There is a general negative perception that South African consumers are under strain, and this is flowing through into suppressed valuations of consumer-focused cyclical stocks in general and the apparel retail and bank stocks specifically.
While 2020 was a very disruptive year, the SA consumer has come out of it better positioned than it was going into the pandemic.
- Disposable Income is 6.7% higher than 2019 levels.
- Household Savings have increased to 1.9% of GDP, up from 1.2% on average levels.
- Households have added R121bln to short-term cash deposits since Jan 2020, which amount to about 26.8% of disposable income. This results in excess cash deposits of about R121bln or 2.3% of GDP.
- Debt affordability has improved significantly. Debt service costs have fallen to 7.7% of disposable income, from 9.5% in 2019.
- Net Wealth was up 5% Y/Y in December 2020.
- Social grants have increased 28% per beneficiary from March 2019 levels.
What this all adds up to, is a consumer that is in a pretty good position relative to pre-pandemic levels with the capacity to drive spending and retail sales above normal levels. If confidence levels pick up as vaccinations become more widespread and households choose to loosen their wallets; this could add almost 1% to GDP growth, 3.5% to retail sales and potentially 22.3% to clothing sales going forward.
Our positive view the SA retailers is not premised on a ramp up in sales above normal trends, however this analysis gives us confidence that our expectations are conservative, and the consumer is well placed to continue spending going forward.