Couch Cat: Wannabe Black Friday

29 November 2019
Author   Jackie Wilson Asheeke
Namibia has blindly jumped onto the American retail industry’s ‘Black Friday’ sales push.  They say that imitation is the greatest form of praise.  However, the Namibian wannabe Black Friday is a weak replica of the original; it misses the point.
In the USA, this Friday sales day is full of extraordinary discounts on highly sought-after items.  But, in Namibia, things on offer are at the same sale prices as would happen any other day.  They just brand it as “Black Friday” to trick the public into thinking this is a massive discount sales day, when it is not.
Black Friday is actually a major shopping day linked to the American Thanksgiving Holiday.  Thanksgiving Day is always the last Thursday of November.  It is a super huge American eating fest holiday.  Schools and businesses are closed and it is a major travel holiday as families get together for the traditional turkey meal.  Most people take a holiday from work on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The attractions of the mega malls in the USA are an allure always, but are usually enhanced for Black Friday.  These places are huge.  The mall I enjoy the most is the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania.  It has 400 stores and takes up 241,548 square meters.  As online sales increase, mall developers and retail companies are searching for ways to bring the masses of the people back to the malls.  Black Friday is one way to do that. 
They use the lure of impossibly low prices to grab the attention of the buying public.  The stores take everything languishing in their huge warehouses or storage rooms and put them out at ridiculously low prices.  The retail stores are anxious to clear their shelves and increase the foot traffic in their shops with new and old buyers.  Also, the US government taxes the inventory of retailers based on the original value on the paperwork for each item.   Therefore, end-of-line or out of season merchandise, items returned, and imperfect products are front and center on Black Friday.  But, also top line products are slashed in price to sweeten the deal.
You will find designers shoes that might cost US$165 normally, going for US$50.  A top of the line brand refrigerator that costs US$1,000, could be available on Black Friday for US$400.   I once bought a lap top on Black Friday for US$70 when it usually retails for US$450. 
Shoppers love to make a ‘deal.’  Here is one way Black Friday works:  The super cheap laptop I bought had only 25 units available at that price.  The late comers are offered another laptop on sale for US$250, but stripped of the extras.  You would then have to buy those extras separately for an extra $150.  There may be only 50 units of this one available. 
When those are gone, the regular laptops are put out on the tables for sale.  They sweeten the deal by offering a laptop bag, software, cables and headsets, an external disk drive or terabyte memory drive - each at 50-75 percent off with each laptop sold. 
Because of the lure of the super cheap laptops, people may end-up buying the regularly priced laptops, thinking they are making a ‘deal’.   In addition, once they have the crowds in the store looking for laptops, they inevitably buy other things whether they are on sale or not.
On a regular sales day, they might sell 30 or so of the regularly priced laptops.  On Black Friday, they would sell hundreds in a few hours. 
In Namibia however, I noticed that the stores just place the out of season merchandise from that may already have been on sale anyway back out again.  Or they offer a measly 5 percent off items that are already marked up 20 percent and are of questionable quality.  There is no ‘deal’ being offered in Namibia’s Black Friday hype.  And Namibian retailers do not stand behind their products and have poor return policies.   The stores here operate on a parody of what Black Friday is actually supposed to be.
Worse, the public thinks that the things they are being offered on ‘Black Friday’ are something special, when there is no big deal at all. 
In these tough economic times when people are holding on to their money, the malls should try harder to find ways to get masses to come out and find REAL ‘deals.’  Namibian retailers are mostly South African and have no authority to independently act or make sales/promotions decisions.  The South African ‘image’ of Black Friday is off the mark and it makes Black Friday a joke.
To have Black Friday BEFORE the November payday is silly and only serves those with credit cards and overdrafts.  The last week before payday is when people are broke.  Namibia’s Black Friday has nothing to do with Thanksgiving Day as this is not celebrated here.  Why not make it BLACK SATURDAY and hold it the first Saturday AFTER payday? 
Let us create our own ‘sale-day’ brand and do it better.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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