26 of 2023

 Newsletter No 26/7 July 2023                              


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DIY retail segment poised for recovery, April figures show

By Chris Gilmour

With 3.1% year-on-year sales growth, the category equalled clothing, footwear, textiles and leather

Analyses of SA retail sales is all about examining monthly events at the margin. Apart from the huge movements in retail sales growth (and falls) caused by the reactions to various lockdowns in the past few years, most movements have been largely incremental and at first glance apparently boring.

However, most months throw up something of interest; it sometimes just takes a bit more interpretation. April is more interesting than most, as it perhaps signals an end to the dismal reduction in year-on-year growth in hardware, paint & glass, a proxy for home improvement or DIY.

With 3.1% year-on-year growth in sales in this category in April, it was equal with clothing, footwear, textiles and leather (CFTL), which has been the strongest category for the past few years.

It will take at least another month, preferably two or three, of positive retail sales growth to confirm the change in trend in hardware, paint & glass, but the trend looks encouraging. The type of JSE-listed shares that would be positively affected by industry dynamics such as this includes Cashbuild and Italtile.

For April as a whole, year-on-year sales fell 1.6% in constant 2019 prices after a revised 1.5% year-on-year drop in March.

April was the fourth month running of year-on-year sales drops, a pattern that has not occurred for many years. It highlights how difficult the background consumer economy has become for retailers.

CFTL and hardware, paint & glass were tied for top position in categories of retail sales. CFTL has been showing positive growth for many months now, and last turned in a negative print in May 2022, when it registered minus 2.7% year on year.

No other category of retail sales showed growth in April 2023. The second-best performing sector in April was household furniture, appliances and equipment, in which retail sales fell to the tune of minus 1.3%.

This is a highly discretionary sector, full of big ticket items such as beds and other furniture as well as TVs and audio equipment. That this sector did not fall more than 1.3% is probably due to enhanced credit sales.

Consumers who still have an appetite for credit, even with interest rates so high, are still spending but the risk of bad debts often increases in line with this enhanced spending. The seasoned furniture and appliance retailers know this, and act accordingly to reduce risk.

The next best-performing sector, on a minus 2.4% year-on-year reduction, was pharmaceutical and medical goods, cosmetics and toiletries. Traditionally this has tended to be a resilient, defensive sector but no more.

Indeed, sales in this sector have shown no monthly growth for the past six months at least. This is reflected in the relatively poor performances of former darlings of the retail sector Dis-Chem and Clicks.

And then came the two food categories of retail sales-general dealers and food, beverages & tobacco in specialised stores. These are hugely important, contributing almost half of the total sales in the overall retail survey. General dealers experienced a 2.8% year-on-year reduction in sales, while specialised food stores saw a 6.2% contraction.

This is continuing the trend of purchasing smaller amounts of food at retail outlets monthly because of load-shedding. Consumers would rather buy takeaway food served hot than attempt to start cooking at home, just to be interrupted by power cuts.

As the severity of load-shedding has abated in recent weeks, it will be instructive to see if these two categories gain some respite.

As the catch-all category of “all other retailers” is a hodgepodge of disparate outlets, ranging from online, through second-hand stores, jewellery outlets to sports stores, it is pointless to attempt to draw any conclusions from its time series. BD

• Gilmour is an investment analyst.

UN Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook launches for communicators

The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook has been launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Fashion Charter for Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Co-published by UNEP and UN Climate Change, the Playbook provides a shared vision, principles and guidance on how to align consumer-facing communication across the global fashion industry with sustainability targets.

Rather than focus on the impacts of production, the Playbook focuses on how to move from overconsumption by diverting narratives on newness, immediacy and disposability.

The biggest way to do this is by shifting marketing – and, therefore, communication – strategies in favour of planet-friendly messaging.

Unsustainable patterns of consumption

Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production (particularly within the fashion industry) are a big factor in the planetary crisis.

In numbers, the fashion industry is considered to be responsible for two to eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while consuming 215 trillion litres of water each year and significantly polluting oceans (around nine percent of annual microplastic losses to the ocean come from clothes and other textiles), states Country & Town House.

The Paybook is the how and comes after the why, that is the UNFCCC that updated at the climate conference COP26 in November 2021, and a clause added committing signatories to shift communications in line with climate goals.

It applies to more than 100 signatories and 41 supporting organisations, including Kering, LVMH, Chanel, H&M Group and Puma, but the playbook is hoping for a much broader reach.

Aimed at consumer-facing communicators

The guide is aimed at consumer-facing communicators, covering a wide range of job roles, including marketing, branding and advertising; public relations, creative direction and visual media; event production, content or social media at brands and retailers; and those involved in the wider communication ecosystem.

This spans agencies, fashion and news media, image makers, digital platforms; entertainment properties, influencers, advocacy groups and educators.

Intended as an actionable guide, the playbook walks communicators through the process of narrative change, shifting from communications that promote a linear, take-make-waste model, towards a sustainable and circular system in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, something the UN is calling “1.5 ºC lifestyle.

It shows communicators how to take action through:

  1. Countering misinformation
  2. Reducing messages perpetuating overconsumption
  3. Redirecting aspiration to more sustainable lifestyles
  4. Empowering consumers to demand greater action from businesses and policymakers.

