Business Maverick


Black November sales reveal most consumers are struggling

Black November sales reveal most consumers are struggling
Shoppers in the Kenilworth Shopping Centre in Cape Town on Black Friday, 24 November 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

Big-screen TVs and other luxuries seem to be a thing of the past for most South Africans, who strategised their shopping and chose to spend their hard-earned money on necessities instead.

One person dropped R3.3-million on a single transaction, but for most ordinary consumers Black Friday was a less expensive affair, with purchase values down on last year. There was also far less of an appetite for luxury goods. 

PayFlex said purchases on its payment platform averaged R1,364 (R300 less than last year). Absa, through which most of South Africa’s top-tier retailers process payments, saw a decline in average purchase value from R580 to R523. FNB said the number of transactions made on its cards remained steady year on year, but transactions were 9.7% higher on the Saturday and Sunday than last year. Standard Bank, however, saw volumes up by 8% and values by 4%.

Tshipi Alexander, Absa’s head of consumer cards, said the bank had noticed a slight decrease in the average transaction value over the past two years. 

“The consumer is certainly seeing some pressure. They are taking advantage of the good deals that are out there. We saw a big rise in groceries and clothing, which suggests customers are looking for value in basic goods, not the large purchases of the past.”

Absa had expected to see a drop in sales but that didn’t happen: with payday for many on the 25th, customers simply shopped over the weekend. 

November as a whole was up significantly, Alexander said, as customers didn’t wait for Black Friday and many retailers ran specials over the entire month. “It was less of a Black Friday and more of a Black November.”

The hottest appliance was the air fryer, said Vish Chetty, technology and business transformation executive at Absa. 

“There’s a definite move towards non-luxury goods. With load shedding and the need to do things quicker, there’s a definite move towards necessity items, as opposed to big TVs and other electrical equipment. We’ve seen 60% of this shift in the grocery sector.”

Absa is the largest payment processor on the continent and handles 46% of South Africa’s payments. It also processes payments for 45 independent sales organisations and aggregators.

One of these organisations, the payment platform PayFast, said the cost-of-living crisis appeared to be to blame for the lack of enthusiasm around Black Friday.

Online’s popularity increases

Online shopping sped up this year, with sales up by 18%. Black Friday spending took place mostly online, with savvy consumers buying strategically, PayFast said. The average basket cost was R1,364 — down from last year’s R1,689.

Retailers with general merchandise, convenience food stores, family clothing stores and discount stores did the best on the day.

PayFast’s managing director, Brendon Williamson, said consumers now shopped with a strategy, pre-selecting products and leveraging price reductions weeks before the big day. 

“With access to platforms that monitor item products over time, shoppers can gain valuable insights into price fluctuations throughout the year and gauge whether their wish-listed products really are at a good price. It’s no longer just about shopping — it’s a strategic approach,” Williamson said.

Other trends identified by PayFast included an uptake in QR code payments, with the volume increasing by 63% year on year. Scan-to-pay facilitated payments were up by 44%.

Williamson said e-commerce spiked on 24 November, as retailers saved their best prices of the month for last, with a peak in transactions between 9am and 10am.

Tumelo Ramugondo, the head of Standard Bank’s credit card division, said it had processed R5.30-billion in approved volumes. More than half of the transactions were contactless.

Compared with the average payday weekend, Black Friday weekend’s volumes and values were up by 21% and 37%, respectively. On Cyber Monday, volumes were up by 13% year on year. 

“We saw high-volume, low-value transactions on gaming subscriptions, streaming services and mobile deals, and big purchases on electronics and appliances,” Ramugondo said.

At FNB, the number of card transactions was steady year on year, with 9.7% more transactions on Saturday and Sunday.

Thokozani Dlamini, FNB merchant services CEO, said e-commerce volumes averaged about 6,000 per hour over most of Black Friday, but its e-commerce portfolio excludes the likes of Takealot and OneDayOnly, which are handled by other banks.

“Overall, both value and volumes are down on 2022 as the economy bites, coupled with Black Friday falling on the 24th — a day too early for when most people are paid,” Dlamini said.

Total values were down by 4.6% and volumes by 4.7%; brick-and-mortar values were down by 4.8% and volumes by 4.7%; and e-commerce values were down by 1.8% and volumes by 6%.

Ashley Saffy, the head of spend and customer value management at FNB Card, said that on Black Friday, 76% of customer spend was in-store and 24% online. 

“On credit cards specifically, 45% of customer spend was online. During the Black Friday weekend we saw an impressive 93% year-on-year increase in transactions made using FNB virtual cards, which adds an additional layer of security while shopping online.”

Saffy said FNB customers spent just over R3-billion on Black Friday. “We also saw positive growth over the rest of the weekend, with a 7% increase compared with 2022 as customers took advantage of payday coinciding with Black Friday weekend deals.”

The worst-performing sectors in terms of turnover value were furnishing, with a decline of 18.5% in value and 6.8% in volume, followed by clothing and apparel, down by 11.8% in value and by 16.8% in volume.

These sectors are usually associated with higher ticket values and larger discounted items, Dlamini said.

The highest growth per province was in the Western Cape, which was the only region with double-digit growth in value — up by 12.3% — and by 11.9% in volume. Gauteng, in second place, saw an increase of only 8.4% in value, despite volumes increasing by 10.6%. DM


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