Holiday shopping has always brought the year’s best deals, and many shoppers are looking forward to Black Friday specials. However, Covid-19 has cast a dark cloud on the bargains-seeking event, which has gone online.

Since many retailers consider Black Friday to be crucial to their businesses annual performance, investors look at Black Friday sale numbers as a way to estimate the overall health of the entire retail industry.

Meshel Muzuva, a senior finance and economics lecturer at Mancosa private higher education institution, says marketers can easily influence and leverage consumers’ behaviour to get them to spend more on Black Friday.

“South African consumers are to not indulge in the temptation of mega discounts – especially when such purchases are made on credit and during the huge economic impact that Covid-19 still has on the economy.

“According to the National Credit Regulator (NCR), four out of 10 credit-active consumers are in poor standing – i.e. accounts are three or more months in arrears.

“With stores navigating a Covid-19 minefield of hygiene protocols, limitations on customer numbers and social distancing against a backdrop of consumer financial constraints, Black Friday is moving online as a more viable alternative.”

He says online shopping is an easier way to shop on Black Friday in that it gives the shopper the convenience of purchasing everything they want without having to go from store to store or compete with other shoppers.”

Muzuva says many stores realise people are not willing to risk increasing their exposure to the coronavirus, so they are putting their Black Friday deals online early. So far, we are seeing deals from Makro, Game, Woolworths, Hi-Fi Corp and other online retailers like Zando and Takealot.

“South Africa’s e-commerce sector has shown a dramatic upsurge in sales since the government lifted the lockdown restrictions on online shopping in May. The pandemic has amplified the shift online in South Africa.

“The definition of luxury has changed during the pandemic this year, even for those who have not lost their jobs – given salary cuts and curbs on bonus and commission payments, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will impact on people’s buying power and motivation for discounted items.

Makro and Game have expanded their Black Friday sale to three separate events held over three weeks leading up to the official day. Although they have been promoting people to shop online sales with early Black Friday deals, they still have to strategise on how to meet the needs of Black Friday crowds while meeting Covid-19 guidelines.

Muzuva says shoppers need to be aware when shopping online and it is of utmost importance that they carefully check information on items and do thorough research before buying anything online.

He offers some tips for consumers to avoid overspending on Black Friday:

* Do not buy unnecessary items. Have a list of necessary items and stick to it.

* Use Black Friday to buy essential items at a discount. Look for discounts on household staples like cleaning detergents, bathing soap and toilet paper. This can help you save money on everyday expenses throughout the year.

* Before you head to the store to do your shopping, take the time to do your homework. Stores are just starting to advertise their Black Friday deals. As you make and check your lists, look for the best deals on those items and keep your eye out for alternatives or similar items you can swap out to stay within your budget.

* If you cannot resist a sale, you may be better off shopping with cash, especially on Black Friday so you can only buy that which you budgeted for. If you are using cash, stick to the amount drawn out from your account. For example, if you have drawn out R2 000 and it has been spent, then you are done with your shopping.