Reading the news nowadays is like the conclusion of a spy thriller in which the tide finally turns and the good guys start winning – the big question is if the sport and outdoor retail industries are sharing in this good fortune? We therefore need your feedback about which way you believe the ‘winds of change’ are blowing in our industry – it’ll take you less than five minutes to complete our survey here,  but your input will help everybody in the trade to get a clearer picture of what to expect this year.

The survey is completely anonymous, and unless you volunteer your name, we won’t know who responded.

So far, a tentative 38% of respondents believe that the renewed optimism amongst consumers will result in better retail sales this year – although 66% found that there was no change in their sales after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as our next president at the end of December. Some respondents did comment that it’s the money in their pockets that determine whether consumers buy and that improvement in the economy due to positive political outcomes could therefore result in better sales later in the year.

There is indeed many indicators that the economy might just approve: the Rand remains at mid-2015 levels, the Reserve Bank adjusted its GDP growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 to 1.4% and 1.6%, a Goldman Sachs report identified South Africa as ‘the big emerging market story for 2018’, the Asset Forfeiture Unit is aiming to reclaim billions of our stolen money, SOE’s like Eskom and the SABC are being turned around, and there is hope that the crime busters and SARS will finally clamp down on the looters of the economy.

Cyril socks
Thami Dickson’s tweet about the next president’s beachfront stroll – and no blue light brigades in sight

In an online poll 77% respondents also said they are feeling much more positive after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa, who was dubbed ‘the people’s president’ by tweeters when he took a relaxed beachfront stroll and posed for selfies, wearing brightly striped socks bought from an NGO – prompting the question whether he will do for socks what Madiba did for shirts.

This positive vibe already started in November when retail sales unexpectedly grew 8.2% (compared to the predicted 3.5% growth). This is, however, attributed to Black Friday sales, which in our industry also had a positive effect on 37% of the respondents’ December sales due to the sales attracting new customers and helping them to clear old stock.

As some of the respondents to our survey pointed out, November-December is not normally such big sales months for schoolwear, sport and outdoor retailers as for fashion/lifestyle and other retailers.

Therefore, while Mr Price enjoyed good (8.5%) third quarter sales growth overall, MRP Sport only recorded 2.2% sales growth – and reported a 6.5% decline in comparable store sales. The Foschini Group (TFG) also reported sales growth of 6.6% in the period, but no specific data for the Sports Division was supplied in the update.

In our industry January is the important month for back-to-school purchases – and we would very much appreciate your feedback about your January sales.