South Africans will be shopping up a storm on Friday, November 29 when most local stores and online retailers offer huge discounts on what is called Black Friday. Tills jingle, shoppers queue and the cyberspace is a flurry of online shopping.

It’s a win-win

‘Stats SA recently announced that retail sales rose by 2.5% in August,’ says Karl Hammerschmidt, CEO of e-retailer RunwaySale. ‘Although this is not a huge increase it is higher than economists predicted. Hopefully this growth will continue as we head toward the end of year but we do know that Black Friday will play a major role in helping boost sales. It will be a welcome relief for cash-strapped consumers and also help increase sales in what has been a challenging year for retailers.’
Black Friday is a favourite shopping day in the US, used to signal the start of the Christmas shopping season after Thanksgiving but it has gained momentum in South Africa, especially over the past five years.

Reluctance turns to success

‘Initially, we weren’t particularly keen to be part of the Black Friday hype,’ says Hammerschmidt, ‘We sell designer fashion and accessories online at discounted prices. This means that every day is pretty much a Black Friday at RunwaySale. However, the hundreds of designer brands we represent wanted to test the market and response to a countrywide big sale day.
‘Three years ago we ran our first Black Friday promotion and have not looked back. Sales have increased exponentially year-on-year. Last year we had over 10 000 shoppers before 11am and tripled our biggest sale day. On average our website was responding to customers in less than 1/10th of a second. However, considering nearly 60% of our customers were shopping on their phone – this speedy turnaround time was crucial for sales.’

A week of specials

This year RunwaySale will be running a week long promotion. It kicks starts at 5am on Monday, November 19, building up to Black Friday and then beyond to midnight on Sunday, November 25. Daily escalating discounts will be available on thousands of designer fashion and accessory brands, culminating in up to 80% off. There will also be exclusive offers for VIP shoppers, early launch sales and other daily pop-up special surprises to maximise savings for shoppers.’

The tech behind Black Friday online

‘Black Friday takes all year to plan,’ says Hammerschmidt. ‘This includes stress testing our site a couple of times to make sure the shopping experience is seamless. We are also applying successful strategies used last year - such as splitting our database into five separate systems. In simple terms, this allows people who were still browsing not to be affected by those placing orders. We have built in a payment system that allows us to switch banks, without any downtime, even if the bank that processes our credit cards goes down.’

Stocking up for Black Friday

‘We have liaised with brands to source exclusive and desirable stock, increased stock to cater for demand, are warehousing extra inventory and have coordinated with our courier supplier to ensure speedy delivery, with some items ready to be bought and delivered on the same day!
‘The promotion is around limited stock for a limited time period at varying discounts but, having said that this year we have the widest range of designer items to choose from. Shoppers are spoilt for choice and can buy an entire wardrobe – from a dress to a shirt, hat, shoes, handbag, eyewear, jewellery and cosmetics – at the click of a button and at fabulously affordable prices.’
It’s a 25 hour day for employees at RunwaySale. For fashionistas, it’s time to set your alarms, flex those wrists and remember it’s fastest fingers first!