Durban – Retailers are ratcheting up their marketing campaigns while shoppers prepare to shop like there’s no tomorrow – on Black Friday.
But consumers have been warned not to fall casualty to the discount war and, in the hysteria, get stuck with goods they neither need nor can afford.
Like many of the world’s most copied marketing wheezes, Black Friday originates in America. Historically it is marked on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, when retailers seek to lure early festive season spenders: helping shops get their finances back in the black, but for the reckless there’s a risk of ending in the red.
South African stores have got on the bandwagon, and excitement was mounting in Durban on Thursday.
Apart from a blizzard of chain store supplements in newspapers, advertising everything from cut-price boerewors to buckets of marked-down pool chlorine, retailers have gone online, flogging cheap air tickets, high street fashion and you-name-it.
The superlatives were coming thick and fast on Wednesday.
“This is our biggest Black Friday yet, with 40% more products on offer than last year,” said marketing director for Checkers, Neil Schreuder.
He noted that Checkers last year served more than a million customers on the day and sold enough Coke to fill more than three Olympic-sized swimming pools.
He said they were expecting an even bigger response this year and stores would be extending shopping hours to meet the demand. The retailer said it would offer up to 50% discount on some of its goods. Game stores hoped to lure customers with three months of Showmax subscription to customers who bought televisions.
Outdoor camping gear and other products would also be discounted.
It would be opening its stores from 7am.
One of the many who will be up early for bargain hunting on Friday is Queensburgh resident Kamani Ramlakan.
The 34-year-old said she would go to her local Checkers to buy groceries and would team up with her mother, to make the most of it.
It will be her third year of joining the shopping frenzy.
Ramlakan, who owns a beauty salon, said she had first become caught up in the sale by chance.
Last year, she planned her purchases ahead of time and tag-teamed with her mother, in the style of professional wrestlers, taking turns to grab the best deals and protect their spoils from other shoppers.
Such was the mania, she said, that people were stealing trolleys from each other. “It is the most hectic sale I have ever been to. People tend to get a bit wild,” she said.
Another shopper who is revved up to go on a shopping spree is Vulane Mthembu, of Hammarsdale.
He said he would be up at midnight to do his shopping online.
Mthembu, 35, a web co-ordinator, said he would make sure he bought quickly because stores online had limited stock.
He plans to buy a PlayStation 4 console and vinyl records.
Mthembu, who has been shopping on Black Friday for the past three years, said he was wary of making impulsive buys and would make sure he had money over for the month ahead.
Business analyst and trend forecaster Dave Nemeth said Black Friday was an American concept, like Halloween, with no South African tradition. He said retailers were “hungry for sales”.
Nemeth said people were now shopping with their families, spending time in malls when once they might have been outdoors.
He said retailers who did not join in the Black Friday bonanza might score if they had their own sales later, capitalising on people who did not buy into the hysteria.
He also said many people were buying on credit.
Neil Roets, chief executive of debt counselling company, Debt Rescue, said he was surprised by how Black Friday had taken off in the country.
“The problem is people in South Africa are indebted and can’t afford to spend money.”
He said there were 10 million active credit users who were over-indebted. “People spend money on things they don’t really need,” he said.
Roets explained that people who spent money on Black Friday would still spend money during the festive season and would blow their bonuses on things they did not need, forgetting to budget for essentials like school fees.
He said he had seen an increase in consumer indebtedness over the years.
Marketing manager at Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Michelle Shelley, said Black Friday would kick off their festive season and the majority of stores at the centre would have sales.
She said additional staff would be available to help people.
“Gateway is expecting a bumper kick-off to the festive season on Friday … Many of the centre’s stores are participating and shoppers are in for some not-to-be-missed bargains.”
The Pavilion shopping centre said many retailers would have Black Friday sales and had prepared for a big crowd.
“We have employed extra security staff to patrol both the shopping centre itself and our parking areas. We are appealing to shoppers to be vigilant during this period and report any untoward activities to our security staff,” said Julie-Anne Zuma, centre marketing manager.
SAPS spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane advised the public to be vigilant. “They must park their vehicles in well-secured areas”.
“Police will continue to monitor (shopping) areas as part of the festive season operations. Those found to be breaking the law will be arrested. Business people are also urged to beef up security.”
Metro Police’s Nonsindiso Guma said they would manage additional shopping centre traffic as part of their festive season efforts.