The term Black Friday was originally known for a market meltdown (on September 24, 1869) when the markets crashed after a period of rampant speculation. Today’s better-known version refers to the first day of the American Christmas shopping season, the day after Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
The tradition was exported by US-based companies with international operations, which forced other retailers to join in the bunfight or lose their edge.
Retailers plan their Black Friday campaigns for months, using ever-more cunning incentives to get people to buy goods in-store or check them out online (ie pay for their goods).
Such is the hype around this event in America that it is not uncommon for people to spend the night camping in front of stores to get a place at the front of the queue. Dedicated shoppers hope that spending the night in wintry discomfort, instead of in front of the fire enjoying the company of the family after Thanksgiving dinner, will give them a better chance at bagging the biggest bargains.
Truth be told, though, it is usually a bunfight once the doors open and the sharpest elbows tend to win out over patience, sacrifice and forward planning.
It is against this background that South African shoppers should think about Black Friday, which falls on November 29 this year. It is somewhat of an over-hyped event, designed by retailers to get consumers to buy more goods than they want, need or can afford, rather than a special day for shoppers to rejoice in.
What are the odds of success? It is not unheard of for a super-canny shopper to buy something that they really want or need at an amazing price and go home feeling very pleased. Possible, yes, but not likely.
The more common scenario is the person who heads to the mall, real or virtual, with one or two desired items in mind and returns with everything but what was wanted or needed. Instead, they will likely have a pile of stuff they do not really want or need as well as a red-hot credit card, plus regrets and maybe even some self-loathing.
Black Friday success plan: (Spoiler alert: this is the less exciting way of ensuring the day serves you and your finances)
- Arm yourself with the facts: Remember the words of Jake White (World Cup-winning Springbok rugby coach): “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Research the products you would like to buy with the same dedication retailers use to research their target audiences. Often, something described as a bargain is anything but, for example, items ‘marked down’ from inflated prices that don’t represent current market value. Some research and cool nerves will help you tell the clever marketing and behavioural blackmail from the real deals.
- Create online wishlists: This will help you to know what specials are running on the items you desire or use daily on your favourite sites.
- Compare prices: items are not always cheapest on the Black Friday sale site. Price comparison websites (like PriceCheck) help to make comparing prices effortless and pain-free. Don’t leave it till the day to check prices. Rather do a price-check on a few things you are interested in the evening before Black Friday so that you have a basic idea of what a good price would be.
- Don’t panic: Fomo (the fear of missing out) is a retailer’s dream. Do not fall into the trap of panic buying because you believe the marketing material saying this is a “once in a lifetime offer”. An even better offer might come around later. Besides, “once in a lifetime offer” is not to be confused with “your life depends on it”.
- Set a limit on your Black Friday spending: No matter how attractive a discounted item looks, spending more money than you can afford to is a recipe for ruin.
Not wanting to be a total killjoy let me suggest an extremely effective way to save a fortune on Black Friday (and beyond): Sign up for a new retirement product at 10X Investments, or transfer an existing one across, before December 13 and you will pay absolutely no fees at all for the whole of 2020. Learn more here.
That is a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.