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Product Availability in South Africa: What is In Demand?

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Since the end of 2020, South Africa faced new Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations restricting gatherings, following a rapid surge in rates of the new variant of the virus.

Countries around the globe have been in and out of lockdowns throughout 2020 and into 2021. In response to this shifting landscape, Euromonitor International has been tracking changes in online pricing and product availability across 10 industries to see how online retailers have responded to peaks in demand in different countries.

Looking at South Africa in particular, we can track how different product categories have been affected in terms of changing SKU availability and out-of-stock rates (OOS%) between 20th December 2020 and 20th January 2021.

Increased demand for alcoholic drinks before sales restricted

As of 28th December, new restrictions limiting alcohol sales were introduced. As a result, we can see big fluctuations in SKU availability from 20th December, suggesting that consumers were stockpiling for consumption at home, prior to new measures being announced.

Wine and spirits saw big decreases in the amount of SKUs available online between 20th December and 20th January. However, out-of-stock rates did not increase, showing that retailers were rather removing SKU pages online, either to deal with spikes in demand before sales were prohibited or because sales would be restricted.

Alcoholic drinks SKU

Health-conscious consumers seek vitamin products

With a peak in new cases and reports of a more infectious new strain, consumers sought home remedies or vitamin products to stay as healthy as possible during this increase in cases.

Vitamin C and combination products (cough, cold and allergy remedies ), saw fluctuations in availability. Vitamin C saw a 16% decrease in the amount of SKUs available online and a 5% increase in OOS% and combination products saw almost 12% fewer SKUs available online and a 9% increase in OOS%.

Vitamin products SKU

Home cleaning products and disinfectants in demand

General purpose wipes saw a 12.5% decrease in the number of SKUs available online but a 3% decrease in out-of-stock rate, showing that online retailers were removing SKU pages instead of listing products as out of stock. All purpose cleaning wipes also saw a 10% increase in OOS%, but no change in SKU count, meaning that retailers are instead being more transparent with consumers about stock levels, by listing items as out of stock instead of just removing SKU pages. This shows demand for home cleaning products increased in the time period, as consumers try to disinfect their surroundings at home.

Home Cleaning SKU

How we track SKU availability and OOS%

When tracking product availability, it is important to track both out-of-stock % and the number of available SKUs as they result in two very different shopping experiences. To deal with increased demand during the pandemic, some retailers removed SKU pages altogether instead of listing SKUs as out of stock. If out-of-stock rates are low, but the number of available SKUs is rapidly decreasing, it creates confusion for the shopper to see SKUs being removed without notification. On the other hand, if out-of-stock rates are high but the number of SKUs remains stable, then shoppers are more informed about the overall availability of products on a retailer’s website.

With Euromonitor International’s new global e-commerce product and price monitoring platform, Via, we were able to quickly and easily examine more than 20 million daily SKU observations across leading e-commerce retailers in 40 countries to track how the availability of selected categories and their pricing dynamics changed throughout the pandemic. Use our Coronavirus: Pricing and Availability Tracker to learn more.

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