Black Friday, the day known for setting retail sales records, has become a firmly established phenomenon in SA and could well be a boon for cash-strapped consumers looking to pick up bargains. Can retailers afford to ignore the day, given its increasing popularity?

In the UK retailer John Lewis has in the past been a much publicised critic of Black Friday, going so far as to call for a boycott of the day. However, its annual retail reports for the past two years reveal that Black Friday has become its most profitable shopping day of the year, with the result that it now fully supports the day. The company has conceded that it’s no longer an option to not be involved in Black Friday, given its sheer power.

The big take-out: Retailers participating in Black Friday need to ensure their brands are front and centre both on the Internet and in the media as consumers scour for the best deals in the run-up to November 24.

The day was initially introduced in the US as a discount shopping day on the last Friday of November, the day after Thanksgiving. The idea was transported to the UK around 2010, with more and more retailers getting involved, and has grown in popularity in SA in the past few years.

This year’s Black Friday, which will take place on November 24, is forecast to be as frenzied as ever, reports Marc du Plessis, joint CEO of Spark Media, with retailers slashing prices by 50% to 80%.

"Given the current state of our economy, we’re expecting that this year’s participation in Black Friday shopping will be even bigger than 2016, as shoppers gear up to buy as many products as possible at the lowest prices," says Du Plessis. "Consumers will be on the look-out for the best deals ahead of Black Friday, scouring the Internet and [other] media in the weeks before this huge sales day."

His advice to brands wanting to win a share of mind among consumers is to ensure that they’re front and centre of the consideration set. Consumers, says Du Plessis, tend to buy brands they know and have a high regard for. Marketing efforts therefore need to build on this mental availability through mass-reach advertising and communication. "Retailers wishing to tap into the Black Friday buying frenzy and want an edge against competitor brands need to adopt a marketing strategy that ensures they are most visible to the most people," he says.