News analysis

Black Friday

South Africa had a slow start in adopting the American shopping day Black Friday – but local retailers and consumers have caught up quick. So much so, that in 2018, the day saw more growth in South Africa than anywhere else in the world.

Ironically, the surge in interest - and spending - on Black Friday in South Africa seems primarily due to the tough economic climate and household budgets under pressure.

Although there are undoubtedly good deals to be found on Black Friday, a study by PWC  found that “rational decision-making abilities are at their weakest on Black Friday”. 

But provided you keep this in mind, and make some savvy financial decisions in spite of the hype, you can come out of 29 November 2019 with some legitimately good Black Friday deals.

Here’s how to make the most of Black Friday 2019 at South African retail stores.

Buy what you need – not what you want

If you’re struggling to resist the hype of Black Friday sober up with some advice from Sam Beckbessinger, author of Manage Your Money like a F*cking Grown Up.

“Every business in the world wants you to buy the things they’re selling,” she writes. “They spend billions and billions of dollars each year on marketing and advertising; industries whose sole aim is to make you think you want a bunch of crap you didn’t want before they told you that you want it.”

This advice is most pertinent on Black Friday. 

“Being in control of your money is about making those choices more deliberately,” she says, “because if you don’t, you’ll end up spending it all on the advertisers’ ideas about what makes a good life.”


If you really, really want that new inflatable pool, dig through the ads

If you are looking for something specific, those ad sheets that fill up mailboxes – and even the ones that follow you around the internet – may be your best starting point.

The inserts that come with community newspapers, and weekend newspapers, are localised to your area, and will help you find the retailers with the stuff you want and compare different brands.

With that information in hand you can hit the internet and start comparing prices.

See also: Here’s how to beat the Black Friday online queues on 29 November – and you can start now


Stick to the one or two discounted products at each store

One of the ways stores make their money on Black Friday is by luring you through the door (or onto the website) with genuinely amazing deals – and then hoping you leave with several other not-so-great deals, thanks to the Black Friday deal hunting adrenaline coursing through your veins.

If you focus on tracking down just one or two amazing deals in each store, and sticking to those, you can outwit the store.

Just avoid impulse purchases at all costs.


Plan your attack

True Black Friday deal hunters don’t just rock up at a random store and hope for the best. They lace up their running shoes, bring fold up chairs, and camp outside those with the best deals - and then plan their attack for the rest of the day. 

With different stores discounting different products, you might do well to draw up a list of must-haves, and then think about how to go about visiting each destination as you max out your credit card.


Go for the non-perishable essentials

As tempting as it is to pick up a vintage toaster or new exercise watch, the best way to maximise your Black Friday spending is to focus on those essentials that won’t expire anytime soon.

Much of the hype around Black Friday typically focuses on items like televisions and dishwashers (and sometimes really expensive whiskey), but many of these items are last year’s models and unnecessary purchases. 

Instead, aim for stores that offer discounts on the less exciting items like toilet paper, and non-perishable food you would ordinarily eat anyway.

See also: Early Black Friday search trends suggest load shedding could drive big spending in South Africa this year


Leave the family behind

If shopping is usually a group outing in your household, consider leaving the family behind. 

If you’re doing a rat run of bargains through the mall they’ll probably just get in the way. And if you’re doing things a bit more responsibly and seeking out that single deeply-discounted item and nothing else, the hangers-on might mess with the strategy and serve as a bad influence.


Download the apps

Online, and especially brick-and-mortar store shopping apps, may seem superfluous, but they can be the bargain hunter’s best friends. Push notifications can alert you the minute new sales items are released, and some stores even offer app-only Black Friday specials.

If you’re budget-conscious, though, keep in mind that these apps aren’t designed to help you get better deals - they’re designed to get you to part with even more of your hard-earned cash.


Don’t believe the discounts

Although stores must honour the discounts that they offer, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you’re really getting an item at 50% off. That big red “50% OFF” may mean the store edged the original retail price up a bit before 29 Novemb to make the deal seem even better. 

Both online and physical stores are guilty of this trick. 

A much better way to maximise your Black Friday discount shopping is to treat all advertised discounts with a healthy dose of cynicism, both the percentages and the rand value, and instead conduct a bit of your own independent research.


Know your consumer rights – and their limitations 

South Africa has pretty watertight consumer protection, and many local stores offer generous returns policies on unwanted items.

This means that if you do go a bit wild on Black Friday, and then have some regrets, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sheepishly return those  goods a few days later. 

Defects and other exceptions aside, though, the law doesn’t offer a general right of return to all shoppers at all stores.

According to law firm Michalsons, there are generally only four instances when a consumer can return goods under the Consumer Protection Act - and overindulgence on Black Friday isn’t one of them.

Instead, it makes sense to familiarise yourself with the specific store’s return policy, take note of any exceptions for the items sold on sale, and hang onto your receipt until you’re convinced you still want that new indoor trampoline.

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