Customers wait at a shopping centre for Black Friday specials. Black Friday was traditionally the day following Thanksgiving Day in the US. Since 1952, it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Picture: Leon Lestrade/ANA

As South African consumers and retailers prepare for the shopping spree associated with Black Friday, economists and experts have cautioned shoppers to plan their spending wisely.

Originally started in the US to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season, retailers in countries all around the world now use the last Friday in November – November 24 this year – as an opportunity to get more customers through their doors or into their online shops by drastically reducing prices on selected merchandise.

Stefan Salzer, a partner and managing director at BCG South Africa, said supermarket chain Checkers had staked a claim to being the first retailer to introduce the trend to South Africa on a large scale, in 2014.

He said since then Black Friday had grown exponentially every year. Today, consumers have come to expect and, in fact, demand that retailers offer competitive specials.

“With several of the country’s favourite supermarkets and brands promising to offer up to 50% off selected merchandise, Black Friday will probably draw huge crowds, especially as South Africans’ disposable income continues to dwindle in the face of widespread economic uncertainty, and few of us will say no to a deal”, Selzer said.

Tips: How and where to shop on Black Friday

However, chief economist at Economists dotcoza, Mike Schüssler, cautioned that many consumers would have to tighten their belts in December if they chose to take advantage of the specials on Black Friday.

“Many people will only get paid on the 25th of the month, while others only get paid on the 27th. This might hamper consumers in terms of their spending.”

Some shoppers, he said, might use their credit cards for the event, but might have used them through the year, which would constrain them financially.

Dr Christoph Nieuwoudt, the chief executive of FNB Consumer, agreed that broadly, the use of online shopping was a trend that had been gradually gaining momentum locally, pointing to the growing number of customers who were using the bank’s digital platforms to purchase goods and services. “We already have a substantial number of customers who regularly use our digital channels to buy pre-paid products such as electricity and airtime. This is a firm indicator that there is appetite for more uptake of e-commerce among consumers.

Don't under-insure good bought on Black Friday

“We expect the use of technology to increase significantly over the next few years, partly because consumers are starting to realise that it’s both inevitable and a much better way to do a lot of things,” he said.

Efficient Group’s chief economist Dawie Roodt said Black Friday was a relatively new phenomenon for South Africans, and it was difficult to predict how retail spend would fare on the day.

Roodt attributed the event’s popularity to America’s prominence in popular culture, with the rest of the world following their fads.

He said that, despite the economic climate, many consumers would take advantage of the specials.

“This event comes before the festive season so many might use the opportunity to get their Christmas shopping done.”

The South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) said research conducted with 75 shopping centres showed that an average of 3.2% of tenants participated in Black Friday in 2015, and an average of 21% of tenants participated in Black Friday last year, an increase of 17.8% year on year.

The council said last year Black Friday promotions were dominated by supermarkets and electronic store sales that offered customers deals of up to and more than 50% off selected in-store items. Electronic stores included Samsung and Incredible Connection.

Supermarket chain Checkers upped their sales for last year’s Black Friday promotion with over 40% more product offering than in 2015, said marketing director Neil Schreuder.

The council said according to the survey, the response to Black Friday sales was overwhelming for many shopping centres, with more than 71% of the respondent shopping centres reporting that they had the highest influx of foot traffic year on year with an average increase of up to 13% in November. – Mercury Reporters

What tweeters say

Baatile @_Baatile: Black Friday is a joke in South Africa. Everything must be at least 50% off if they want me to take them seriously.

@GrantPattison: Because #BlackFriday is American and defined by #Thanksgiving it’s not really transferable to South Africa. It will inevitably descend into chaos as retailers start earlier and nonsensically make it last a week or a month. We really need our own South African tradition.

[email protected]: Do suppliers in South Africa actually know what #BlackFriday means? It certainly doesn’t mean a chance to clear old stock or reduce pricing percentage by single digits #BlackFridayFail.

[email protected]: South Africa jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon by giving R50 off.

cuddles & [email protected]: Yesterday, more people searched “Black Friday” in South Africa than in any other country in the world. We’re even searching for Black Friday deals more than Americans do.

Dylan [email protected]: We always have to copy what everyone else does, first it was Halloween then #BlackFriday we don’t have any originality #SouthAfrica.