Cape Town - Retailers across the country are bracing themselves for a frenzied rush to their stores on Friday for the so-called Black Friday discount bonanza.
Most are unpacking additional stock, hiring extra staff and security in anticipation of a buying mob descending from the early hours.
Retailers like Pick 'n Pay, Shoprite, Checkers, Makro and Game are expecting thousands of consumers, and are ready with crowd control measures to prevent incidents such as last year’s Woolworths door fight.
The Shoprite group’s spokesperson, Patti Quinton, said extensive planning for Black Friday commenced months in advance so that Shoprite and Checkers could help its customers.
Quinton said all tills were fully operational and additional security had been employed to help with crowd control, to maintain orderly queues both inside and outside the stores. Doors will also be temporarily closed when the maximum number of customers are inside.
Pick 'n Pay added that they had made special arrangements to receive more stock than before, and had increased their support team to help move and unpack products as fast as they could. Mike Cotterell, general manager for Online and Mobile, said its website had implemented additional measures to manage orders.
“We will be able to scale our online infrastructure in real time as visitor volumes require, so that our customers have an uninterrupted Black Friday online shopping experience. The safety of our customers is always important to us. We have taken extra precautions in stores where we anticipate the most activity,” said Cotterell.
Massmart’s spokesperson for Game and Makro, Rifilwe Boikanyo, said that to manage high online traffic the stores were running Black Friday specials over a five-day period, and had created a team of high-transaction-volume IT specialists to quickly resolve any online technology problems that may arise during the Black Friday promotions.
However, Lullu Krugel, Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s strategy and behaviour economist, warned of consumers heading for the credit red zone, as was seen last year.
Krugel said rational decision-making abilities were at their weakest on Black Friday because pre-Black Friday retail sales had already improved compared with last year.
“Black Friday is a cash cow for local retailers. BankservAfrica recorded R2.5 billion worth of transactions on Black Friday last year. The 4.7 million card transactions that it cleared on the Friday were double the daily average.
“Rational decision-making abilities are at their weakest, as marketers can easily leverage consumers to spend more. South Africans are warned to not indulge in the allure of mega discounts – especially when such purchases are made on credit,” said Kruger.
Debt Rescue chief executive Neil Roets said many consumers had previously taken out unsecured loans for Black Friday, only to end up with high interest rates, defeating the purpose of saving on goods.
“Retailers offer credit, making it easy to become over-indebted. South Africans are not financially literate, so Black Friday causes more harm than good. For those who need it, there is help out there in the form of debt counselling,” said Roets.