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Ukamba lufuza imbiza

The clay drinking pot takes after the large brewing pot. We inherit our culture.

Heritage Day is a homegrown celebration of South Africa’s rich cultural diversity. For this reason, it is challenging to run coherent promotions that tap into the occasion. But some brands and retailers are getting it right.

South Africa is a country of many public holidays: religious holidays and historical ones, some of which have been repurposed into occasions for the promotion of national unity. Perhaps the most beloved of these is Heritage Day, known by many as National Braai Day, after the meal which unites us all as a nation, yet also expresses our incredible cultural – and culinary – diversity. Whatever the name, the great South African braai or shisa nyama remains a focus of the day – and the focus of retailers providing shoppers with everything they need to make the celebration a special one.

According to Eugene Ronne, Group Merchandise Director for SPAR, Heritage Day usually sees an uptick in sales, particularly if it falls on a weekend or becomes incorporated into a long weekend. At SPAR, the top performing categories in the days leading up to the occasion are braai, butchery, snacking, cold refreshments, and liquor through TOPS. This year the business is running Braai and Gardening campaigns – appealing to people who wish to celebrate Heritage Day in the traditional away, and those who remain homebound as a result of COVID-19. The welcome news that the country is now on Level 1 lockdown, enabling fairly large social gatherings, could be good for business though.  “As Covid alert levels lift there will be more socialising and thus a bigger offtake,” says Ronne.

However, getting Heritage Day right can be challenging. Marketing guru Chris Moerdyk believes that the holiday lacks the commercial potential of other occasions, precisely because of our diversity. “It’s far too complicated for marketers to get their heads around Heritage Day. And it’s impossible to have advertising which focusses on all of them (heritages),” he says. Natasha Smith, MD of Trade Intelligence, does not see this challenge as insurmountable. “Heritage Day is an opportunity for retailers to really embrace our unique national culture,” she says. “It allows them to have some fun with promotions across categories, from outdoor furniture to staple foods, and to partner on activities with some of our iconic homegrown brands.”

Another retailer making the most of the occasion is Shoprite Checkers, which runs its annual Championship Boerewors competition to coincide with the holiday. This year’s winner was 18-year-old student Jasper Delano, whose mother won the contest two years ago. Boerewors made according to his recipe is already in the fridges in Shoprite and Checkers stores around the country and ready to go on the coals on Heritage Day. Massmart’s Makro has also taken its Heritage Day promotions to the next level, with markdowns on the basics like charcoal but also on high-ticket items like Weber Gas Grills. 

Writing in Kasinomics, GG Alcock sees culture – of which the celebration of events like Heritage Day is an expression – as a durable and adaptable aspect of South African life. “The success of marketing lies in understanding that culture evolves, yet is retained,” he says. “This is true particularly in diverse societies like those in South Africa.” Heritage Day itself is evolving – and with it the response of our brands and retailers.


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