South Africa, 22.06.2023

South African technical goods sector feels impacts of July unrest

South Africa’s technical goods sector continues to feel the aftershocks of the looting and rioting in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal in July, with sales of televisions and fridges declining in the week of 8-15 August 2021. That’s according to a GfK Lighthouse study of the impact of the unrest on technical goods sales in South Africa. 

GfK’s market performance index uses point of sale data to benchmark weekly sales of key technical consumer goods categories following the unrest against average weekly sales in the first half of the year. The index indicates that overall technical goods retail performance in Kwa-Zulu Natal has yet to reach its pre-unrest levels, despite a near-immediate bounce-back after the looting. 

Across all 12 product categories tracked in the index, Kwa-Zulu Natal accounted for 14.8 percent of the total South African market in the 8-15 August week, still 2.2 percentage points below its usual contribution. While product categories like washing machines, printers, media tablets and vacuum cleaners are performing at or above the weekly benchmark, sales of fridges, routers and televisions are down.

Says Nicolet Pienaar, Head of Market Insights at GfK South Africa: “A month after the looting, the South African technical consumer goods market is still feeling the after-effects. While Kwa-Zulu Natal is seeing encouraging recovery in sales of IT and telecoms products — perhaps due to consumers wanting to keep safe and stay home — we’re seeing countrywide week-on-week declines in fridge, televisions and washing machine sales.

“This is the direct result of the destruction of key manufacturing facilities as well as the ransacking of inventory from warehouses in Kwa-Zulu Natal, compounding existing component and product shortages due to COVID-19. We’re expecting that fridge, televisions and washing machines will continue to feel the pinch for most of the year, as manufacturers work to fully restore their supply chains.”

Pienaar says that the rapid recovery in the smartphone sector in Kwa-Zulu Natal can be attributed to how fast mass market retailers restored trade after the looting. By contrast, routers are mostly sold through network operators, which have not managed to get their franchise stores up-and-running as quickly. 

Looking at some specific categories in the Index for 8-15 August:

  • Compared to the Index, televisions are still 15 index points higher than the average week. However, this represents a week-on-week decline of 11 points. Kwa-Zulu Natal is 21 index points behind the average week.
  • Across all provinces, laptops declined 13 index points week-on-week, and were 36 index points below the average week. Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng are underperforming their benchmark and the other provinces.
  • Smartphones outperformed the total basket by 8 index points.
  • The week was the third post-looting that fridges saw a week-on-week decline in index points.
  • Washing machines declined 21 index points with the steepest drop in the seven provinces that were largely unaffected by the unrest. 
  • Hot beverage makers are a stunning 84 index points above the average, with especially strong performance from Kwa-Zulu Natal. This trend has been evident since the week after the riots.

Says Pienaar: “Our point-of-sale data not only shows that Kwa-Zulu Natal has some way to go before returning to normal trade performance, but that technical goods retailers will feel the lingering effects of the unrest for months to come. Brands that want to win in this volatile environment need up-to-the-minute consumer and market insight to make wise pricing and promotions decisions that enable them to optimise revenue and market share.”

For more market intelligence, access the GfK Lighthouse reports here:   

The article is written by Nicolett Pienaar, Head of Market Insights– South Africa, GfK


About the GfK Lighthouse study

The results of the Lighthouse study are based on GfK’s market performance index which uses point of sale data to benchmark weekly sales of 12 key technical consumer goods product categories following the unrest against average weekly sales in the first half of the year. GfK calculated the average sales of weeks 1 – 20 of the year and benchmarked the following weeks’ performance against that average.

GfK. Growth from Knowledge.

For over 85 years, we have earned the trust of our clients around the world by solving critical business questions in their decision-making process around consumers, markets, brands and media. Our reliable data and insights, together with advanced AI capabilities, have revolutionized access to real-time actionable recommendations that drive marketing, sales and organizational effectiveness of our clients and partners. That’s how we promise and deliver “Growth from Knowledge”.

For more information, please visit or follow GfK on Twitter

Latest Press Releases

View all Press