Businesses’ dark days

2014-12-09 00:00

SMALL businesses across the province are feeling the pinch as Eskom’s rolling blackouts continue.

Over and above the interruptions in homes across the city, industries and businesses have taken steps to keep production at optimum levels while combatting the latest power crisis.

Eskom announced at the weekend that they would implement a Stage 3 load-shedding schedule as the national power grid flagged.

CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business Melanie Veness said constant load shedding is wreaking havoc on all businesses.

“Small businesses rely heavily on every working hour to make ends meet, the services sector cannot function without power and large industry cannot use generators to run. So whether you’re a retailer unable to process sales because your card machine won’t work without electricity, or a factory owner facing the impossible task of powering your plant up and down twice a day, the costs are stacking up,” she said.

At a press conference yesterday, the national power supplier said that scheduled blackouts would continue into the new year.

Liberty Midlands Mall marketing assistant Phumzile Zulu said centre management has put in place measures to ensure as little disruption for shoppers as possible. “Our mall has generators which take effect almost immediately after the electricity has been cut and are able to run for the duration of the load shedding period. Because we realise the importance of our generators, regular maintenance and tests are carried out to ensure their efficiency and as a result our shoppers can continue to enjoy the mall’s offerings, despite the electricity cuts,” she said.

The manager of a local Nando’s outlet said that load shedding is a massive problem for them as they do not have a generator, resulting in their sales dropping drastically every time they have to close for two hours. According to him, their branch redirects customers to other Nando’s outlets nearby that have electricity.

Tiger Wheel and Tyre manager Gregory Lawson said they were thankful to have a generator but load shedding still has a knock-on effect on business.

Traffic build-up around the store prevents their customers from driving into the workshop.

However, according to Lawson, the generator costs huge amounts of money to run. “We can’t ordinarily charge one price for changing a tyre, then tell the customer we are charging them more because they have come in during load shedding,” Lawson said. “The running costs increase because it is extremely expensive to run a diesel generator.”

Lawson said R1 000 worth of diesel only lasts for two load-shedding sessions.

The owner of the Barn Restaurant in the Hilton said they had created a special load-shedding menu.

“We have gas cookers so we are able to make some foods but aren’t able to make some of our favourites. Load shedding is having an adverse effect on business, but we aren’t able to pay for a generator,” he said.

Akbar Moosa from the Willowton Group said they were fully operational because they had a generator, but said they were feeling the pinch from the high cost of diesel.

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