Shoppers take advantage of Black Friday sales at the Rosebank Mall. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Shoppers take advantage of Black Friday sales at the Rosebank Mall. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

For the past two years Black Friday has taken SA by storm – and, if anything, it seems set to be even bigger this year, offering shoppers significant discounts, sales and promotions. Each year more retailers participate, but should every retailer do so?

“The question should be if and how Black Friday fits into each brand’s unique strategy,” says Charl Thom, CEO of advertising group FoxP2. “You need to question what the impact on your brand and business will be.”

The big take-out: Retailers should only participate in Black Friday if it fits their brand strategy. If they do participate, they need to ensure they’re prepared to handle the increase in sales.

It was somewhat surprising, he points out, when Apple took part in selected global markets for a 24-hour period last year, but did so in a seemingly limited fashion, rewarding customers with gift cards with certain purchases. The result was that some customers expressed their disappointment online, as the offering didn’t quite live up to the Black Friday hype.

“Ikea, on the other hand, maintains that its business is all about consistent low prices and it therefore doesn’t need to take part,” Thom says. “[Clothing retailer] Patagonia took a different approach and pledged 100% of its global retail and online sales on Black Friday to environmental non-profit organisations. It expected to do US$2m in sales, but in actual fact achieved $10m in sales – and all of this was donated.”

Thom advises companies to be clear on how Black Friday fits into their brand strategy. “Don’t be pressured into taking part just for the sake of it. If it’s right for your brand and business strategy and you do take part, make sure you’re prepared and ready to handle the increase in sales.”

Retail sales are generally down due to the depressed economy and uncertainty about the future. Despite this, Black Friday – which falls on November 24 this year – is expected to push up retail sales significantly.

“I think Black Friday will be a major event again [this year],” says Thom, whose agency numbers Shoprite’s Hungry Lion among its clients.  “People have been sitting on their wallets and purses and may well use this as an opportunity to buy the items they have been holding back on throughout the year.”

But to what extent are Black Friday sales encroaching on traditional Christmas sales? “Black Friday is rapidly becoming established as its own event on the calendar,” says Thom. “Though it’s only become a thing in SA over the past few years, it’s here to stay and, like events such as Easter, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas, it will become an event in its own right, creating its own spike in sales.”

Last year a number of online retailers were unprepared for the volume of Black Friday sales, and their systems crashed. Thom does not expect that to be a problem this year, saying most online retailers have been working on their back-end systems to ensure they’re better prepared this time around.

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