Black Friday sales might be popular in South Africa, but they are massive in the United States.
US retailers offer big price cuts across multiple product categories, which usually results in chaos at brick-and-mortar stores as shoppers rush to buy discounted items before they are sold out.
Online Black Friday specials are also very popular in the United States, and many digital storefronts have to prepare their systems well in advance to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by traffic on the day.
If you want to shop through US Black Friday specials and you live in South Africa, there is still a way to take advantage of these deals.
Big retailers like Amazon will occasionally let you directly ship certain items to South Africa, but many of its products can only be purchased in the US.
There is a solution to this problem, however – parcel forwarding services.
After registering for this service, you will be able to shop at US online retailers and order packages to your shipping address.
Your package will be then delivered to the forwarding company’s warehouse, with their arrival being logged on an online portal. Once all of your packages have arrived, you can choose to ship them to your address in South Africa.
There are a variety of international shipping options available at different rates, depending on how quickly you want your packages to arrive.
From this point, the only obstacle is customs clearance.
Customs and import duties
Your chosen shipping service should contact you about your order and the customs clearance procedure after you ship your purchases.
This is where VAT and import duties on the products will need to be paid to the courier company clearing your items.
VAT will be added to the price of the product when it is brought into South Africa, while customs duties may also apply depending on the product. A smartphone, for example, will cost you a 9% excise duty when imported to South Africa.
Another added cost to account for is the actual delivery cost of the package from the US to South Africa.
Heavier and larger packages are naturally more expensive to ship, and express air freight can also be an expensive choice.
If you are concerned about your package being lost or damaged in transit, you can also buy insurance for your package from the delivery company.
While the process outlined above might seem attractive, if not more expensive than initially portrayed, there are other limitations to importing products from the US.
Firstly, SARS has said that buyers can only import three shipments into South Africa each year – any more, and you will need to apply for an importer’s code.
There is also the problem of plug compatibility. If you have bought electronic items from Amazon in the US, chances are they will have US plugs on them which will require replacing.
Importing products from US retailers also makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get support for your product.
Local support is not available for imported products, and the US retailer you purchased the device from may refuse to offer support as well.
Lastly, tech items made for the US can come with geo-restricted services or software – you may be required to set the item up as a “US” device.