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Signs of our times

29 November 2016


I’ve been walking past a shoe shop in a local shopping centre for the past 10 years. But the other day when I popped into the centre, the shoe shop was no more. Instead, posters on the shop windows announced that a pawnshop was soon to open in that space.

Times are tough, that’s a given. What is interesting is how our shopping habits adapt to challenging times. The demise of the shoe shop and the rise of the pawnshop is part of this trend. The car industry is also going through a metamorphosis of its own: new vehicle sales are down and used car sales are up. Used car dealers are springing up all over the place.

A major used car retailer is now said to buy and move about 1 500 vehicles per month – that’s a heck of a lot of used vehicles. And that is just one retailer.A major contributing factor in the tendency to go used instead of new is the rising cost of new vehicles. According to financing institution WesBank, an average new car financed in September cost R293 343 – that’s 18% more than it was in September 2015.

Accordingly, since there is now a bigger demand for used cars, pricing of used cars has increased, too. According to WesBank, the average value for a used car in September 2016 was R191 236, an increase of 8.7% over the same period in 2015. Good news for the new car segment is that according to historic patterns, the new car market is about to hit rock bottom, and that it will start to rise again.

The rise of pawnshops and used car dealers is a clear indicator of tough economic times. But there are other businesses that boom, too. For one, private car repair shops are said to do more business as customers avoid official, more expensive manufacturer servicing outlets. Car accessory companies also have it reasonably good as vehicle owners turn to accessories to give their vehicles a bit of a makeover, instead of upgrading to a new vehicle.

Of course, if you can get your hands on some Ford Ranger accessories, you are almost certain to coin it… a Ranger without accessories is as rare as business acumen in SABC boardrooms. Interestingly, so-called ‘sin industries’ are also said to do well in tough times. Smokers will smoke more, drinkers will drink more, and customers of red-light establishments will… ahem, visit those establishments more frequently.

So yes, times are tough, but all is not lost. You can always leave that Land Cruiser V8 at home and take the Tazz and a pop-up tent. Or go on an overland adventure to the Kruger instead of driving all the way to Timbuktu. We will persevere, we will survive, we will adventure.

Golly, I need a beer.

Text and images: Danie Botha