File photo: INLSA

JOHANNESBURG - Deeply indebted consumers should think long and hard before plunging themselves even deeper into debt by splurging on luxury goods on Black Friday.

Neil Roets, CEO of one of South Africa’s largest debt counselling companies, Debt Rescue, said often deals offered by major retailers seemed so good that consumers threw caution to the wind and blew their entire Christmas budget of single expensive items such as high-end TVs and other domestic appliances.

“Taking place on Friday November 24, many retailers and online shops such have promised deals that would tempt even the most financially distressed amongst us. The short answer is – don’t. For the past several years we have seen the impact that Black Friday and Christmas shopping sprees have had on consumers when they approached us to try and get them out from under the financial mess that reckless spending has caused. Retailers who are themselves in deep trouble because of the contracting economy have come up with a host of clever ideas to tempt consumers to open their wallets and purses which is how the idea of Black Friday was born."

Roets said that Black Friday was initially slow to take off when the idea was imported to South Africa by online retailer Takealot. Once it took hold he said that it took off like a rocket ship and many traders are now notching up a significant portion of their yearly sales on this day and over the Christmas holidays.

File Picture: Bongani Mbatha

Roets said many consumers had also developed a degree of resentment believing that they had been pulling in their collected belt for so long that they needed a break and that Black Friday would be the ideal opportunity to splurge on something nice.

“We are far from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It is our belief and many leading economists share that belief that we are far from staging a recovery.

“In short, it is my belief that things are going to get a lot tougher before they get better. Now is not the time to act recklessly. On the contrary – it is more important now than ever before to implement fiscal discipline and save whatever money is left over at the end of the month. Buy only what is absolutely necessary. While we all feel that we desperately need a holiday and the end of a brutal year, keep those holidays within budget and don’t think that if you don’t have the money for school fees in December that the money will somehow, magically become available in January when the schools reopen,” Roets said.

He pointed out than half of all South Africans were three months or more behind in their repayments having collectively notched up some R1,71-trillion in debt (latest National Credit Regulator stats).

“We are in the midst of an exceptionally difficult economic cycle where the prices of everything is skyrocketing with salaries and wages in many cases remaining static. January is for many consumers the longest month of the year because many were paid earlier than usual . Many South Africans were also the recipients of a 13th cheque which created a false sense of financial security."

“January is also when we see a sudden influx of distressed consumers who have reached the end of their financial tether and who have debt collectors knocking on their doors. Fortunately the debt review process offers hope in that it allows them to repay their debts in smaller amounts over a longer period of time and sometimes even at a discount,” Roets concluded. 

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE