Technology

Recovery in vehicle trips in Bloemfontein masks suppressed economic activity

Joe Spring, Head of Location and Commerce, Lightstone

Vehicle trips in and around Bloemfontein in October 2021 recovered to 2019 levels – but while this telemetry activity volume has fully recovered to pre Covid-19 levels, its composition has changed considerably. 

This is according to Lightstone, a provider of comprehensive data, analytics and systems on property, automotive and business assets.

Lightstone’s Head of Location and Commerce, Joe Spring says, “Passenger vehicle activity is slightly up, commercial vehicle activity is slightly down, while commuter vehicle activity is substantially down, suggesting economic activity is supressed.”

Spring says Lightstone’s access into anonymised, aggregated telemetry insights allows “us to build an understanding of how different towns are recovering post Covid-19, and we track telemetry activity at 85% of Bloemfontein’s malls”.

In October 2021, when there was minimal lockdown disruption and the recording of data was outside of the volatile December to January period, we saw that while retail activity was still depressed, it compared favourably to other parts of the country.

Bloemfontein (excluding adjacent Mangaung) is home to only 0.5% (210 000 adults) of South Africa‘s population and receives 1% of the country’s telemetry activity with an estimated 137 million trips1 stopping in the town annually –  in total, locals and inflow combined. This overall activity has recovered to pre-Covid levels.

Importantly, says Spring, the proportion coming from local activity (people going about their daily business) has increased by ten percentage points – a combination of the at home population not venturing out and the rest of SA not venturing in – and while this would result in the town retaining more of the local population’s spend (largely retail based) it will probably not offset the lost inflow on other items (fuel, tourism, etc and a smaller component of retail).

“Smaller Bloemfontein malls already had a greater share of the town’s general retail behaviour than other parts of South Africa pre-Covid, and so the town has not seen the degree of swing from larger to smaller convenience centres as seen in the rest of the country”, Spring says.

Bloemfontein has over 30 shopping centres with a combined area of about 450 000 square meters. That equates to roughly 2.5 sqm per household with the Mangaung population factored in, since residents use the Bloemfontein infrastructure. “In fact, Lemo Mall, the main mall serving Mangaung, is located just within Bloemfontein’s boundary,” says Spring.

This 2.5 sqm of mall space per household is the same as seen across the City of Johannesburg municipality (with its 4.7 million square meters of mall space across 300+ malls and 1.85 million households), emphasising Bloemfontein’s metropolis status as opposed to town status.

1 A trip is recorded based on a vehicle being switched on and then off with more than two minutes between the on and the off. Example: each leg of a journey is recorded as a separate trip with a round journey back home to drop kids at school with a petrol refill en-route recorded as three trips (home to school / school to petrol station / petrol station home) assuming one switches off in the school car park and is not just idle in a drop-off zone.







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