Whip out your credit card! How online made Black Friday a global phenomenon

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Black Friday

Today is Black Friday and you know what that means — you’ll be hunting shops galore for amazing specials with discounts of up to 60% off selected goodies.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s the official start to the holiday season and retail outlets across the US will shell out huge discounts to attract as many Christmas Dollars as they can. It’s referred to “Black Friday” because it’s traditionally the first opportunity companies have to put their balance sheets “back in the black”.

Last year shoppers in the US spent a staggering US$52-billion on Black Friday. That equates to about US$398 per person.

But while Black Friday has traditionally been a US phenomenon, its popularity has begun to spread across the pond.

Amazon, Apple and ASDA in the United Kingdom have launched Black Friday sales this year hoping to attract an earlier shopping spree from consumers. And while it’s only a “normal day” in the UK, the shops are expecting heavy trade. Amazon has been running week-long sales online with incredible discounts valid for this week only, while brick-and-mortar stores are limiting their sales to Friday only.

The phenomenon is even spreading to online retailers in emerging market countries.

In South Africa for instance, popular online store Takealot has announced its attempt inject the same stimulus into the country with largely discounted specials valid for today only including free delivery on all purchases. The online retailer is offering big discounts and savings on thousands of items for one day only.

“In South Africa we are used to having major sales after Christmas. This year Takealot decided to buck the trend and pioneer the Black Friday concept with SA shoppers. We see this as an opportunity to kick-start our festive season with great deals and specials that may help a little in these tough economic times,” said Takealot CEO Kim Reid.

Electronics retailer Incredible Connection this morning also announced Black Friday specials on its website, but deals are only available online and not via its physical stores.

While Chinese retailers start their specials earlier in the year to be more in line with their holidays, the concept is more or less the same. This year, Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao saw US$3-billion in sales in less than 24 hours.

Another advantage for today’s tech-savvy consumer is that more and more online stores are beginning to introduce Black Friday specials, creating the opportunity to buy all your Christmas Presents online at a discount, without the traditional jousting matches at shopping malls in the mad rush and run-up to Christmas.

While most Black Friday deals are seen by consumers as a welcome relief, some traditional retailers outside the US are not excited about the prospect of the tradition spreading to other parts of the world as they would prefer to sell goods at standard mark-up before the Christmas sales start in earnest.

Whichever way you look at it, the consumer wins – and as Wilma Flintstone would say “Charge it!”

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