Shifting consumption patterns

It recognises the fashion sector as one of global importance, but one struggling to address its wide-reaching impacts, with unsustainable patterns of consumption and production contributing directly and significantly to the triple planetary crisis as well as the interlinked issue of social injustice.

While addressing production impacts is essential, doing so alone will not be sufficient to transform the industry in time.

Shifting consumption patterns must be a core priority, which means confronting the dominant linear economic model and its accompanying narrative of newness, immediacy and disposability.

The Playbook invites all fashion communicators to the table, emphasising for the first time in the sector the importance of the role of storytellers as enablers and drivers of systemic change.

The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook presents eight principles for communication change, detailed with practical guidance throughout, including lists of dos and don’ts for consideration, a short series of questions to use as a checklist against all work and case studies providing examples of best practice.

8 principles

  1. Lead with science

Ensure relevant information is clearly and transparently shared, providing an evidence-base that is verifiable and comparable while adhering to relevant regulatory policies.

    • Principle 1: Commit to evidence-based and transparent communication efforts
    • Principle 2: Ensure information is shared in a clear and accessible manner
  1. Change behaviours and practices

Show how consumers can enjoy fashion while living within the limitations of the planet and respecting human rights and dignity. Encourage lower impact options and circular solutions that normalise more sustainable behaviours.

    • Principle 3: Eradicate all messages encouraging overconsumption
    • Principle 4: Champion positive changes and demonstrate accessible circular solutions to help individuals live more sustainable lifestyles
  1. Reimagine values

Actively seek to separate the belief that consumption and ownership lead to happiness and success. Paint a picture of how positive new values can look when considering wellbeing, equity and community.

    • Principle 5: Spotlight new role models and notions of aspiration or success.
    • Principle 6: Focus on inclusive marketing and storytelling that celebrates the positive ecological, cultural and social values of fashion.
  1. Drive advocacy

Use your platform and influence to empower consumers in their role as citizens. Educate internally and externally on the level of change required, supporting dialogue with policymakers on a just transition towards a sustainable and circular global value chain.

    • Principle 7: Motivate and mobilise the public to advocate for broader change.
    • Principle 8: Support dialogue with leadership and policymakers to enable wider industry sustainability.

“Stories inform the way we understand ourselves, each other, and our place in the world,” says playbook author Rachel Arthur, advocacy lead for sustainable fashion at UNEP, as quoted in Vogue Business

“Fashion’s stories are currently directed towards a linear model of production and consumption. The industry’s dominant narratives will not allow us to reach our sustainability targets,”adds Arthur.

According to Vogue Business over 160 of these communicators took part in a year-long consultation process, highlighting challenges, case studies and solutions, which formed the basis of the Playbook.

For a long time, fashion communicators have managed to escape criticism for their role in supporting overproduction and promoting overconsumption.

Vogue Business also says that this is a timely response to industry-wide caution as international greenwashing investigations gain pace, and regulations around green claims are tightening up, from the US to the European Union, forcing brands to backtrack on their previous strategies and rethink communications.

UNEP will launch a masterclass series later in the year, to make the principles of the playbook more accessible to different groups of communicators.

Download the Playbook here     Bizcommunity

Victims of fashion

By Declan Gibbon

There are over 2 000 000 000 t-shirts sold every year.

From the number of t-shirts sold each year to the estimated number of trees cut down each year to make fabrics


The number of silkworms needed to produce 1kg of mulberry silk, one of the most sought-after luxury fabrics


The number of Marc Jacobs’s tattoos, including a couch, Sponge-Bob SquarePants, two South Park characters, and a red M&M.


The maximum length in centimetres of the mini-skirt, as it was defined as a child’s garment and so avoided a high sales tax. The mini-skirt was invented by iconic British designer Mary Quant in 1964 — she named it after the Mini car.


The percentage drop in the price of clothing since 1992. In the middle of the 20th century, families spent 11.5% of their income on clothing, as compared to the current 3.5%.


The year of the first official Fashion Week, held in New York. Its main purpose was to lure attention away from French fashion houses during World War 2.


The year the bikini was invented. It was subsequently banned in several countries after being declared a sin by the Vatican.

93 000 000 000

The cubic metres of water consumed by the fashion industry each year. It takes about 7.6m3 of water to make a pair of jeans, and 20% of global wastewater comes from textile dying.

2 000 000 000

The number of T-shirts sold yearly, with 18c of a €29 shirt (0.6%) going to the factory worker.


The percentage of clothing made by women between the ages of 18 and 24.

150 000 000

The estimated number of trees cut down each year to make fabrics.


The year that Comme des Garçons held its first fashion show in Paris, making it the first Japanese brand to show in the French capital.  

The South African Fashion Week Collections will officially run from October 19 through October 21 at the Mall of Africa. The AW24 Collections will feature both women and menswear, fashion fluid collections, and will be followed by the SAFW Trade Show/Showroom on October 22

The earliest needles are known to have existed 60,000 years ago. They were made of bones from birds and were found in South Africa. Other early bone and ivory needles were found in China, Slovenia, and Russia, dating back to between 45,000 and 30,000 years ago.


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