Load shedding boon for Linden shop

There are few things better for business at Archie Milicevic’s shop than a power blackout.

His store named Yugo, in Linden suburb in Johannesburg, stocks candles, candlestick holders and kerosene lamps and is attracting as many as three times more customers since state-owned utility Eskom started regular, scheduled power cuts, known as load shedding, more than six months ago.

The first prolonged outages since 2008 are prompting companies including McDonald’s and Vodacom Group to invest in generators for electricity.

“I’m an old guy with an old store so I’m not really affected by the power cuts,” he said, sitting behind a counter in his general store in Johannesburg as the smell of kerosene hung in the air. “There’s always natural light because I’m only at work till 6 o’clock, so I can use my calculator during load shedding hours.”

Milicevic, 70, is a rare winner of the rolling blackouts that have hit Africa’s most-industrialised economy almost daily since the start of April and are likely to persist for at least another two years. Eskom, which supplies about 95% of the country’s electricity, can’t meet demand from its aging plants and began rationing power in November, forcing businesses to shut doors and causing traffic congestion.

The outages, though, are boosting sales of generators, solar lights and gas stoves.

“Generator sales have more than doubled over the past year,” Annaleigh Vallie, a spokesperson for Massmart Holdings, the South African retailer owned by Wal-Mart Stores, said in an emailed response to questions. “We have been working around the clock to keep up with demand and bringing in stock regularly.”

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