The holiday season in South Africa is all about engaging in the festive spirit, shopping, and spending quality time with loved ones. In this article, we delve into the shopping habits of South Africans during Christmas by analysing key consumer insights from a Yourview poll. These habits include:

  1. Combination of online and in-store shopping (55.4%)
  2. In-store shopping (53%)
  3. Early planning (42.8%)
  4. Gift cards and vouchers (34.1%)
  5. Online shopping (30.5%)
  6. Local brands (24.1%)
  7. Traditional markets (18.2%)
  8. DIY gifts (12.3%)
  9. Communal buying (stokvels) (10.5%)

How do you prefer to shop during the Christmas season in South Africa?

Combination of Online and In-Store Shopping (55.4%)

South Africans commonly integrate both online and in-store shopping to strike the right balance between convenience and festive atmosphere. This approach offers consumers the benefits of competitive pricing and an exciting, traditional shopping experience.

In-Store Shopping (53%)

Many South African consumers relish the festive atmosphere and prefer to shop for Christmas gifts and decorations in physical stores. In-store shopping allows for immediate satisfaction and the opportunity to see, feel, and try out products before purchasing.

Early Planning (42.8%)

Some South Africans like to plan their Christmas shopping in advance to avoid last-minute stress. Early shopping enables them to find the best deals, secure preferred items before they sell out, and bypass the chaos and long queues that come with shopping closer to the holiday.

Gift Cards and Vouchers (34.1%)

Gift cards and vouchers are increasingly popular among South Africans, as they offer a more flexible and personalised gifting experience. By allowing recipients to choose their own gifts, consumers can add a personal touch, tapping into individual preferences and tastes.

Online Shopping (30.5%)

A significant portion of South African holiday shoppers appreciate the convenience of online shopping, especially during the busy Christmas season. The benefits of online shopping include broader product ranges, the ability to compare prices, and a range of delivery options.

Local Brands (24.1%)

Many South African consumers prioritise supporting local brands during their Christmas shopping. Local purchases not only help nurture homegrown businesses and the economy, but they also encourage pride and unique cultural experiences. For instance, the ultimate South African Christmas shopping list includes local delicacies and items made by South African artisans.

Traditional Markets (18.2%)

South Africa’s traditional markets remain a go-to shopping destination for unique and handmade Christmas gifts. These markets provide an authentic shopping experience while showcasing local talent and creativity.

DIY Gifts (12.3%)

A considerable number of South Africans prefer creating their own presents. DIY gifts foster a heartfelt, personalised touch—sometimes a more meaningful gesture than store-bought products. Such gifts can also help create memorable bonding experiences and potentially save money.

Communal Buying (Stokvels) (10.5%)

Communal buying, or stokvels, is a long-standing practice in South Africa. As a collective savings scheme, stokvels empower communities to save and spend together, making Christmas purchases more affordable and accessible. Members contribute money throughout the year and use these pooled funds to buy gifts and groceries during the festive season.

Consumer Budgets and Financial Strains

According to research by Wonga SA, South Africans aged between 18 and 65 are reportedly spending an average amount of R5,706 each during the holiday season, contributing an estimated R204 billion to the economy. The Festive Spending Survey provides further insights on these holiday spending habits.

Budgets and Financial Strain

Understandably, 76% of the respondents claimed to overspend during the festive season. Food and drink are the main culprits causing the most significant financial strain, with an average spend of R2,174. Travel expenses, including standard commuting or holiday trips, were next in line with an average cost of R1,633, followed by gifts at R1,232 and entertainment at R667.

Due to the high level of expenditure, budgeting is essential to avoid financial hardship in the new year. A majority of respondents (50%) reported a reliance on a thirteenth cheque or end-of-year bonus, while others managed the December spending saving throughout the year (37%) or by contributing to a stokvel (25%). However, a small percentage (18%) expressed the need to borrow money from credit providers to cover extra costs.

Gifting and Shopping Trends

Around 70% of respondents admitted that they planned on buying Christmas presents during the festive season. The majority of these gifts (98%) were destined for family members, and despite the growing popularity of online shopping, traditional brick-and-mortar shops remained the preferred shopping destination. 

Interestingly, most people seemed to desire money (32%) or vouchers (27%) as gifts, possibly to alleviate the financial pressure that this season implies.

Festive Celebrations

A surprising insight from the survey revealed only 19% of respondents claimed to practise religious traditions during the festive season. Most celebrated the holidays with family and friends; the preferred method (71%) being a traditional South African braai.

In consideration of these findings, Taryn Schmidt, Chief Marketing Officer at Wonga SA, advises caution during festive spending, emphasising the need for South Africans to maintain a strong financial footing as they transition into the new year.


The festive shopping scene in South Africa is an exciting mix of brick-and-mortar fun and digital convenience. The vibrancy of local brands, charm of traditional markets, and warmth of communal buying avenues like stokvels illuminate the wide reach of cultural ties beyond the commercial aspects of the season. 

On the flip side, the Wonga Festive Spending Survey highlights that, for many South Africans, the season can, unfortunately, bring about financial pressure, emphasising the undeniable need for sensible budgeting and spending habits. But at the end of the day, South Africans always make the season about more than just presents – it’s about fostering relationships, supporting home-grown businesses and diving head-first into beloved traditional festivities. 

Now, it’s up to both shoppers and merchants to grasp this dynamic market atmosphere, anchoring emphasis on money-smart holiday spending, with the aim to preserve the economically balanced, merry and culturally rich charm of South Africa’s festive season.