Local Black Friday critics say US shopping tradition has no place in SA

20 November 2017 - 16:46 By Nivashni Nair
Shoppers take advantage of Black Friday sales at the Rosebank Mall.
Shoppers take advantage of Black Friday sales at the Rosebank Mall.

Black Friday: why are South African retailers following an American tradition? That's the question many South Africans are asking about the massive shopping sale set for November 24.

Media monitoring firm ROi Africa managing director Tonya Khoury said many South Africans took to Twitter and Facebook last year to question why a tradition from the USA was followed in an African country.

“Black Friday's presence on social media was huge‚ but also received a great deal of negative responses. There were racial undertones‚ with many misunderstanding the use of the word ‘black’ in ‘Black Friday’.

“There were stampedes‚ and people hurt last year‚ and some retail outlets faced harsh criticism for this – and for the manner in which they advertised the event.”

But Black Friday is here to stay‚ she added.

“Retail sales events such as Black Friday can be exciting and provide consumers with opportunities to improve their living standards and save lots of money. Given the globalisation of retailing and the growing importance of online retail sales‚ it would appear that Black Friday is here to stay.” According to University of the Witwatersrand Business School marketing professor Steve Burgess‚ in the age of digital business‚ global retail has become a reality.

“Even though the Thanksgiving Day holiday has no meaning in our country‚ South Africans have become aware of the availability of deep price cuts on Black Friday that are available online. In response‚ South African retailers are responding with their own specials.

“This year‚ several South African retailers have made it clear that they intend to make their own deep-cut price promotions on Black Friday‚” he explained.

Black Friday sales began in the United States as retailers took advantage of the day after the traditional Thanksgiving Day holiday – also the point in the year at which 11 months of retail sales should have fully covered a store's annual overheads‚ so that any more sales made‚ no matter at what price‚ put the operation further “in the black” in terms of their bank statements‚ hence the origin of the name.

“Thanksgiving always occurs on the fourth Thursday in November. As most people take leave on the following day‚ and Thanksgiving precedes the Christmas holiday by four weeks‚ Black Friday provides retailers with a tremendous opportunity to ring up early Christmas holiday sales‚” Burgess said.