Black Friday’s slow start: Midnight spending declines 63%, but total 24-hour volumes up 14%


Black Friday’s slow start
Midnight spending declines 63%, but total 24-hour volumes up 14%

The impact of lockdown and COVID-19 was evident as Black Friday sales got off to a disappointing start with total spend down 63% and trading volumes plummeting 33%, by comparison to last year, in the first minute afterthe clock struck midnight.

Slow to wake up

Unlike last year where South Africa experienced a shopping frenzy in the period between midnight and 2am, sales were also down in the first two hours of shopping, with 40% less transactions than last year, and with a total value 59% lower than 2019. However, at 8am, online merchants experienced a sharp curve upward and saw a huge spike when SA reached its peak shopping hour – the same hour as last year – with the greatest amount of money spent in that slot, up 39%, at R38m.

Second surge

“This continued throughout the day, with a second peak being reached in terms of number of transactions,processed between 7pm and 8pm, as shoppers returned home after work,” explained Karen Nadasen, CEO of PayU South Africa, and Chairperson of the Ecommerce Forum of South Africa (EFSA).

The numbers. In context

PayU, the global leader in emerging markets, sharedthat Black Friday trading volumes in South Africa grew by 14.1% over the 24-hour period compared to 2019, while the weekdays of Monday to Thursday running up to Black Friday were 9.1% higher than last year. While these are an improvement on last year, they are not asdramatic as the previous year-on-year growth. However, PayU noted importantly that these Black Friday volumes are still approximately 400% higher than a normal shopping day.

Black November

There are reasons for these shifts in trends. 2020 has seen an explosion of online shopping since the March 26th lockdown driving many more South Africans into the ecommerce landscape and welcoming more local online merchants than ever before. However, COVID-19 has hit household budgets, and South Africa has started to follow global trends which has seen Black Friday deals commence as early as the beginning of the month. Game, for example, have offered ‘28 Black Fridays’ from 2nd to 29th November. In addition, Black Friday has seen many retailers placing their deals in-store as well as online. Block & Chisel, a popular nationwide retailer in the home and lifestyle sector saw a significant increase online, but also in-store by offering Black Friday ‘yard sales’.

Methods of payment

95% of transactions were made by card, which is an increase of 11.9% while EFT payments grew from a surprisingly low 1% this year by comparison to the year before. During lockdown, South Africa saw a huge shift to mobile transactions at 75% to 85% of online shopping transactions – but Black Friday saw mobile volumes average 60%.

Bold and beautiful

Retail accounted for 79% of the day’s trade, up 19% this year, while travel accounted for just 11% of transactions (considerably down on 2019 figures of 20%) “We were amazed by the volumes in the beauty industry this year, up 59%, and fashion up 117%,” added Nadasen. “In fact, some of them were quite astronomical in terms of the increases that we saw – but there were huge savings in that particular industry being offered.”

Online shopping optimism

“While there were infrastructure problems for some retailers, and PayU were able to come in and assist, for the most part, things were pretty stable for merchants. PayU moved to the cloud several months ago, and this aided us greatly. We also are fortunate to have a backup for our backup,” Nadasen concluded.

According to Alastair Tempest, CEO at EFSA, data showed that this year’s Black Friday still proved to be a welcome relief to a flailing economy.

“Ecommerce during Covid-19 seems to be one of the very few bright spots in an otherwise disastrous economic and health environment. This year’s lockdown has driven many consumers to shop online, in response to the requirement for limited human contact, but the measure of success this year is that more and more South Africans are learning to trust online shopping,” said Tempest.

PayU’s Black Friday numbers at a glance: 

• Black Friday (27 November) year-on-year volume growth – up 14.1%
• First hour of Black Friday transactions (midnight to 1am 27 November) – down 33%
• The busiest hour of trade was 7pm to 8pm on Friday 27 November
• The most money spent was from 8am to 9am – R38m
• 60% of transactions completed were made on mobile phones, according to PayU South Africa
• Monday through Thursday (23 to 26 November) volume – up 9.31%
• Highest measured transactions per second (TPS) – down 30.1%
• 95% of transactions were made by card

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