Today marks the last Thursday of November, which is the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the US. In both the US and Europe, shoppers may also have long to-buy lists ready for tomorrow, with early birds planning to be in front of shopping malls first thing in the morning to take advantage of the Black Friday sales.
In Egypt, thousands of shoppers have been enjoying a shopping bonanza in November. This is because Egyptianising the Black Friday tradition has meant extending it to all four weekends of November.
The scale of the discounts was also wider this year, and they were not limited to clothes and electronics.
While e-commerce platforms had been marketing their November offers for weeks even before the month started, pharmacies, supermarkets, beauty centres, spas, and cosmetic clinics all joined the wave of sales by offering discounts on their services, some reaching up to 70 per cent.
Some real-estate developers offered discounts on housing units to celebrate Black Friday.
Suffering from harsh economic conditions and escalating prices, many Egyptian consumers finds the one-month sale an opportunity to buy items they couldn’t have afforded otherwise.
The fact that they have longer than just one day allures more shoppers to visit stores and go to shopping malls.
Cairo resident Sara Ahmed said she loved the idea of a one-month mega-sale at several stores, especially online ones, since this allowed her to find the things she wanted without time stress.
“Before the start of the season, I listed the things I wanted to get, including make-up, bags and some clothes. I knew exactly what I wanted and just waited for their prices to be reduced. The month gave me the space to compare the items and brands to get the best value for money,” she said.
Mana Youssef, head of public relations at e-commerce site Jumia Egypt, said the decision to extend the sale for the whole month had been based on surveys done months before the start of the season.
“Based on the studies we have been doing, people prefer to have a longer timeframe to look at discounted items. This leads them to purchase more, even things they would not necessarily consume at the moment, because they know that even if they do not use the items in the near future, they won’t find better prices than those offered in the sale,” Youssef said.
“Some people might order a few items at the beginning of the month and wait until the next pay cheque in order to get the others. We target providing products at the best possible prices for the longest possible time,” she added.
The online trading platform’s offers kicked off on 8 November and lasted until the 29th, with a focus on having the most attractive and diverse offers in the five categories people search for the most, including phones and tablets, fashion, health, and beauty.
This year’s offers included high-end products and services including healthcare products, beauty centres, and gyms. Sherif Al-Diwany, former head of the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies, a think tank, explained that “retailers have Egyptianised Black Friday to meet market needs.”
Such offers mainly target the A and B classes in Egyptian society, but this is a large sector of the market whose needs have to be accommodated.
However, it is not only A and B consumers that make use of the offers, as Amr Hassan, head of the Ready-Made Garment Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, put it. Black Friday had also revived demand in sectors that have been stagnant for a while, he said.
He said that the clothing market attracted the most consumers, especially when buying winter clothes. Many consumers faced financial difficulties, he said, and this meant that they made larger purchases during the sales.
“For the past year, many people have been suffering from increasing prices and increases in the cost of living, making clothes purchases a luxury. This has severely affected retailers, leading to one of the biggest recessions the market has witnessed in years,” he said.
The one-month discounts under the name of Black Friday were a way of reviving the market, he added, saying that this had been particularly true of the market for clothes.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.