With many online shoppers anxious about the reliability of delivery, it's the safe way to go. Photo: File

JOHANNESBURG – Last week, we officially launched our Festive Season Buy Local Campaign, an annual focus on consumer spending over the silly season. 

Every year between November and January, South Africa experiences a massive spike in retail sales as our year-end heralds a 13th cheque or bonus (for the lucky ones), a long summer break and all the festivities and gift-giving around Christmas. Then, in January, we look forward to a new academic year, when our kids who have grown centimetres over the holidays need new uniforms, shoes and all the other accessories associated with going back to school. 

Add Black Friday into the mix and you have the perfect storm for a huge increase in consumer spending. Only five years ago, Black Friday meant nothing to us in South Africa, but like Halloween, a US import, we seem to have embraced it wholeheartedly. It now has a significant impact on our retail landscape. 

Around 66 percent of South Africans are expected to spend an average of R1 600 or more on Black Friday bargains, and if the discounts on high price ticket items are anything to go by, many will spend much more.

Despite South Africans having reportedly cut back on spending during the year on, among other things, takeaway meals, out-of-home entertainment and new clothes, we are set to see a spending bonanza starting this week. 

Planning for Black Friday seems to be well under way, with people reducing their credit card limits during the year, but applying for a credit increase in the run-up to a spending frenzy. Leave days have been booked for Friday to take full advantage of the bargains on offer. 

In this short three-month period between now and January, according to one credit card company’s research, sales of toys, clothing and electronic goods rise by as much as 51 percent, home wear by 41 percent and grocery spend by 40 percent. 

As for e-commerce, 70 percent of all South Africans who are online are active online shoppers. This year online sales are expected to top R45 billion, a whopping 19 percent increase over last year (and times are meant to be tough?).

Of course, there is still a massive number of those online transactions that are cross-border, with the lion’s share of orders going to the US, followed by China and the UK. 

Despite looking outside our borders for their online fix, as many as 30 percent of online shoppers are anxious about the reliability of delivery and 24 percent are concerned that if the product doesn’t suit or fit, the returns process is complex and potentially expensive.

One way to allay those fears is to shop locally – whether in a real or virtual store – and to buy locally-made products that are delivered from local distribution centres.

We are urging South Africans – starting with Black Friday and then on through November, December and January and beyond – to make a significant change in their spending habits and to buy Proudly South African or at least Made in South Africa products. 

This seasonal spending alone equates to literally billions of rand, which if harnessed for buying locally produced and manufactured goods could represent many jobs retained and others created.

The best gift we could give millions of South Africans, who make up the 27.5 percent unemployed, is literally a job. 

If we channel our spend to products and services made in South Africa we might be able to make this a reality for at least some.

In the run up to the madness that is Black Friday, there is only one song I could choose this week, and that is the immensely popular Malwedhe also known as Idibala by King Monada. 

I am sure some of the bargains out there and the crush of the crowds will be enough to make shoppers faint for real!

Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Independent Media.

BUSINESS REPORT