hatching 7 Trends That Have Happened in South Africa in the Last Year!
Photo Cred: Supplied | On File

Among all the coronavirus havoc, amazing things were quietly starting to take shape, even here in South Africa.


Johannesburg, South Africa (28 January 2021) – You aren’t alone in wishing you never had to hear the words 2020 again, but there are some surprisingly great trends to have emerged from a year that brought about such doom and gloom.

We’ve all heard news reports of how, during the lockdown, skies in big cities around the world turned blue as air pollution diminished, waterways cleared up and wild birds benefited from humans staying home. People drew closer, too, as humans re-evaluated their priorities and discovered a profound need to connect, making space in their hearts for each other.

Positive stories such as these gave hope in a world where COVID-19 was wreaking havoc on people’s lives and countries’ economies.

Here in South Africa, it was no different – among the din of coronavirus havoc, amazing things were quietly starting to take shape, too. Read on below for some of the wonderful, and surprising trends to have come out of last year.

Trend 1: You got to overtake the Joneses

One of the trends that surprised everyone was the growth that happened in the property market. It was a year that the residential property market defied expectations – showing unexpected growth in the midst of a pandemic and numerous economic challenges. When the devastation of COVID-19 ran rampant across the economy, the property market held its breath along with all other sectors, as sales stalled and sellers and estate agents stayed home under lockdown restrictions. The forecast looked glum, but then the prime lending rate – which affects how much you repay on your monthly bond instalments – dropped again and again and again – five times in a row, to be exact. By November it hit a record 7% – the lowest it’s been in 55 years.

Photo Cred: Supplied | On File

The new low prime lending rate set the scene for the housing market’s significant recovery. Suddenly, things were on the up, and people started buying homes like never before. In fact, so many people applied for home loans that SA’s largest bond origination company, BetterBond, recorded its best December in history.

“When lockdown restrictions first eased in June 2020, we saw a massive spike in bond applications, specifically from first-home buyers,” said BetterBond CEO, Carl Coetzee. “Initially, we thought it was just pent-up demand, but the sustained bond activity showed that the lower interest rate was driving the robust recovery. In December, we had a 53% year-on-year growth in bond applications at a time when home buying activity is traditionally slower.”

Another wonderful spin-off from the low-interest rate was that buyers could afford up to 30% more than if they had applied for a bond a year before. The resultant aspirational purchasing has meant buyers could afford a home in a better street or suburb, or perhaps one with more bedrooms or a bigger garden.

“With the premium being placed on lifestyle as so many of us are working from home, we are definitely seeing more buyers applying for bonds to secure their dream homes,” said Coetzee.

Who would have thought 2020 would be the year we’d not only keep up with, but overtake, the Joneses! And, if December bond application numbers are anything to go by, the housing market is in for a bumper 2021.

Trend 2: Men joined the online shopping wave

It’s no surprise that online shopping rose dramatically under lockdown. Stores unable to open their doors still made sales as shoppers swapped browsing through stores in shopping malls for their online equivalent, happily clicking their way through online purchasing as they stayed safe in their homes.

A surprising number of males joined in the online retail therapy fun, with e-tailers in certain segments showing an uptick in their male audiences. One of those was SweepSouth, SA’s largest on-demand home-cleaning service. In June 2020 they expanded their service to offer more than just domestic cleaning. Through their newly found app, Connect, they offer access to a range of reliable and rated handymen, electricians, plumbers and gardeners to come and help around the home. South African men loved the notion and, by year-end, SweepSouth had seen their male audience growing by 25% year on year. Since then, Connect has added professional services like web developers, tax and accountancy services, graphic designers and social media and video marketing.

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Photo Cred: Supplied | On File

Another area where e-tailers saw a growth in male shoppers was in fashion. In December 2020,  RunwaySale – SA’s biggest online shopping society, which offers designer labels at up to 70% off for a limited time – saw a phenomenal 99% year-on-year increase in men shopping for fashion online. According to Rob Noble, RunwaySale’s COO, the growth was due to an increased popularity in leisurewear or loungewear, as it is more commonly known. Men also treated themselves, adding luxury items like watches and shoes to their carts – in fact, accessories saw an increase of 52% (accessories in total) and 30% in sales during the December period.

Trend 3: Nature felt nurtured

One of the loveliest trends to emerge from 2020 was the way in which marine life flourished while humans stayed home. During the lockdown, experts like Jon Monsoon, host of the Penguin Experience on Airbnb, where, because it’s a social impact experience, 100% of what participants pay goes to AfriOceans Conservation Alliance, noticed how marine creatures started enjoying more time in areas that humans would usually occupy.

“Take the Boulders Beach penguins in False Bay as an example,” said Jon. “These waddling creatures usually have to plan their fishing expeditions entirely around the movement of humans, making sure that they get down to the water before the human traffic starts up each morning and the roads and pathways get too busy to ensure safe passage.”

The Boulders Beach penguin colony has been in Cape Town since the first penguins made their way into False Bay in 1983 from Dyer Island, near Gansbaai. According to Cape Town Tourism, commercial fishing, marine pollution and habitat destruction have all taken their toll on the colony in the years since.

Boulders Beach Penguin
Credit: Hillary Fox/ Supplied

But, thanks to conservation efforts by people like Jon and his team, the Boulders colony has grown to over 3 000 birds.

