Trade Intelligence annually publishes a Retail Trends report. It’s an indispensable guide which for the better part of two decades has provided insights to suppliers into the forces that are shaping the lives and buying habits of shoppers. Andrea Ellens takes a look at one of the major new trends driving shopper behaviour, globally and in South Africa.

Trends give shape to our ideas about what’s happening in our industry, globally and locally, from a macro down to a micro level, and what changes we can expect in consumer and shopper drivers and behaviour that will impact the way we do business. These trends can be scary, or they can be exciting – new attitudes among the youth, new technologies with disruptive potential we don’t yet fully grasp; new social and economic forces we couldn’t have predicted last month or even last week. But what they do need to be is a practical tool, to help us serve shoppers better, and work more effectively with our trading partners.

hare some insights and considerations from the report.



‘Metail’ macro-trend

One of the big global trends we’re following at Trade Intelligence is something we call Metail – basically the rise of a more independent and empowered shopper. This plays out in so many ways – from how shoppers are using technology to inform themselves about purchase decisions, to a significantly diminished sense of loyalty to brands – either product brands or retailers. There are many possible reasons for this: one is that in a time of rising global inflation and disrupted supply chains people are becoming more practical about where and how they seek value, rather than maintaining their emotional or habitual attachments to where they shop and what they buy.

And it’s also possible that the COVID-19 pandemic, which loosened bonds between and within communities, has also disrupted the traditional relationships between shoppers and the businesses which serve them. People who became used to searching the shelves for toilet paper or flour also became used to trying other retailers and brands out of necessity.

Industry impact: The proliferation of private brands

One of the great impacts of the rise of Metail is the growing prominence of private brands. As retailers invest in their private brand ranges – in terms of both selection and quality – shoppers are beginning to realise that choosing private brands no longer means sacrificing quality for value. In response to this, private and exclusive brands are increasingly proving to be an essential part of retailers’ strategies to create differentiation. ​The success of Checkers’ Forage and Feast range is a case in point here.

In addition, private brands yield higher margins for retailers and enable them to have greater control of innovation lead times to meet shopper needs. ​South Africa’s retailers are giving heightened focus and resources to their private brand strategies, in a race to lead innovation in this sector.​ Private brands currently make up approximately 24% of the local retail market and many of our retailers are targeting 25% – 30%. Retailers have a vested interest in supporting their private and exclusive brands first, which presents an unequal playing field.​ They are also looking for agility and speed from private brand suppliers to launch new innovations to meet shopper demands.​

So what does this mean for suppliers?​

To maintain and grow market share, manufacturers need to build ever stronger brands, find alternate routes to market, or consider participating in the manufacture of private brands for the retailers to market as their own.

Interestingly, one of the other aspects of the Metail trend plays directly into the strengths of suppliers. Empowered shoppers are looking for inspiration – they want an immersive and captivating shopping experience, and this doesn’t just mean fun promos, big screens and the other trappings of shoppertainment. These customers are driven by curiosity, a desire for discovery, and the thrill of stumbling upon unique offerings, in the form of products and brands that put new ingredients together, or show new uses for an existing item. This is where suppliers have the advantage – the ability to innovate, test and rollout new ideas quickly and at scale, enhancing the retail experience while neutralising the threat of private brands.

The shopping experience and the journey they take through the store, matters to them.

One nation, many shopper types

One thing we have to be aware of in South Africa is how the same trends and drivers play out across different income levels. We believe that when it comes to value, there is no shopper more astute than the lower-income South African. Necessity has driven them to seek value and make their rand stretch further in ways that middle-to-upper income shoppers can’t even imagine. But at the same time, they’re also looking for the dignity and the enjoyment of a shopping experience where retailers and brands come together to offer them entertainment in the store and innovation on the shelves.

As an industry, we should be motivated by the newfound independence of the shopper, and see it as a positive – letting them guide us on their journey with our brands and through our stores, and providing them with both value and inspiration as we grow our businesses with their needs.


About Trade Intelligence

Trade Intelligence is South Africa’s leading source of consumer goods retail research, insights and capability-building solutions, focusing on the industry’s corporate and independent retailers and wholesalers. We are the trusted voice of the sectors in which we operate, aggregating information to amplify knowledge, grow capability, and enable collaboration that drives profitable trading relationships and sustainable sector growth.

