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Shop Talk: A frenzied Friday

Black Friday has suddenly become a 'thing' in SA
A Chinese couple register their marriage on Singles' Day to bid farewell to bachelorhood. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/HAO QUNYING/XINHUA

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Move over, Black Friday and Cyber Monday

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Not quite child’s play

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FM Edition:

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, you could be forgiven for wondering: "What was that all about?"

These shopping events, invented — like all great consumer festivals — in the US, were designed to transform the Thanksgiving weekend from a time of quiet family contemplation and football into a shopping frenzy at the local mall.

Has this succeeded? Yes and no. News agency Bloomberg reported that consumers spent an average of US$289.19 over the four-day weekend. Though this was a drop of $10 on last year, it was still pretty impressive — about R4,000 in spending per person.

But did it get feet through the doors of retailers?

Not so much. A large slice of money was spent on Thursday, when retailers opened their Black Friday items to Internet shoppers, who surfed for the best deals from their couches.

Online sales were up by 18%, while fewer people than last year bothered to go to a store.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, says: "Thursday has stolen Friday, there’s no question about it."

This prompted Bloomberg to observe that Black Friday "limped closer to obsolescence this year".

In SA, however, it appeared to be gaining momentum. The fact that Friday was a normal working day seemed to make no difference. South Africans — no doubt all of them taking a day’s leave — flocked to malls, some of which opened at 1am. There were scenes of chaos as discounted toilet rolls were flung at baying crowds of shoppers when the frenzy reached its peak.

Black Friday was followed by Cyber Monday, another attempt by the retail industry to fluff up pre-Christmas sales. This was also embraced by a range of SA retailers, many of which confined sales to their online platforms. Most of the offers seemed to be last-ditch efforts to shrug off last year’s tech at a slight discount and the whole thing reeked of opportunism.

But why stop there? What about Soapy Tuesday (lingerie and bath items), Wacky Wednesday (sports goods), Throbbing Thursday (music, movies, downloads), Super Saturday (supermarket stuff) and Smooth Sunday (cheap suits and jazz)?