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A bumper season for eBucks

Despite slow to steady retail sales forecasts for the 2011 festive season, eBucks saw the highest activity ever recorded, with members spending R140 million between October and December 2011, a growth of 60% on 2010.

eBucks saw the highest activity recorded over the 2011 festive season (October ‚ December 2011) since its inception in 2000, with members spending R140 million. This reflects a growth of 60% on the previous year’s festive season spend of R87 million, which is well above the modest figures forecasted for the South African retail industry.

While no ‚official‚ retail figures for this period have been released yet, the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) / Ernst & Young Festive Season Retail survey revealed that 2011 Q4 retail sales volumes are expected to be between 5% and 7% higher than 2010 festive season sales, indicating that South Africans were conservative in their spending over the festive period.

This outlook was further reinforced by FNB’s Chief Economist Cees Bruggemans, who says that with the energy price shocks boosting CPI inflation past 6% in 2011, and with nominal wage and salary increases slightly less generous in 2010, real household incomes grew at a slightly slower rate in late 2011.

‚Yet many South African consumers clearly did not want to hold back in rewarding themselves in what – for most of them – proved to be a good year, going by FNB/BER consumer confidence surveys,‚ Bruggemans says. ‚Hence all resources having been mobilised, including record use of saved eBucks, as the country entered 2012 on cruise control.‚

Jolande Duvenage, eBucks CEO, agrees: ‚Over the 2011 festive period, we noticed a pronounced change in the behaviour of our eBucks members, who are somewhat cautious about how they spend their eBucks. The R140-million worth of eBucks spent during the last quarter strongly indicates that our members were looking for ways to extend their wallets, especially as the festive season approached.

‚This significant spend is an indication that our members are increasingly recognising eBucks as a relevant and tangible rewards currency that can help them get more. We are pleased that FNB, through eBucks, helped bring festive cheer to members’ households, enabling them to get sought after items, without having to part with too much cash,‚ she adds.

eBucks expenditure sky rockets

According to Duvenage, members spent their eBucks on a wide range of items, including fuel, travel, gifts, and airtime.

The spend redemption on fuel increased the most dramatically, soaring by 388% year-on-year.

Similarly, travel spend also grew by a significant 70% with local travel being the most popular choice for members.

Online shopping remains popular

With technology becoming increasingly more affordable and accessible, South Africans are benefitting from the connected world through the convenience of shopping online. In fact, South Africans spent at least 30% more online in 2011 than they did in 2010, according to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

eBucks members have mirrored this trend, with just over one third of the total festive spend being spent online in the eBucks Shop and with eBucks Internet Partners.

‚The tech-savvy maturity of our members is confirmed by the popularity of technology products in the eBucks store over the festive season,‚ explains Duvenage.

The most popular items purchased in the eBucks shop were big ticket electronic items, like the Apple iPad 2.

Other sought after goods purchased in the eBucks store included a variety of everyday lifestyle products and children’s toys.

Members still prefer shopping at retail stores

‚We also saw a marked increase in the number of members using their eBucks cards at point of sale in our partner stores over the festive season,‚ says Duvenage. “This goes to show that the majority of our members shopped in retail stores, where they can physically see and touch an item before purchasing it.‚

‚Whether our members bought vouchers, extended their wallets with airtime or fuel purchases, or saved up their eBucks for that must-have gadget, it’s clear that FNB and eBucks were top-of-mind for most of our members,”” Duvenage concludes.

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