“May the best debit order win,” is the social media post which springs to mind when considering our retail Festive Season in South Africa and marketers need to be extra smart this year. However, the impression 2019 has been a struggle is not supported by the over retail statistics from June 2019. Measured in real terms (constant 2015 prices), retail trade sales saw a 2,4% year-on-year increase in June. This small but positive movement in the retail sector can give retailers hope for the last quarter of the year.

According to Stats SA the main contributors to the 2,4% increase were retailers in textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods (contributing 0,8 of a percentage point), all ‘other’ retailers (contributing 0,7 of a percentage point); and general dealers (contributing 0,5 of a percentage point).

More specifically, the largest annual growth rates recorded in June 2019 were recorded for:

  • Retailers in household furniture, appliances and equipment (5,2%); and
  • Retailers in textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods (4,8%).

Planning for Q4 and the Christmas buying season includes getting two things right, timing and breaking from tradition.

The run up to Festive Season sales can start as early as Boss’s Day which falls on Wednesday 16 October this year. Having unusual, well priced specials advertised will bring customers into the sales funnel area early and the old adage that “the money is in the list” remains true. Social media competitions are a strategic way to encourage people to share their email address or cell phone number. Then, as potential customers, they can be targeted via omni-channel platforms for the next key sales dates. This is something Net Florist does well.

“Social is the new shop window: the place that consumers browse to find ideas and inspiration.” Deloitte Retail Trends 2019

Other important dates on the marketing calendar are:

Diwali – around the 27 or 28 October 2019: There are opportunities for different types of sales before Diwali as it’s a time of spring cleaning and celebration so sales opportunities could be around lighting, home decor, fireworks, gifts, food and sweet treats.

Halloween – Thursday 31 October: We’re seeing more uptake for Halloween in South Africa and it was big on social media last year. This is another opportunity to run a fun competition to entice customers even if there’s no “hard sell” of products.

Single’s Day – Monday 11 November: The first of the huge global shopping dates. Since the first Single’s Day in China (Guanggun Jie) this day has become the largest e-commerce event in the world – last year Alibaba broke generated $30.8 billion in 24 hours. The date was chosen as the number 1 symbolizes a single person and 11 (November) two people finding each other. In South Africa it’s catching fire, with online brands such as Zando getting it right with a positive call to action (well, call to shopping) of Affirmation, Action, Reinvention.


Black Friday – Friday 29 November: Last year our local Black Friday was described by the media as a “buying frenzy” and it appeared that way with websites crashing under the strain of great deals and keen customers. Data from Absa Bank highlights that two out of three South African consumers participated in Black Friday shopping at some point. Research also shows consumers are holding back on buying durable goods and waiting for Black Friday specials. According to BankservAfrica Economic Transaction Index (BETI) retail sales over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period most likely “saved” the South African economy in November.

Small Business Saturday – Saturday 30 November: This is such a great day for small businesses to begin creating hype around months before. The date was created by American Express in 2010 and falls in between the Black Friday and Cyber Monday heavyweights – the ideal time to showcase bespoke local products, catching the more discerning shoppers.

Cyber Monday – Monday 2 December:  $7.9 billion was spent on this day in 2018 (19,3% up from 2017, so it’s likely this year will see the same kind of traction. In South Africa, according to the BETI report, there was 36.4% growth in online sales for Cyber Monday.

Green Monday – Monday 9 December: In 2007 eBay in 2007 came up with Green Monday which is held on the second Monday of December. It’s basically a reminder to buy Christmas Gifts and as the name suggests there could be some fun branding around this date – with “green” or for brands or products which are aligned with green in terms of being eco-friendly.

Free Shipping Day –Saturday 14 December: Falling on the second last weekend before Christmas and is the global day where online stores have free shipping. As Marketing Guru Giedre Kronberga says, “It’s yet another try to keep customers shopping after the Black Friday – Cyber Monday craze is over.” But it’s still noteworthy on the Festive Season sales calendar as free delivery is one of the key incentives to online shopping – in fact, stats show nine out of ten customers consider free shipping the top most incentive to shop online.

While much of the pre-Festive Season focus will be online this year it is also worth considering the value of making the bricks and mortar customer experience warm and inviting.  Families who haven’t the cash to go on holiday often find shopping in store a pleasurable way to spend time together. The Festive Season and family time is tradition. As Krista Garcia says, “42% of US holiday shoppers said they shopped in-store for the holiday ambiance, and 27% of US holiday shoppers said they shopped in-store to spend time with family.” Worth bearing in mind and injecting online cheer as well as celebratory in-store ambiance.

Eben Esterhuizen, General Manager, OnShelf Pharma

Note to the Editor:

OnShelf Pharma’s foundation is built by an FMCG specialist and has a culture of tenacity with a smart solution oriented approach. The business has achieved phenomenal growth to become the preferred healthcare sales agency in the healthcare sector.