Global Tides, Local Currents

Retail trends do not occur in isolation – they are the result of macro influences that shape consumer and shopper behavior and retailer strategies. In the ever-evolving world of retail, understanding the broader landscape is essential to anticipating and adapting to emerging trends. A new report by Trade Intelligence offers a nuanced understanding of the interplay between macro factors, global shifts, evolving shopper behaviours, and the strategies adopted by local grocery retailers. The report dissects their implications for the South African retail sector and its stakeholders – implications that could have a profound impact.

The Trade Intelligence team is proud to share some insights and considerations from the report.



Global Megashifts – The Ripple Effect on Retail

Global megashifts are reshaping the world we live in, creating a ripple effect, influencing shopper behavior, supply chains, and market dynamics.

Economic turbulence has impacted most countries around the world and is unlikely to wane in the short term. Elections across the globe have businesses increasingly risk averse and investment shy. In 2024, over 2 billion people – a quarter of the world’s population – will go to the polls including the US, UK, EU, Russia, India, Taiwan and South Africa. Meanwhile, geopolitical conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East is wreaking havoc, and the global energy crisis is intensifying the race to net zero.

These shifts have a profound impact on the retail landscape. According to the World Bank, the impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on commodity prices to date has been muted. However, an escalation in the conflict could drive up commodity prices (especially oil) and disrupt key trade routes.

Overall, these trends and events combine to paint an unsettling picture of a fragile world, and even the glimmering possibilities posed by artificial intelligence cannot brighten this picture enough to lift the mood.


Global Retail Trends – Swirling Currents and Eddies

As with every facet of society, the retail industry is having to adapt constantly to meet the rapidly evolving needs of shoppers and other retail stakeholders.

The convergence of online and offline worlds is reshaping the retail landscape in which shoppers are both more demanding and less loyal. Retailers’ ingenuity and shopper-centric strategies play a pivotal role in navigating this blended retail space. Our report provides insights into the innovative approaches retailers are adopting to stay ahead in this dynamic environment.


South Africa in 2024 – Navigating Rough Economic Seas

Let’s dive into the economic context impacting the retail trade… the deep and murky waters of the South African economy. High inflation rates, constrained economic growth, energy supply struggles, the rising cost of living and dismal consumer confidence all continue to contribute to a challenging trading landscape.

One bright spot in the gloom is that employment in Q3/2023 finally exceeded the pre-pandemic level at 16.7 million people, however youth unemployment ​remains dire.

Understanding these macro factors is crucial for consumer goods brands and retailers aiming to navigate the intricate web of challenges and opportunities that define the South African retail space. These may be rough seas to navigate in the coming year, but at least (or rather, unfortunately) these are not uncharted waters and local retailers are known for their buoyancy.


Local Retail Trends – Full Steam Ahead

South Africa’s retailers have shown themselves to be among the best globally, and we are increasingly delighted to see how close our local retail industry is to our global counterparts and the trends that are shaping the industry globally.

The challenge remains balancing the needs of shoppers (whether for more personalisation, faster delivery, more conveniently located stores, better prices or an elevated shopping experience) with the squeeze for margin. Interestingly, instead of revenue from the sale of goods, retailers are focusing beyond this space – on revenue from data monetisation, and cost containment through the leveraging of technology, AI and ESG savings and rebates.


Hoist the Sail or Drop Anchor

In the current fragile context, consumer goods brands and retailers cannot afford to have strategic blind spots. Success requires a clear vision, the right information and well-calibrated GPS. The Trade Intelligence Retail Trends resources provide essential insights to chart the journey ahead.


About Trade Intelligence

Trade Intelligence is South Africa’s leading source of consumer goods retail research, insights and capability-building solutions that enable effective and profitable trading relationships and inform future-fit strategies.

Ti’s expertise covers the FMCG environment, the major retail and wholesale players, the informal retail channel as well as emerging retail and shopper trends.


For more information, contact:

Nadine Sapsford

Marketing Coordinator