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Movement data maps SA’s post-lockdown alcohol fix

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Monday, 1 June was very much looked forward to by several South Africans as the date they would be legally allowed to restock fridges, cabinets and stomachs with alcoholic beverages. As the day progressed, social media and various news sites were filled with images of long lines of people patiently waiting their turn at liquor retailers.  

But was the surge of people going to bottle stores really that big, or were the queues more illustrative of the new access control policies in place, making us wait to enter?

Using aggregated and anonymised Tracker data, research and analytics company Lightstone looked at the patterns of behaviour of vehicles travelling to retail destinations to see where the truth lay.  The picture is a bit muddied by the fact that retail activity is generally higher at the beginning of the month as a result of most salaries having been paid, and also because many more retailers were allowed to open on 1 June compared to previous weeks. 

The data confirms that on Monday 1 June, South Africa did indeed behave differently to the Monday of the week before, month before, and three months before.

Makro stores saw 40% more visitors on 1 June than they had seen on 2 March (the first Monday in June compared to the first Monday in March), but 10% fewer visitors than they saw at month-end on 29 February 2020. 

On average, the Makro visits in the week leading up to 1 June were already back up to 90% of the pre lock-down norm, so it seems as if the spike in Monday’s visits can at least be partly attributed to the opening up of alcohol sales.

Lightstone cautions that the analysis can only identify trips to shopping centres – not which shop/s people went to while at the specific centre.  The data shows that out of almost 1,000 shopping centres analysed that offer a liquor outlet, 165 of them had more visitors on 1 June than an equivalent date pre-lockdown (2 March), and compared to month-end in February (with month end being a usually very popular time for shopping trips).

Shopping centres with a ‘Tops’ and/or ‘Blue Bottles’ store were on average at 70% of their normal pre-lockdown visits during the last week of May, yet up to 85% of their normal activity on Monday 1 June. Smaller centres with chain liquor stores saw bigger recoveries than bigger centres, understandably due to the bigger centres having already pulled shoppers back with non-grocery (e.g. clothing) retail offerings whereas smaller centres with only grocery and liquor outlets, now have substantial additional pull.

Looking only at the centres that had the biggest recovery of ‘back to normal retail patterns’, we see that the liquor chains present in those centres were most often a Tops, followed by a Pick n Pay liquor.  (This view doesn’t consider the independent liquor outlets.)

The liquor stores in the top 20 centres showing the biggest recovery on 1 June 2020 are as follows:

Shopping centre containing Chain liquor store 1 June against 1 March
LIQUOR CITY JAN SMUTS – CRAIGHALL 500%
ULTRA LIQUORS PLATINUM SQUARE 369%
ULTRA LIQUORS SASOLBURG 265%
BLUE BOTTLE FERNRIDGE 237%
TOPS AT SPAR DOORNPOORT 198%
LIQUOR CITY GLEN NERINE 197%
LIQUOR CITY KRUGERSDORP 180%
GAME LIQUOR KLERKSDORP 155%
CHECKERS LIQUOR MORELETA PARK 153%
LIQUOR CITY RYNFIELD 153%
SHOPRITE LIQUOR KUILSRIVER 153%
ULTRA LIQUORS KLERKSDORP – CHRIS HANI 152%
PICK N PAY LIQUOR BARBERTON 152%
TOPS AT SPAR WELTEVREDEN 147%
TOPS AT SPAR DOWERGLEN 146%
TOPS AT SPAR THE FALLS 146%
TOPS AT SPAR RANDPARK RIDGE 140%
LIQUOR CITY MONTANA 137%
CHECKERS LIQUOR WOODLANDS 136%
TOPS AT SPAR OLD FARM 135%

*Note – this view doesn’t include independent liquor stores and is a measure of increased attendance at the centre that the liquor store is in, not increased footfall into the liquor store itself.

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