The biggest players in South Africa’s retail industry

Following the recent release of its latest retail trade sales publication, Statistics South Africa has compiled a new fact sheet focusing on the biggest aspects of the retail industry.

According to the report, the industry generated R1 trillion in sales in 2017 – translating to about R31,900 spent per second across the industry over the course of the year.

“Consumers weren’t shy to spend a little more in 2017 than they did in 2016,” Stats SA said

“Spending on retail was up by 2.9% in 2017 compared with 2016 in volume terms (constant prices), higher than the 1.7% annual growth recorded in 2016, but lower than the 3.3% in 2015,” it said.

According to Stats SA, stores specialising in food and beverages had particular reason to smile.

They saw their sales rise by 5.0% in 2017, the second largest annual growth rate recorded across various store types, after the miscellaneous ‘all other retailers’ category. Hardware stores, however, saw a decline in sales.

Despite general dealers experiencing lacklustre growth of only 1.1% in 2017, they dominated the industry in terms of sales value. For every R100 that consumers spent at retail stores in 2017, R44 was spent at general dealers, which includes supermarkets.

The second largest contributor was stores specialising in clothing and textiles, contributing R18 for every R100 of total sales.

Spending money

Looking at slightly older data, a detailed list of products shows meat as the most popular commodity in the retail trade industry, contributing 8.1% to total sales income in 2014/15.

Pharmaceutical goods and female clothing were the second and third most popular products with 5.4% and 5.0% of total sales respectively.

The top eleven products that contributed half of total sales income are shown below.


In 2014/15, over one-third of the 812,104 individuals working in retail were employed in non-specialised stores (such as supermarkets). Clothing stores were second, employing 23% of the retail workforce.

Unsurprisingly these non-specialised stores have the highest number of employees but the lowest salaries.

The average annual salary for a person working in a non-specialised store was R66,044 in 2014/15, lower than the average of R93,632 for the entire retail trade industry.

Employees in the pharmaceutical industry are by far the highest earners with an average salary of R156,107.

Read: How much it costs to open the 10 most popular fast food franchises in South Africa

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The biggest players in South Africa’s retail industry