Black Friday, Black November… Black December? SA shopping choices have changed

South Africans spent billions despite tough economic times.

Black Friday fever might spill over into the festive season as shops continue to run specials beyond the retail therapy weekend.

For many, Black Friday presents a chance to stock up on items they wouldn’t normally be able to afford during the year, due to reduced prices by major retailers.

While making the most of pocket-friendly prices, South Africans also revitalised the country’s economy last weekend by injecting some Rands into the nation’s piggy-bank.

Major banks and payment platforms recorded multi-million rand transactions over Black Friday. So, how much did Mzansi really spend?

ALSO READ: Discounts – Consumers face pressures from all sides to overextend their budget

Slow start, strong finish

FNB customers hit the R3 billion mark on purchases last Friday.

“While consumers have been financially burdened by inflation and high interest rates over the past year, we’ve seen strong volumes and value spent over this time despite the slow start on Friday morning,” said Senzo Nsibane, CEO of FNB Card.

The bank noted that while Black Friday transactions started off slowly, growth was seen over Saturday and Sunday – reporting a 9.7% increase in transactions compared to the year prior.

Transactions made using FNB Virtual Cards also grew 94% year-on-year over the weekend.

Travel, groceries and digital technology were the popular spend categories for the bank’s clients.

“This uptake mirrors the ongoing appetite for travel by South Africans as the travel category showed a 17% increase this year,” Nsibande said.

Black November?

What was previously known as a day of stampedes, trolley shortages and congested shopping isles has seemingly cooled off post Covid.

Most retailers now run specials across the entire month as opposed to a narrow day’s window.

Speaking to The Citizen, Vish Chetty, Executive for Payments Acceptance at Absa Relationship Banking said Black Friday sales were no longer confined to a single day.

Instead, Chetty noted that most retailers now run specials throughout November.

“It’s now moved to Black November. We’ve seen transactions spike all the way from the first of November, to Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” he told The Citizen.

Absa reported volumes in the excess of R220 million processed throughout the month of November.

However, where Black Friday sales are concerned, the bank saw a 16% increase in physical sales compared to the year prior, while online sales grew 20%.

Despite the growth in transactions, Chetty noted that the last three years have been economically challenging for many consumers.

SA’s tough economy has caused a shift in consumer purchase decisions, forcing many to prioritise necessities over luxuries. This was reflected in the trolley contents of most shoppers.

Chetty observed that while consumers typically splurged on electronic gadgets and appliances in previous years, they now opt to stock up on household necessities instead.

“What I’ve also noticed is most people are also using the opportunity to buy groceries and [household items] like detergents,” he told The Citizen.


Digital payments platform, Payfast reported a record-high transaction of R627,000 by one customer.

Insights from the platform indicate the average basket per customer amounted to R1,364, a decline compared to R1,689 spent in 2022.

South Africa’s economic downturn has forced consumers to change their spending habits to stay afloat.

High food prices amid record-high inflation have left many with less money to go around, and this was reflected in the purchase decisions of most customers this year.

“As the cost of living climbs, and inflation remains high, the choices around when and where to spend money have gained greater significance – particularly when considering significant purchases like appliances or electronics,” said Payfast Managing Director, Brendon Williamson.

Thanks to online platforms, consumers are able to conveniently compare and track prices throughout the year to make purchases when favourable.

“It’s no longer just about shopping – it’s a strategic approach,” said Williamson.

ALSO READ: Hey, Big Spender! Black Friday shopper blows R800k in one go…

E-commerce and cashless transactions

South Africans are increasingly choosing to shop online over making a shopping trip to the mall.

Most commercial banks have reported a significant increase in online transactions.

“E-commerce has grown much more in the last two years,” Chetty told The Citizen.

FNB customers have also seemingly embraced the world of e-commerce with 24% of clients spending their money online.

Head of Spend and Customer Value Management at FNB Card, Ashley Saffy said, “consumers have increasingly shown a strong preference for safer and more convenient payments, with virtual card, online spend and digital wallets spend increasing significantly to prior year”.

Furthermore, there’s been a growing preference for cashless payments due to the safety and convenience they offer.

“Over Black Friday weekend, 54% of all in-store transactions were contactless, which increased by 10% year on year,” Saffy said.

ALSO READ: Consumers expected to spend about R7 billion more this Black Friday

Not so fast, a decline?

While major banks and payment platforms have achieved impressive numbers, the banking industry took a knock.

BankservAfrica reported a 6% decline in Black Friday card transaction volumes.

Head of Product Management Card at BankservAfrica, Yusuf Hassen said while the decline is concerning, it’s important to understand factors affecting consumer behaviour.

“Financial constraints faced by consumers were clearly visible in this year’s Black Friday spending patterns,” he said.

Although a long-drawn month of specials was welcomed by most consumers, Hassen pointed out that this might have affected Black Friday sales.

“We are also mindful that promotions extended throughout the month of November, which could have resulted in the muted figures for Black Friday itself,” he said.

ALSO READ: SA takes shopping tips from TikTok ahead of festive season

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