Venezuela Enjoys its First Black Friday as Maduro Eases Controls
(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela had its first ever Black Friday shopping frenzy as the socialist government loosens economic controls and allows people to spend in dollars.
Caracas residents flocked to malls, seeking discounts on electronics and clothing. People queued for Adidas sneakers and Huawei phones, just as they did for flour and beans until recently.
“This is the most customers I’ve seen all year,” said Josue Contreras, a salesman at an Adidas store. “Most pay in dollars, few in bolivars.”
President Nicolas Maduro’s government quietly ditched a decade and a half of price controls in recent months, and allowed people to carry out transactions in dollars, rather than in hyper-inflationary bolivars. This has triggered a retail revival, even as the country endures the deepest economic slump in the history of the Americas.
At the Sambil mall, the biggest in Caracas, around 50 people queued outside the Adidas store, waiting for their turn to look at the sports gear on sale at discounts of 20% to 50%. Security guards only allowed five potential buyers inside the store at a time, for fear of shoplifters.
Families strolled through aisles already decorated for Christmas, window-shopping and clutching their newly-purchased items. Fast food and sushi restaurants were packed.
A large number of Venezuelans now get foreign currency remittances from the 4 million-strong diaspora. But even those without access to greenbacks joined the hunt for bargains, since discounts are rare.
Many consumers were wary of being ripped off, and looked up U.S. retail prices on their phones before buying anything.
“On some products they’ll double the price compared to the U.S, so even with a 20% discount you still pay way more,” said Carlos Sanchez, who bought two sports watches for $37 each.
After a discount, a Samsung Galaxy A70 was on sale at $450, a Nintendo Switch in $500. In the U.S., the same items are available on Amazon at $338 and $269.
Some malls extended closing hours until midnight, an unusual step in a city where fear of crime deters many people from venturing out after dark. Stores in some provincial cities also had Black Friday promotions.
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