“Unique behaviours that we have noticed during lockdown include when penguins are able to get back to their nests,” said Jon. “Prior to lockdown, they would have to wait until the beach was empty and everyone had gone home before they could make the journey back to the nest. A near-total lack of human and vehicular traffic along their most-used routes down to the ocean meant they could afford to have a bit of a lie-in most mornings, enjoying some bonus snuggle time in the nest with their life partners.”

Other sea creatures who have thrived under lockdown include the Cape clawless otters, who have been enjoying our quiet beaches, while massive pods of dolphins (2 000 strong) have been fishing undisturbed in False Bay. Whales are currently also able to communicate with one another without having to ‘shout’ over the noise of commercial shipping.

Trend 4: Rent-to-own became hip

Who would have thought treadmills and ergonomic office chairs would be top of people’s wish lists for home furniture? But, in the year where gyms closed their doors, and office buildings stood vacant while people worked from home, exercise equipment and proper work-from-home furniture rose in importance.

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Photo Cred: Supplied | On File

As neither of these categories are cheap to buy, Teljoy – the country’s foremost rent-to-own provider – swiftly responded by expanding their online rental range.

“The pandemic suddenly forced us to re-evaluate our value proposition to ensure it aligns to customer needs and market trends,” says Jonathan Hurvitz, CEO of Teljoy. “We quickly expanded our product to the things that people were most interested in at a very unusual time in recent history, such as gym equipment and home office equipment.

Hurvitzs adds: “While consumers were taking great financial strain as a result of COVID-19’s far-reaching impact on the economy, the rental economy grew notably as the concept of rent-to-own finally got noticed as the convenient, safe and flexible alternative to high-interest debt.”

Trend 5: Plant-based food on our plates

You may have pledged to sign up to Veganuary – a global movement in which more than one million people in 192 countries try being vegan for January – but the growing trend towards plant-based foods is a great, and probably easier way to incorporate delicious meat-free alternatives into your diet for the rest of the year, too. A plant-based diet predominantly consists of plants, but some people include small amounts of animal products, whereas a vegan diet totally eliminates all animal products.

food waste grow food
Photo Credit: My Fit Station

With people ever more aware of the health benefits of plant-based eating, it’s exciting that food producers met that consumer demand last year, with a slew of innovative and delicious new plant-based products popping up in our supermarkets. It’s a shift that brings SA more in line with countries such as the US, where, according to Nielsen, plant-based faux meat sales grew by 264% since March 2020.

“There’s been a fundamental shift in consumer thinking over the past year, with a bigger focus on health and proactively managing your own health,” says Roelien Havenga of Daymon, a global brand and retail solution provider. “Research shows that South Africans are looking for food choices that increase their fruit and vegetable intake, rather than completely avoiding animal-derived ingredients, which supports the trend towards plant-based and flexitarian living. South African are traditionally meat lovers, so they’re more likely to adopt plant-based diets than vegan or vegetarian over the coming years. It may even become the new norm.”

Trend 6: Art went online

When the art world went quiet during the lockdown, as museums, galleries, and art fairs were forced to close their doors, one of the year’s most surprising trends emerged. The art industry – notoriously resistant to the online space – found a creative solution to COVID-19 restrictions by embracing online wholeheartedly. Sotheby’s held more than 100 online sales between March and June 2020 and their online turnover grew almost 1000% from the same period in 2019.

Rainbow Nation "The roadmap to our rainbow starts with compassion" - South African inspires Ubuntu Army
Photo Cred: Spirit of Ubuntu

Locally, Latitudes.Online launched in July 2020. Previously a physical art fair, the organisation responded to the pandemic by creating an online marketplace for galleries, artists, studios and non-profit organisations to sell art online.

“Within just six months our platform has been viewed in 124 (of 195) countries around the world, and we have been shipping artworks by African artists daily to countries as far afield as the USA, New Zealand, Reunion, Morocco, Italy, France and Hong Kong,” says director Lucy MacGarry.

Director Roberta Coci adds that going online has had the positive effect of allowing Latitudes to reach a global audience on a daily basis.

“The online space has introduced us to a whole new generation of buyers, who are finding the online experience more accessible and less intimidating than walking into a fair or gallery, and also who are spending much more time at home, and therefore looking for new pieces to fill their walls,” she says. “This is a dramatic shift that is revolutionising the way art is bought and sold across the world,” adds MacGarry. “While we look forward to being able to visit galleries and art events once again, we truly believe this is not a trend, nor an interim solution, but that buying art online is here to stay.”

Trend 7: Comedians and musicians thrived

One of the industries that was hit the hardest during the pandemic was events and entertainment. Income streams that were buoyed by event hosting and planning slowed to a trickle. Event organisers, artists and ticketing companies were all affected by lockdown regulations and were challenged to think out of the box if their industry was to survive.

Events went modular and multi-day, artists shifted to online and ticketing companies evolved their offerings. The pan-African ticketing company, Quicket, was not deterred and quipped that the pandemic was the ‘mother of invention’. They saw the success of online events and created a number of new products like hosted streaming, video-on-demand, easy donations through QR codes, and a fundraising portal.

Marc Lottering
Photo Cred: Marc Lottering

Many entertainers leveraged these features to not only survive during lockdown but, in some cases, thrive. Comedian Marc Lottering even set an online attendance record, with 15 000 viewers in his ‘front room’ for My Fellow South Africans. The events and entertainment industry was one that clearly showed South African resilience during a tough year.

There’s no denying that 2020 was a year filled with challenges, but there were also silver linings that we can build on over the next few months, to ensure that 2021 is a kinder, better year for all.

Sources: Various – all linked 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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