JOHANNESBURG – In a recent newspaper article on the emergence of a new South African fragrance industry, I was struck by the journalist’s assessment that “despite campaigns like Proudly South African and Local is Lekker, we haven’t been instinctively drawn to supporting local industries and businesses”.
Although we know from research that this is largely true, it remains a source of frustration among myself and colleagues and indeed some of our member companies, that local is sometimes overlooked in favour of imported goods that carry a certain perceived cachet or prestige for the local consumer.
We also know that there is a widely held perception that local is more expensive. When a locally produced item is justifiably in the upper price bracket of its category, consumers will claim that it is overpriced and that the local market cannot support such steep prices. But the fact is, there is money in South Africa, including for luxury consumer goods such as perfumes and other high-end items.
We know many people are suffering great economic hardship currently, but it is also true that there is still rampant consumerism in this country and although Black Friday purchases may prove to be down this November compared to previous years, we can be guaranteed to witness a consumer buying frenzy as retailers drastically reduce their prices on November 27.
It is worth considering that what local products have over imported ones is a sensitivity to South African shapes, sizes, palates, hair, skin and olfactory senses. The fragrance industry is utilising the beautiful botanicals available on the continent (as is the alcohol industry – see the many local aromatic gin blends on our shelves), and the local cosmetics sector has long been exploiting the abundant natural products that Africa offers.
After the TreSemme shampoo debacle, we saw an upswing in the demand for locally produced hair products for local hair (hair which I might add is entirely “normal” to us Africans!) We have a number of members that make quality and beautifully packaged products specifically for black skin and hair and we hope we will be able to entice the fragrance companies mentioned in the article I cited to join the buy local movement.
But in addition to sourcing local ingredients for their products, these local cosmetic and fragrance companies have a further advantage over imported goods. They are creators of jobs here in South Africa, both directly and indirectly. They have research and development teams and utilise local labs for testing as well as health and safety certification. They print labels locally and source the bottles, tubs and packaging here. They utilise local transportation companies to fetch and deliver orders and so on.
The festive season is almost upon us, and cosmetics and “smellies” are a traditional gift for both men and women. We are asking that your next skin care product, your next hair treatment, your next perfume purchase be one that is made locally here in South Africa.
Each product is made with Africa and Africans in mind, and so you may well find they suit you better than imported equivalents. They are also providing employment through an entire value chain. For both these reasons, local manufacturers deserve our support.
Please always check for labels of origin for “Made in” or a “Product of South Africa” and let’s stop ascribing to imported, foreign luxury goods qualities than our own home-produced goods already have in abundance.
Like Mafikizolo sing in their song, Best Thing, locally made products can be the best thing for you and for all of us to consider when buying luxury items.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.