The question is whether the illegal cigarette and alcohol channels are here to stay, says Mark.
On Saturday night, 15 August, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ban on cigarettes and alcohol would be lifted with effect from 18 August. Thousands of South Africans were thrilled by the news, and when Tuesday arrived, many made their way to their local stores.
But no one is as relieved as retailers, like Spar. “It is definitely a positive to be able to re-open trade,” says Spar CFO Mark Godfrey. “From a wholesale perspective, we are very happy to be able to resume this important business.”
Despite many reports of people lining up outside stores, Mark says it is still too early to say exactly how consumers react to the lifting of these bans. “We did not experience the frenzied buying that has been reported in other countries after lifting of similar bans.”
He adds that there has definitely been significant increases in demand for “legal” cigarettes, and most of the liquor stores experienced increased volumes during the course of Tuesday. “But I haven’t heard many cases of long queues, or issues with crowd ‘control’ required.”
Even though the ban has been lifted, Mark says that one of the ongoing concerns will be whether the illegal cigarette and liquor channels are here to stay.