It’s official: Black Friday flopped in SA this year – even though online did much better

Business Insider SA
(File: Gallo Images, Esa Alexander)
Gallo Images Shoppers during a previous Black Friday
  • Black Friday sales were hugely down in South Africa in 2020, initial numbers show.
  • Online transactions increased by more than 60% – but that was not enough to offset a plunge in in-store sales.
  • Physical retailers saw some two million fewer transactions than during Black Friday 2019.
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Black Friday 2020 was a flop for South African retailers, early statistics show, with a huge decrease in in-store sales.

Retailers has expected reduced sales compared to 2019, as shoppers avoided malls and stores for fear of coronavirus infection – and for lack of money in their pockets thanks to the economic impact of the virus and associated lockdown.

But the size of the drop is startling, and may signal more trouble than anticipated.

In-store card purchases on 27 November numbered just under five million, said clearing house BankServAfrica on Saturday morning. That is a decrease of 30% compared to 2019.

Online transactions, by contrast, spiked by more than 60% – but off a low base, reaching just under 870,000 sales in total.

That makes for around 300,000 extra online sales, compared to two million fewer sales in physical stores.

Though mall owners and shops went to considerable lengths to reassure customers they would be safe, malls were quiet on Friday, some more so than on a regular shopping day.

Traditionally physical retail chains sought to encourage online shopping, via channels newly revamped during lockdown. But they seemed to fail in drumming up the kind of excitement they rely on in shops, where visitors attracted by a few headline deals could in previous years be convinced to buy other things too.

Declines were also recorded in other countries, with numbers from Barclaycard, the biggest credit card company in Britain, showing an overall decline of some 10% in total transactions, with the value of payments down even more.

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