Despite threat of COVID fourth wave, retail giants ready for Black Friday

Interest in Black Friday dropped last year as the nation battled a third wave of COVID-19 infections and this year the nation faces a possible fourth wave as the pandemic persists. Still, retail giants said that they were hoping for a bumper turnout.

Televisions were a popular item at Makro Woodmead on Black Friday on 27 November 2020. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - Shopping malls and retail giants across the country are bracing themselves ahead of Black Friday at the end of this week.

Black Friday is a US tradition that sees massive discounts across stores the Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Bureau of Market Research said it was first introduced in South Africa in 2014 from 27-29 November, but it's since evolved and now spans almost the entire month, with some of SA's major retailers offering what they say are not-to-be-missed deals from the start of November.

Interest in Black Friday dropped last year as the nation battled a third wave of COVID-19 infections and this year the nation faces a possible fourth wave as the pandemic persists.

Still, retail giants said that they were hoping for a bumper turnout, promising that they were ready to welcome shoppers safely.

The Shoprite Group said that Black Friday marked the start of the festive season for its stores and assured customers that they were well-prepared and stocked-up.

It said that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people were coming into physical stores but their shoppers were spending more when they did and this trend was expected to continue over the festive period.

Safety is a big thing for all of the retailers, group executive of marketing at Pick n Pay, Andrew Mills, said they've planned well in advance.

"Even though the vaccinations are at play and is a difference from this time last year, we have to acknowledge the role that we play in society and make sure that our doors are open for our customers," Mills said.

This year, Makro introduced Black Friday Extended from 1-28 November, with new deals every week for four weeks. It said that to help control crowds each store would limit the number of shoppers inside and regularly disinfect high touch areas like trolleys and till points.

Game Stores' Vice President Andrew Stein said that while they'd also spread out their deals over a four-week period, they were still expecting a throng of customers on Black Friday.