South Africans seek out Black Friday essentials as crunch continues

By Nqobile Dludla

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Johannesburg’s Mall of Africa was buzzing on Friday with bargain hunters pushing trolleys laden with groceries such as cooking oil, boxes of milk and multi-packs of diapers, along with household items such as pillows and detergent.

This year’s Black Friday sales come as South Africans grapple with soaring interest rates and steep rises in food, transport and health costs, leading them to spend strategically on products they need the most amid a cost-of-living crisis.

“There is no money for electronics this year. We’re basically just working for food now,” Trevor Abrahams, 42, told Reuters while queuing to pay for his groceries at Shoprite’s Checkers supermarket at the mall.

Black Friday has rapidly gone from being a novelty American event to a significant generator of sales in South Africa, where data from the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) shows shoppers are expected to spend around 7 billion rand ($381 million) more this year compared to 2022 when spending totalled 26.6 billion rand.

However, unlike the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, the morning crowds were thin across malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with no queues outside stores.

Retailers from supermarket giant Shoprite, rivals Pick n Pay and Woolworths to Walmart-owned general merchandiser Massmart and fashion and homeware group TFG told Reuters that consumers will likely prioritise essentials over luxury, while also searching for greater discounts for clothes and electronics.

On the other side of the Mall of Africa at Walmart-owned general merchandise retailer Game, Getrude Tladi, 57, and her co-worker Granny Mongalo, 42, snapped up pillows, juice and cereal amongst other grocery items ahead of school holidays.

“Since February we’ve been saving every month for Black Friday,” said Mongalo, who works for a mining company.

“We’re especially buying groceries because our children are closing (school) and will be sitting at home, eating everything in the fridge,” Mongalo added.

At the same store, a couple of shoppers bought big-screen televisions and audio systems. Clothing shops were also busy as parents bought their kids clothes for holiday adventures.

($1 = 18.3689 rand)

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Alexander Smith)