July 11, 2024


Clothes that smile

The rise and rise of Black Friday in SA

The rise and rise of Black Friday in SA

Frederik Zietsman

By Frederik Zietsman, Takealot.com CEO. Not even tough economic times and global uncertainty can dampen the explosive success story of South Africa’s version of Black Friday – an international tradition that’s become an annual fixture on the local retail calendar.

As far back as the 1950s, Americans have annually taken to shops the day after Thanksgiving. Over time this tradition, which takes place on the fourth Friday of November, has come to be known as Black Friday — a day not only significant in the United States but around the world too.

Black Friday is now considered the busiest shopping day of the holiday season with sales continuing to show impressive growth across Europe, South America and, over the past few years, South Africa.

In fact, around 20 million people of all ages around South Africa are expected to take part in this year’s Black Friday — an impressive figure when you consider it’s an event that was introduced to South Africa by Takealot exactly a decade ago.

A brief history

Yes, that’s right. It was Takealot which first brought Black Friday to SA’s shores, and watched in awe as it exploded across stores and online retailers. What was once a small online sale here, is now the most important day, not only to retailers, but consumers and the retail economy alike. It took a while to get to this point, though. For the first two years, many remained sceptical of this US-imported tradition, paying little attention to the great deals and discounts. The sales were also mainly online, with little uptake from brick-and-mortar stores. And then in 2015, everything changed.

That year, South African consumers finally began to see Black Friday’s value proposition. The excitement was palpable, as more stores got involved and there was a distinct increase in promotions and special offers. Over the next few years, Black Friday’s South African presence steadily grew, taking a real turning point in 2018. For the first time, consumers that year began to queue outside stores, or sat at home, fingers poised ready to click ‘Add to Cart’ as the clock struck midnight.

This behaviour continued until 2020 when the pandemic hit. Suddenly, limited by social distancing and lockdown restrictions, physical environments couldn’t accommodate large groups of people. This meant retailers had to change their approach to the annual sale, turning the event from a one-day shopping experience into a month-long campaign. Black Friday was now Black November, which diluted the concept slightly, as well as its value for consumers.

Return of Black Friday

As routines have returned so too has the tradition of Black Friday. This year, retailers have gone back to the original ethos of the event: a day of great deals for consumers, and a chance to drive sales. And in so doing, retailers have restored the Black Friday’s pre-pandemic credibility. This excitement is reflected in the fact that searches for Black Friday began in October. This was matched by consumers adding items to their wish lists in preparation for what retailers had been promoting and advertising around the great deals to be had come 25 November.

This year also set out to change the type of sales that take place. In the past, big-ticket items like appliances, gaming consoles, mobile devices, laptops, fridges and televisions remained steady favourites — boosted by the massive discounts offered — helping cement Black Friday’s prominence in South Africa.

Due to inflation and tighter consumer budgets this year though, household essentials and affordable festive gifts took preference over more expensive appliances. This is reflected in the sorts of deals being offered by retailers, who are still slashing prices on appliances in the tradition of Black Friday, but have aligned more of their offerings to fit in with consumer’s needs — in the process helping revitalise our economy while still boosting people’s spirits. That said, large appliances, TVs and household essentials were the main play this Black Friday and a key focus for takealot.com and what was expected in high demand.

Ensuring longevity

Black Friday continues to play a significant role in revitalising our retail market. But it’s not without its challenges. For one, consumers have become more active in their calls for bigger, more impressive discounts that are not always viable for businesses. At the same time, some stores and chains have been said to limit their value offering, which diminishes consumer confidence in the event, souring the overall experience and leaving consumers distrustful.

This is where our commitment to the customer is front and centre to overcome the negative connotations – removing this distrust by offering a truly customer-centric experience with deals true to the spirit of Black Friday. We need to offer true value every Black Friday. It’s up to each and every retailer to keep up their side of the bargain, by offering special deals that genuinely tap into the spirit of the day and give consumers the feeling that they are winning through price. That’s the way the event has been designed, and its success hinges on it remaining this way.

Main image credit: Pexels.com.


– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every week • Subscribe here.