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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

‘Traffic has been slow’: January has been quiet for most businesses

Entrepreneurs are feeling the pinch as consumers limit spending to get through the month.

Quiet aisles, shorter queues and fully stocked shelves have become a common sight among major retailers since the beginning of the year.

After the buzzing December rush, businesses are faced with an unsolicited break over the quiet month of ‘Januworry’.

Undoubtedly, there’s a shift in consumer preferences in the first month of the New Year. Many consumers splurged over the festive season, leaving money to spend on necessities.

Just like retailers, small businesses are also feeling the pinch – if not more.

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‘Traffic has been slow’

Speaking to The Citizen, Home of the Bean owner and manager, Leroy Kgopa, said customer traffic had been slow.

Based in Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg, the cafe reopened over a week ago after closing doors for the holiday period.

“This is our second week – we are experiencing good days and bad days since within these two weeks,” said Kgopa.

Kgopa said although traffic had picked up slightly this week, he anticipates a decline in the upcoming weeks leading to the end of January.

“That’s when [most] people are back to school and getting their lives together,” he said.

Asked if he was on track to reaching monthly targets, the entrepreneurs said it was hard to tell.

“It’s not easy to set targets because business can be busy today, and slow tomorrow,” he told The Citizen.

Kgopa said while business would likely improve towards the end of January, based on past experience, he anticipated things to only return to normal from mid-February.

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‘Business is cyclical’

Head of SME at First National Bank (FNB), Andiswa Bata said business is cyclical for most entrepreneurs. While some sectors may be experiencing slow sales and diminished revenue, others are booming.

“For example, January is a very busy month for school uniform and stationery providers, while it’s a quieter month for others,” Bata told The Citizen.

“The key is for entrepreneurs to understand their business cycle and when customers buy what, so they can match those buying patterns,” she added.

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Don’t chase the December high

Although it might be tempting to continue chasing the December high long after the festive season has passed, entrepreneurs should be careful not to overstretch themselves in pursuit of the victory of the festive season.

Bata said it’s crucial for business owners to understand their cashflow cycles, so they know when to save cash made during peaks, which may be used to create a buffer for slower months.

“Similarly, knowing what type of stock to hold at different times is important so your business isn’t carrying items that you have already paid for, but aren’t moving off the shelves,” she explained.

When it comes to securing year-round success, strategy is key. It’s important for entrepreneurs to diversify their offerings to cater for every season.

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Catering for all seasons

“Entrepreneurs need to know what their customers buy and what they want so that they are well equipped for all months of the year,” Bata said.

“Fewer people buy jackets and boots in summer, so if you’re a fashion retailer, it might make sense to hold less stock of these items in summertime and you might need to offer these items on sale or discount during that time,” she added.

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