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Vehicle data shows new SA habits will last

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A recent report by vehicle recovery and fleet management company Netstar shows that the Covid-19 lockdown has changed South African retail behaviour, and that these changes may last far longer than the lockdown itself.

Titled, “Covid-19 Movement Analysis”, the report was compiled by Netstar, a subsidiary of JSE-listed technology company Altron, in partnership with geospatial intelligence providers Geo Intelligence Corp.

The analysis shows that some of the adjustments made by shoppers during the lockdown may persist beyond the restriction periods, giving credence to the idea that once established, new habits die hard. The lockdown looks likely to have a lasting effect on South Africa’s shopping habits.

For instance, the time of day at which drivers choose to do their shopping has shifted towards the noon hours. Before the lockdown, most shopping was done during the evening, when people were returning from work. With more remote work, and fewer commutes, it appears that shopping is becoming the focal point of the day for some people, instead of an errand to be squeezed in after work.   

Most shopping trips were concentrated into the midday periods during Level 4 of the lockdown. However, this trend has persisted into Level 3, despite curfews being lifted and restrictions on businesses being lifted.

For instance, in Gauteng, some grocery chains saw relatively constant shopper volumes through the day, and then sharp reductions after 16h00. Others saw their busiest times between 08h00 and 10h00. In the Western Cape, most grocery shopping happened between 10am and noon, with a similar steep drop-off after 4pm.

“Our data shows that people are shopping earlier in the day and doing it closer to home than they did before the lockdown,” said Netstar Managing Director Pierre Bruwer. “This could be one example of how the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown changes consumer behaviour in the long-term.”

Netstar has been able to monitor retail trends throughout the lockdown, thanks to the telematics technology it uses to track client vehicles. 

With the activation of the mandatory Level 5 lockdown on 27 March, its metrics showed an immediate, significant level of compliance across all provinces in South Africa. Traffic volumes dropped by 90% all around the country. Retail activity shifted to shopping centres near residential areas, instead of destination shopping districts and CBDs.

Smaller-format stores appear to have become busier, perhaps due to shoppers avoiding crowds at large stores due to concerns around the pandemic. It may also be a sign of caution and restraint due to personal economic concerns.

To model shopping activity, analysts applied a spatial cluster algorithm across using the locations of ignition on and off events. The data represents trends from May to June, during Lockdown levels 5, 4 and 3.

Click here to view the report

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