It was the best of discounts and the worst of queues as SA customers sought out bargains on the day that officially marks the start of Christmas shopping — Black Friday.
In the US, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally marks the start of the Christmas gift shopping season.
In SA, frenzied shoppers mobbed grocery and retail chains, some of which offered discounts of up to 50%.
The fever was not limited to bricks-and-mortar stores, with e-commerce players taking strain under the immense demand for goods. Takealot marked down prices on a select number of products by up to 60%. The e-tailer, SA’s largest online store, suffered some downtime on Friday despite efforts to support the website in advance.
Viccy Baker of price comparison website Retail Price Watch says that Checkers stood out among grocery chains for the average savings it offered.
"In several cases savings were close to those claimed by the brochures," says Baker.
She says data showed that if a customer bought two packs of Doritos chips, they did get the 50% discount claimed by Checkers, but the offer on three loaves of Sasko white bread gave savings of about 35% — less than the 37% advertised in the brochure.
"Pick n Pay’s savings were a little more ambivalent — the savings on 500g Quality Street were not as great as claimed, with the average price in November and for 2016 not being as high as marked," she says.
"Additionally, Pick n Pay offered several seemingly great deals where there had been good specials in the preceding weeks."
Nescafé Classic 200g was selling at R59.50 on promotion in the run-up to Black Friday. The price rose to an average of R70.92 in the days preceding the sale but was marked down to R54 for Black Friday.
"In the fruit and vegetable sector, Pick n Pay appeared to have most things on a special, but again savings were not as obvious — a 4kg pack of potatoes was selling for R44.99, only a 10% saving on the average price over the year and a 5% saving over the price in November. Two green peppers at R15.99 were more expensive than the average for the year and only marginally cheaper than the price earlier in November."
Retailers typically hope that consumers lured into stores or to websites or apps by bargains will also spend on full-priced items.
Takealot chief marketing officer Julie-Anne Walsh says Black Friday has grown in popularity in SA in the past two years. Takealot reported a 227% spike in website traffic and a 260% annual increase in orders on Black Friday last year.
"We are predicting that this year our Blue Dot Sale [which starts on Black Friday] will be our most successful sale in our history."
Adrian Naude, Pick n Pay’s group executive for marketing, says the retailer is delighted with how the day went.
"Our customers really enjoyed it. Last year we had an incredible Black Friday and this year looks to be similar. We offered a wide range of fantastic deals for customers, and they came in their thousands right from the minute the doors opened, across the country," says Naude.
"This year we asked our customers on social media what products they’d most like to be part of Black Friday, and we responded by giving them a superb range of goods to choose from, with really outstanding discounts. We also had our online Black Friday this year for the first time, which opened trading at 6am."
In the US, data from Adobe showed that Black Friday sales broke the online sales record. More than US$5bn (about R69bn) was spent online by the end of last Friday, a 17.7% increase compared with the year-earlier period. Adobe’s Black Friday report is based on aggregated and anonymous data from 22.6bn visits to retail websites.
What it means: