked food lifted.

Dlamini-Zuma did, however, hint at relaxing regulations on the sale of winter essentials, including heaters and winter clothes; as well as stationery to enable children and students’ needs to be met while being home schooled.

MONDAY, 20 April

How hot is hot?

The selling of hot, cooked food debate rages on, with some commentators asking how hot is hot? Cooled down or mildly hot? Government clarified it by saying no hot or cooked food may be sold by retailers on Monday. The debate seems superfluous when children are going hungry in some of our poorest areas and the middle class should cook their own chicken; but then the point has been raised as to how essential workers are being fed, given that they may not always have the time to cook or prepare food. Retailers and manufacturers hold the higher ground here, being at the top of the supply chain and it seems to me that industry lobby groups need to weigh in here and advise Government – as well as increase channels for charities and feeding schemes to reach the poorest of the poor. This pandemic peak has not yet hit South Africa and this Winter will probably be the worst in terms of hardship in our collective living memory. Feeding the most vulnerable must be everyone’s priority for the rest of this year, from business to Government. Civil society, some farmers and many individuals are doing so already. Where is a coordinated industry plan for the rest?



#CoronavirusSA tracker: Further clarification on essential goods – 20 April 2020

#CoronavirusSA tracker: Business pushes back – 13 April 2020.

#CoronavirusSA tracker: #Standingtogether – 7 April 2020.

#CoronavirusSA tracker: Shoprite & Pick n Pay win week: Spar’s brand fail – 27 March 2020.

#CoronavirusSA tracker: Fear and loathing in SA – 20 March 2020.


*Curated and edited by Retailing Africa Publisher & Editor, Louise Burgers. Keep the industry updated and send your announcements and news to:


Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.

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