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By Nelisa Zulu, Head: Card and Payments South Africa at Standard Bank

This year’s Black Friday event, which has emerged to become a major highlight on the South African calendar, is expected to bring in higher sales volumes than last year as many retailers that were hard hit by decreased consumer spend in 2020 have started offering their specials ahead of schedule, giving consumers more time to exercise their spend.

Certainly, retailers are looking to take advantage of early spending this year and pent-up consumer demand within the economy. It is important to note however that SA consumers have been hard-pressed in the past year-and-a-half and are, as a result, looking at their discretionary spending carefully compared to the past. As such, they’ll be on the lookout for value, decent specials and be more discerning about whether they opt into offers.

Although lockdown restrictions have eased, consumers are still weary of large crowds and many people have now become more comfortable with online shopping. This shift from traditional to online retail was impacted by Covid-19 and the need for safer, more convenient ways of purchasing groceries and essentials, which resulted in phenomenal growth for e-commerce. In 2018, online stores sold around R14 billion worth of goods, representing 1.4% of the total retail market, growing to more than R30 billion in 2020, according to Online Retail in South Africa 2021, a study conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Mastercard, Standard Bank and Platinum Seed.

As a result of these shifts, consumers are expected to make increased use of online offerings this year. Major retailers and smaller businesses have invested a lot in the last two years to make their products available to online shoppers and this is proving to be a valuable storefront window for their businesses.

Currently, 26% of Standard Bank credit card transactions are being conducted online, which has been consistent year-on-year. Pre pandemic, travel contributed by far the most to credit card spend online, however since online travel spend dropped off, grocery stores picked up some of the slack and this resulted in flat growth. Meanwhile, there has been an exponential increase in the usage (122%) and issuance (66%) of virtual cards, which provide consumers with a safer way to transact online.

An analysis of Standard Bank’s online card transaction data shows that grocery stores and general retailers remain the top category for online spend with accommodation making a comeback this year and accounting for 36% of online transactions. Restaurant spend is also up significantly (250%) year to date.

Spending trends and patterns across both online and traditional retail have been disrupted over the last two years due to Covid-19 and fluctuating lockdown levels and as a result we are seeing continual growth in spending as opposed to seasonal growth, which was observed in the past. The first two quarters of 2021 saw considerable growth in the country’s spending numbers, standing at a quarterly total of around R2.95 trillion, figures from Statista show. While spending hasn’t quite returned to pre-Covid levels, it is on an upward trend.

Where are consumers likely to spend this year?

  • Travel and experiences – consumers looking for value on holidays and experiences may feature this year. Instead of going overseas, we may find that people will look for value closer to home and try to get more experiences for the same amount of money.
  • Electronics – electronic devices will continue to offer value and attract consumers, especially as they have adopted more online lifestyles as necessitated by the impact of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns.
  • Groceries – grocery retailers feature in Standard Bank’s most popular stores for spend and will be an area where consumers will part with their money this Black Friday to find the best deals and stock up on grocery essential items ahead of the festive season.

Top considerations for shoppers going into this year’s Black Friday:

  • Price comparison websites – make use of these sites to compare prices and find value deals.
  • Reputable stores – use reviews on multiple sites to verify the authenticity of goods and products.
  • Secure payment mechanisms – shop on sites that are digitally secure.
  • Verify – be weary of shopping on sites that do not have physical addresses and contact details.
  • Support local – as a proud SA bank, we recommend supporting local businesses, products, and companies if you are going to spend this year.

As Standard Bank, we have put measures in place to ensure a seamless shopping experience for our customers online and in-store on Black Friday, allowing our customers to shop with confidence and safety.