FILE- In this Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, file photo shoppers wait in line for Apple iPhone purchases during a Black Friday sale at a Target store in Newport, Ky. On Thursday, Nov. 29, the Conference Board releases its November index on U.S. consumer confidence. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
CAPE TOWN - South African consumers, faced with increased economic and financial hurdles, are set to tighten their belts further this period after an analysis issued yesterday by PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC’s) Strategy and economists on Black Friday sales found that electronic funds transfer (EFT) transactions had decreased by almost 20 percent from the previous year.

According to the analysis, two in three South Africans participated in this year’s Black Friday, an increase from a 54percent rate last year, while from an online perspective BankservAfrica counted more than 400000 sales transactions, recording a 55percent increase compared to last year.

Similarly, Cyber Monday sales transactions increased by 36percent this year to 176595.

However, in contrast, EFT transaction values decreased by 19percent, according to retail management platform Vend, which reported that in-store retail spending in South Africa over this year’s Black Friday shopping period decreased by 10percent compared to last year, while volumes also saw a decrease of 2percent.

According to last week’s StatsSA announcement, South Africa’s economy had exited the technical recession in the third quarter following a GDP growth increase of 2.2percent quarter-on-quarter while the household final consumption expenditure also increased in the third quarter, rising by 1.6percent quarter-on-quarter.

However, according to the PwC analysis, it remains to be seen whether the recovery in household spending will boost Christmas shopping sales, as retailers are faced with a South African consumer that remains under pressure.

Ian Wason, the chief executive of the Intelligent Debt Management (IDM) Group, comprising DebtBusters and Consumer Debt Help, two national debt counsellors, said the group had seen an increase for debt assistance over the past three months.

“From September this year, we’ve been experiencing an unusual spike in debt management enquiries, up to 20 percent more than last year this time,” said Wason.

He added that even though retailers were already gearing up to showcase their festive campaigns, consumers may be more likely to turn to debt management services for help, which could impact retail spend significantly.

“The IDM Group is used to seeing a spike in debt assistance enquiries after the festive season, but the spike has come prematurely this year, and may continue to do so. It is very important that consumers do not become desensitised to their personal finances during the festive season. To avoid the end-of-year and especially New Year money blues, it is important for consumers to take the appropriate measures in order to remain in control of their finances,” said Wason.

Jimmy Golele, the acting manager for education and communication at the National Credit Regulator, said this year had been a difficult year for some people, as South Africa has seen fuel price hikes, VAT increases, interest rate increases and electricity increases making the cost of living very difficult for consumers, while the total outstanding gross debtors book for consumer credit was R1.8trillion as of June this year.

“We are advising consumers to be cautious in their spending during this festive season and only spend what they can afford,” said Golele.

When spending, consumers should think about the new year. “The new year comes with its own expenses such as school uniforms, school registration fees, transport costs and many other costs,” he said.