Durban – Friday racked up record sales for South African retailers this year as shoppers snapped up thousands of items online and at stores.

Facebook data shows that Black Friday is now South Africa’s busiest online shopping day of the year.

Kevin Lings, chief economist for Stanlib, said this year has seen record sales as there were far more significant discounts compared to previous years.

Treurgrond – Watch Now – 300 x 250

Also, more retailers offered Black Friday specials. He said consumer spending had slowed down in general and retailers were looking for an opportunity to boost sales – Black Friday had filled this gap.

Lings explained consumers mainly used cash to make purchases instead of going on a credit binge. This was as a result of banks being more conservative when issuing credit.

In South Africa, Lings said November and December had always been the biggest shopping months. But with Black Friday, people had brought forward their festive season shopping, which may see a drop in December trading.

Black Friday gave the economy a short-term boost, said Lings. “Retailers also get a financial boost, but it is not a sustainable boost.”

In terms of profit, he said, food retailers made a lower margin of profit as discounts were modest compared to other products.

Black Friday allowed retailers to sell stock they would otherwise write off.

Julie-Anne Walsh, Takealot.com’s chief marketing officer, said they had seen a “phenomenal increase on their seasonal average”.

“After our initial spike at midnight on Black Friday, traffic built hourly. At peak times on Friday, we welcomed more than 300 percent of the usual traffic we would expect on a Friday in the festive season.”

She said since they first launched Black Friday sales in South Africa in 2012, the number of orders had increased – last year saw a 260 percent increase year-on-year in Black Friday orders.

Walsh doubted the Black Friday sales would affect consumer spending in December. “If our past trends are anything to go by, Black Friday is just the start of the festive shopping season.”

However, Black Friday did not come without its challenges for Takealot.com. “Having experienced 227 percent increase in traffic last year, we worked incredibly hard to plan for up to five times the usual traffic. Around lunchtime on Friday, we experienced some challenges at checkout.

“Some customers experienced sporadic site access, our dedicated team of engineers was constantly working to find fixes – at times temporarily pausing our mobile app platforms to increase the capacity of our desktop site, allowing as many customers as possible to complete their orders.”

Checkers also got in on the Black Friday action. A spokesperson said in 2014 it became the first food retailer in South Africa to offer Black Friday sales.

This year has been the biggest Black Friday at Checkers, with 40 percent more products on offer than last year.

“The most popular deals, as expected were the products with the biggest discounts – Coke, Weetbix and Pampers nappies.”

Adrian Naude, Pick * Pay’s group executive of marketing, said this year Black Friday was another “incredible” trading day.“Our specials were for one day only, but this year we extended Black Friday to be available online to our customers too, with longer trading hours.” The only difference this year he said, was how early the buzz around Black Friday started.

Sunday Tribune