Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has not had it easy lately, after his MTBPS in October. Photo: Supplied/GCIS

CAPE TOWN – Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has not had it easy lately, after his Medium-term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in October, which laid out a rather depressing outlook for the South African economy.

The National Treasury’s growth forecast for the South African economy is 0.5 percent in 2019 and 1.5 percent next year. The SA Reserve Bank, the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank have made similar predictions.

Matthew Leighton, spokesperson at South African e-tailer said amid a more-than-tricky economy and having to walk the tight rope, Mboweni was caught between a rock and a very hard place that was about to get tighter with Black Friday inspired employee procrastination.

“While the minister probably has bigger fish to fry than South Africans avoiding spreadsheets in favour of scooping a deal on Samsung’s latest flat screen – Black Friday undoubtedly affects employees’ focus at work,” said Leighton.

Economists at PwC Strategy& said for companies of all sizes, the risk of website downtime, stock shortages and a lack of capacity at call centres were also real risks during the Black Friday week.

While it started as a post-Thanksgiving blowout sale by US retailers, Black Friday has become one of the most significant calendar days for consumers and the retail industry globally. “The proof is in the stats. Last year, we recorded over 150 000 website users on Black Friday alone – the average on a regular day is around 60 000 and on a high traffic day such as payday its approximately 80 000,” said Leighton.

Black Friday is also seen as an opportunity to stimulate sales in December. The November event drives visits and footfall at online and brick-and-mortar shops that expose consumers to the products available in these facilities, according to PwC Strategy&.

So the demand is clearly there, but are people actually doing the bulk of their Black Friday buying while they should be working?

Leighton said the average user session was three times longer on Black Friday than any other day. “In addition to spending longer on the site on Black Friday, customers also return many times during the day so these longer sessions happen numerous times during the workday.”

Leighton said to add to Mboweni’s woes, people were also multi-screening their buying efforts by watching social platforms for tips and prompts. 

“Most online retailers worth their salt share prompts on social feeds to drive traffic to their websites. Last year, each time we announced via social that a 100 percent off deal was available … almost instantly, the web traffic would spike. The pattern shows how closely people keep an eye on the 100 percent off deal drops via social media, as well as how effectively the platforms cater to a very wide audience in real-time,” he said.

But while Black Friday may result in the odd deadline being missed, Leighton believed the overall impact on the economy was a positive one. 

“Last year we saw people spending in the region of R1 300 on Black Friday, compared to an average of R970 on other days. According to BankservAfrica, South Africans’ card transactions came up to R3bn on the day last year, up 16 percent from 2017. That’s a nice injection into an otherwise depressed retail sector,” said Leighton.

BankservAfrica Economic Transaction Index said on Wednesday that the slight monthly pick-up for economic transactions in October provided a glimmer of hope for the South African economy. 

This improvement could potentially continue into Black Friday.