The retail bonanza of Black Friday has traditionally been the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – The retail bonanza of Black Friday has traditionally been the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US. 

The day occurs on the fourth Friday of November following Thanksgiving Thursday. The ‘black’ refers to turning a profit, that is, retailers making profits as opposed to being in the ‘red’. 

Black Friday has been a North American shopping event since the middle of the previous century. Starting in Philadelphia in the 1950s, city authorities referred to Black Friday as the day that scores of shoppers swamped Philadelphia’s shops after Thanksgiving and ahead of the annual Army-Navy football game held during the subsequent weekend.

South African retailers Takealot and Checkers both claim to have debuted the concept of Black Friday in South Africa in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Takealot is generally regarded as the local pioneer of online Black Friday, with Checkers being the first to do so in brick-and-mortar format. 

Irrespective of its domestic origins, Black Friday is a cash cow for local retailers. BankservAfrica recorded R2.5 billion worth of transactions on Black Friday in 2017. The 4.7 million card transactions that it cleared on the Friday were double the daily average. 

In line with this data, Nielsen found that Black Friday resulted in a sales boost of more than R1.3 billion in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. On a broader scale, data from Facebook indicates that Black Friday is the busiest online shopping day in South Africa. Survey data shows that nearly nine out of 10 South Africans know what Black Friday is.

Black Friday is different from other seasonal sales that aim to sell old stock: this promotion is about selling high volumes of in-demand products. As a result, market and consumer information company GfK South Africa again expects good growth in Black Friday retail sales this year.

As of Monday, November 19, local digital marketing specialists Nichemarket were listing confirmed Black Friday promotions by 278 goods and services companies across 26 spending categories.

Content supplied by PwC Strategy& economists Lullu Krugel, Christie Viljoen and Maura Feddersen with contributions from Nina Kirsten and Genevieve Frydman.