Malls braced for Black Friday frenzy

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By Barbara Hollands

East London and Mthatha malls are expecting a bumper Black Friday today as the US retail tradition of one day of rock-bottom prices takes a firm hold locally.

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Mall managers said the shopping splurge day had grown annually since Black Friday arrived in South Africa three years ago.

Trading hours have been extended and security and traffic control measures have been beefed up to cope with the thousands of bargain hunters expected to head to the malls today.

“Whereas at first only the major national retailers were offering specials, now all of them are latching onto the opportunity because they see it as a precursor to the Christmas shopping season,” said Vincent Park mall manager Joseph Parsley.

At East London’s largest shopping centre, Hemingways, the management is expecting more than 60000 visitors to take advantage of the 13-hour shopping spree, which kicked off when the car park opened at 6am today.

“Last year Black Friday attracted over 60000 shoppers to the mall,” said marketing manager Estee Roos. “We are hoping it will be the biggest sale day we have ever experienced.”

Reinforced security and traffic control will be in place today to cope with increased human and vehicle traffic.

Roos said two SAPS satellite branches would operate today and that the traffic department would be on hand to prevent traffic congestion.

Parsley said that while extra security was being deployed, retailers were responsible for their own crowd control measures.

At Mdantsane City mall, marketing manager Wendy Zitha said last year’s Black Friday was such a success that this year consumers would have 12 hours – 8am to 8pm – to snap up their specials.

“While Black Friday was busy last year, our inaugural year, we are expecting a huge increase in bargain hunters,” she said.

Mthatha’s BT Ngebs City is expecting foot traffic of more than 40000.

“Bargain hunters can expect discounts of between 40% and 60%,” said manager Lolo Sabisa.

Parsley said 44000 shoppers had streamed into Vincent Park last year and he was expecting about 50000 today as more retailers had taken the opportunity to boost potential sales.

He said that although Black Friday increased the sales spend in November, this “flattened out” in the weeks before Christmas.

“November is phenomenal but is it sustainable? People max out their credit cards and then maybe they don’t get a bonus and so they have to service their debt. There is a mindset that Black Friday is an opportunity people can’t deprive themselves of, but they obviously run the risk of getting into debt in this tough economy.”

Parsley said centre parking would be free today with stores opening at 7am. The carpark will be monitored and closed should it reach capacity.

“We’ll allow people to leave before we reopen it.”

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