How 10 cans of shaving cream got Takealot ready for Black Friday

19 November 2019 - 06:00
Takealot's distribution centre in Cape Town.
Takealot's distribution centre in Cape Town.
Image: Supplied

Ten cans of shaving cream. That’s what Takealot CEO Kim Reid bought to check if the online retailer’s many months of technology and operation upscaling is up to dealing with the spend-fest that is Black Friday.

“We do our absolute best to make sure we upscale on logistics, warehousing and engineering - and then on the day, we just do this,” he said, crossing his fingers on both hands.

There was previously been problems with Takealot on Black Friday, including complaints over payment issues and the site collapsing under pressure on several occasions.

Reid was speaking to journalists on a pre-Black Friday tour of the company’s Kempton Park distribution centre on Monday.

Reid said the issues were "part the payment provider’s fault and part ours".

“We’ve been doing scale tests two to three times a month, but with up to 100,000 people on-site at the same time during the peak, there’s a lot that can go wrong," he said.

The company, SA’s biggest online retailer, is expecting to process at least an order every second from its Black Friday kick-off on Sunday November 24 until the end of the festive season, with 10,000 boxes leaving their warehouses every hour.

Takealot was the first SA retailer to embrace the US retail phenomenon back in 2012 - and it’s proved a sales record breaker for the company every year since. Last year the group’s Black Friday sales grew 125% in value over 2017’s, at R196m. Reid is expecting that to grow by 80% this year, to around R350m.

According to the website Black Friday Global, in 2018 South Africa had a 1,952% increase in sales compared to an ordinary day - a spike second only to Germany, at 2,418%. The world average was 663%.

Absa estimated that two out of three South Africans participated in Black Friday sales in 2018. FNB reported that in 2018, Black Friday transaction volumes grew by 16% compared with 2017 and anticipates a 15% increase in transactions over the sales period in 2019.

Takealot sells a massive number of TVs over the Black Friday period. Its Joburg warehouse is fully prepared for those orders - boxed flat screens are stacked seven stories high, blocking out the light.

Camping goods are clearly big sellers too, as are suitcases and yoga mats. The books section is a sea of yellow, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook, Veg.

Customer service has changed a lot since Takealot’s early days.

“I remember sending flowers to a customer we had upset, but we just can’t do that any more," said Reid.

“We are far from perfect, but we concentrate heavily on making things happen as they should - as we tell our customers they will - consistently. That, to us, is good customer service."

Takealot anticipates its drivers will travel more than four million kilometres between Black Friday and 24 December.

“That’s the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe over 100 times,” added Reid.