The Black Friday sales, where shoppers get discounts as high as 80% on goods, are no longer attractive to customers due to paltry discounts and inflationary hikes.

Every November, on the first Friday after Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, retail stores slash the prices of many of their goods to attract higher patronage from shoppers. This culture of heavily discounting the price of goods is what is today known as Black Friday, said to be the busiest shopping day of the year in the US. Black Friday sales usually extend throughout the weekend until Monday, known as Cyber Monday. Around the world, shoppers keep an eye out for mouth-watering Black Friday deals from their favourite retail brands and outlets.

But this year in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populated and technologically advanced city, all of that Black Friday fever seems gone. 

Low turnout for Black Friday

On Cyber Monday, at the Opebi branch of retail chain store Spar, less than 20 cars drove into the store’s premises to shop. On the shopping floor were banners that said Spar would run Black Friday deals up to 40% off until November 30. But the scant number of customers ambling down the aisles, in no rush to grab cheap items off the shelves, seemed either oblivious to this or simply didn’t care. 

At the Ikeja branch of ShopRite, another retail chain store, the situation was no different. At least four customers told TechCabal that the discounts on offer at the store were too low for them to bother. With the purchasing power of Nigerians wilting under rapidly rising inflation this past year, discounts on goods make little difference towards conserving people’s spend.

“The purchasing power of Nigerians has been significantly eroded as a result of the surge in the price of pretty much everything. People are now forced to prioritise their spending and avoid what they do not need,” Samuel Oyekanmi, a financial analyst, told TechCabal. 

A shopping floor of one of the stores visited. Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa/TechCabal

Nigerians had a rough start to 2023. The first quarter began with a cash crunch that overwhelmed the financial sector and further crushed household spending. As of October 2023, inflation has consecutively increased every month to an 18-year high of 27.33%. Food inflation also increased to 31.5%, forcing several Nigerians to opt for social welfare programmes to get by. The majority of spending was reserved only for necessities like food and housing under the latest reforms by Nigeria’s president Bola Tinubu. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) paid lip service to the surging inflation, refusing to hold rate meetings to curb it, thereby complicating the situation. 

These policy reforms have lately impacted Nigerians’ shopping habits.

Shoppers told TechCabal that there was no need to act in a frenzy over discounts that may not stretch beyond ₦5,000 ($6.30) less than the full price. 

“Black Friday is an illusion to us,” Frank Obogai, a middle-aged man shopping with his friend at ShopRite Ikeja, told TechCabal. “There is no difference between shopping today and shopping days after ShopRite’s offers [expire]. What is the difference between ₦5,000 ($6.30) or ₦2,000 ($2.52)?”  

Obong*, an online shopper, told me he got shoes and some food items on Jumia last year for his wedding, at discounted prices. This year, “things were tight,” he said. 

Black Friday sales were introduced to Nigeria in 2014 by the e-commerce platform, Jumia. Other e-commerce platforms followed later. However, adoption is low with the platforms’ customers. Adobe Analytics reported Black Friday generated $9.8 billion in US online sales, up from 7.5% the previous year.  

The CEO of a Nigerian e-commerce platform, who spoke to TechCabal under anonymity, said that inflationary pressures and poor purchasing power have affected the e-commerce sector in the country. “Things are collapsing for everybody. Also, the country has fundamental, structural and skill problems that won’t change overnight.”

Declining trend of Black Friday searches in Nigeria on Google Trends. Credit: Google Trends

No more Black Friday discounts

An Instagram vendor who sells hair extensions and refused to be named said she is not thinking of doing any exclusive Black Friday deals. “I can always give a discount on my daily purchases, though,” she added. 

Although businesses in other parts of the world use Black Friday deals to maximise their profit over a weekend, Oyekanmi the financial analyst told TechCabal that buyers don’t believe that businesses in Nigeria are offering any of the discounts, as claimed. “Companies are in business to make a profit and would not sell lower than cost price,” Oyekanmi said. “The question asked by an average buyer would be, why would there be a 20%, 30% discount in this high inflationary environment?”

*Name has been changed.

Joseph Olaoluwa Senior Reporter, TechCabal

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