Electric blanket
(Getty Images)
  • Johannesburg's minimum temperature recently dropped to -7°C, beating a record low recorded in 1995.
  • Bitterly cold conditions have driven a surge in demand for heating equipment, including electric blankets.
  • At least one major retailer sold out of electric blankets in record time.
  • Another reported that demand had increased by more than 250%, with only 1,500 electric blankets still available in Gauteng.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Johannesburg residents are struggling to find electric blankets as major retailers report a surge in demand for heating tools of every kind. At least one retailer says it’s the worst shortage on record.

South Africa is experiencing a bitterly cold winter season. At least 19 new low temperature records were set on 22 and 23 July, according to the South African Weather Service (Saws). Johannesburg's lowest minimum temperature recently dropped to -7°C, beating the last record low of -6.3°C in 1995.

And although July is Johannesburg's coldest month of the year, average minimum temperatures in August have traditionally remained below 6°C, prolonging the winter's single-digit lows until late-September.

Johannesburg's record-breaking low temperatures have seen a surge in demand for electric blankets in particular. Retailers are running out of stock and those that have already sold out are unlikely to resupply.

"From opening price point blankets to electric blankets and hot water bottles, the past three weeks in particular showed a significant surge in demand," Kerry Strauss, the marketing director of Mr Price Home, told Business Insider South Africa.

"We are sold out of electric blankets. There may be one or two here and there in remote locations, but technically speaking, we have sold all the stock brought into the business for Winter 21. As our electric blankets are not manufactured locally, and with the recent port closures and impact on flow of stock, we will not be back in stock for at least 12 weeks, by which time Spring will be well and truly underway."

Strauss added that this year was the first that Mr Price Home's electric blanket stock had been completely sold out before August.

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Other retailers report a similar mad dash to buy electric blankets, coinciding with Johannesburg's low temperatures recorded over the past week.

"There was a huge spike in demand last week [19 to 25 July] for items such as electric blankets, heaters, and hot water bottles, with some items experiencing growth in excess of 250%," Rachel Wrigglesworth, Clicks' chief commercial officer, told Business Insider SA.

"We still have approximately 1,500 electric blankets in stock in stores across Gauteng. Heaters and electric blankets are seasonal items, and we will not be ordering any further stock of these items for the remainder of the season."

And while the cold weather has undoubtedly played a major role in driving demand for heating appliances, Dis-Chem says that disruptions in the shipping sector have also led to some supply constraints.

"While the recent cold weather may have contributed to a surge in demand for electric blankets and other winter products, this is a fairly complex category, with several other factors influencing supply and demand," Saul Saltzman, Dis-Chem's executive director, told Business Insider SA.

"Each winter has its cold spells, and we see sales from April onwards as customers purchase in anticipation of cold weather. We have also felt the impact of shipping routes and the global shortage of shipping containers which impacted our suppliers who experienced a materials shortage."

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