Results from a recent survey conducted by Debt Rescue reflect the desperate financial situation most South Africans find themselves in as the year draws to a close, with a staggering 84% of consumers stating that they will be bargain-hunting for everyday necessities like food and toiletries over the Black Friday retail event. 56% will be looking for good deals on clothing items and 27% will spend on tech and electronics – most likely on equipment to help consumers navigate the country’s load shedding crisis.
While 74% of South Africans say they will participate in Black Friday this year – but only if the price is right - their motivation is very different from bygone years when consumers engaged in wild shopping sprees for luxury goods and expensive gifts. While inflation and record high living costs have spiked consumer demand to participate in the bargain hunt that is Black Friday, the focus will be on deals that will put more food on the table and help families to stock up on toiletries and necessary clothing items.
CEO of Debt Rescue Neil Roets says that the scenario this year reflects the real financial state of South African households, who are hanging on by a thin thread.
“People have had to ride the wave of relentless cost-of-living increases to make it through 2022, and all indications are that they will be taking a far more responsible and planned approach towards Black Friday deals this year,” he asserts.
“Consumers seem to know what they want, and what they are willing to pay for it. This is very similar to the trend that has been shaping Black Friday for the past two years. The historic chaos of preceding years has shifted into a much more controlled approach, because people now need to turn every cent over twice. There is simply no more room to manoeuvre when it comes to their finances, and the looming petrol price increase in December could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” he warns.
Of close to 5000 people who participated in the Debt Rescue Black Friday poll, 62% stated that they plan to spend less this Black Friday compared to last year, with 52% planning to spend under R1000.
An interesting insight from the survey is that 77% of people intend to pay using cash rather than swiping their credit cards. This could mean one of two things – either people have over-extended their credit, or they are simply not willing to get into any more debt, no matter how appealing the purchase may seem.
Conversely, local brands are taking a much more pragmatic approach to the retail holiday this year, choosing to play the long game with better planning and a more niched focus. But, with inflationary pressures and a more selective consumer, SA retailers will have to fight for every sale.
Professor Carel van Aardt, research director at the Bureau of Market Research (BMR), concurs: “With a stagnating economy, rampant unemployment and rising inflation, the Black Friday period this year is about shopping for survival. With bleak economic prospects, we can expect to see consumers stock up on necessities rather than splashing out on luxuries for themselves or buying early Christmas presents for their loved ones.
The hot sellers this year – apart from groceries in bulk – are likely to include gadgets and equipment to help consumers navigate the load shedding crisis. In an environment of poor consumer confidence and weak discretionary income, we can also expect to see consumers trade down from expensive brands and products to white label brands and more affordable substitutes.”
Roets says that brands need to tailor their deals to a far more savvy consumer this year. “People are only going to spend where they are convinced that they will make a meaningful saving, so brands will have to apply every value-add they can to lure customers this year.”
He says the reality is that the combined pressure of consistent cost-of-living increases, the impact of ongoing load shedding and income simply not being adjusted to inflation, has pushed South Africans to the edge of a steep cliff, financially. Far too many people are drowning in debt that they cannot pay off. Even though many might be tempted to indulge in retail therapy and present buying after a very tough year, they will think twice before parting with their money.
“My advice to those who find themselves in a debt trap is to seek help from a registered debt counsellor who can assist them to manage their financial predicament. This has been a very successful solution for thousands of consumers who are plagued by over-indebtedness,” Roets concludes.