Consumers’ pockets were evidently under strain this Black Friday as sales fell behind 2019’s figures. The total transaction volumes plunged by -33% and values by -52% year-on-year.

Most of the South Africans who splurged used their credit cards.

“The usual midnight to early morning queuing outside major shopping malls and retailers were far less than last year’s Black Friday. Our data suggests COVID-19 and the protocols of practising social distancing, combined with the economic impact of the lockdown and the increased interest in online shopping contributed to this,” says Martin Grunewald, chief business officer at BankservAfrica.

While some retailers chose to offer Black Friday specials throughout the month of November, BankservAfrica’s Black Friday provides an annual comparison of the total volumes and values on 27 November 2020.

“Looking at the transaction volumes, there was still some significance for this shopper’s day as transactions tallied up to 4,7-million and a value of R2,9-billion,” says Grunewald. “The number of transactions was, however, -33% down from Black Friday 2019 where these reached a record-breaking 7-million. The value also declined by -52% unlike last year’s R6-billion, which carried a 106% year-on-year growth. Black Friday 2020 showed its worst annual growth in our four years of reporting.”

From the early hours of Black Friday into the late afternoon, transactions struggled to keep up with 2019’s figures. At 06:00, these were at 25 450 representing a -82% decrease from 2019’s 139 684.

But activity picked up by the hour. Transactions broke through the 2019 mark at 18:00 to reach 370 609, 3% up from 2019’s 360 581. From there on, the numbers improved to its best of 251 708 (+67% from 2019) at 20:00 and at 21:00 with 161 214 (+69% from 2019).

“South Africans shopped later than usual for reasons such as some stores not opening at twelve midnight as they did in 2019. Also, some retailers offered specials throughout the month of November to avoid the Black Friday queueing,” explains Grunewald.

The highest credit card transaction occurred at 07:52:18 for R 514 484.64. The highest debit card transaction was R264 709.30 at 14:53:53.

“We saw a high volume of credit card swiping throughout Black Friday with volumes totalling 3,6-million (R2-billion) compared to debit cards at a volume of 1-million (R370-million). It seems cash-strapped South Africans resorted to using their credit cards,” says Grunewald.

“Black Friday has certainly been different for South Africans, which many expected to be the case. We have seen a steady growth in our online shopping figures, which mirrors the South African consumers’ growing inclination for the ecommerce shopping experience. These statistics fared better year-on-year but nowhere near the high volumes usually observed for in-store purchases.”