With Black Friday almost upon us - and NI entering virtual lockdown - here is our big shopping guide to help you with tips and tricks to bag a bargain and avoid being caught out.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday started in America but they have now been fully embraced by the UK, officially heralding the start of the Christmas shopping season. Synonymous with massive savings, Black Friday always takes place on the last Friday of November, with Cyber Monday falling three days later. It is a great opportunity for canny consumers to snap up bargains — but you must be prepared. And of course there are some shopping hacks that will help you navigate the sales effectively. Just do not blow your budget and end up out of pocket. While consumers can expect top deals as retailers attempt to boost their coffers, last night’s Executive announcement means it will all be online.
When is Black Friday 2020?
Technically, it is November 27, but lots of retailers have launched early deals to entice customers and increase online sales before the end of the year. Industry experts are predicting that we are going to see some of the biggest discounts ever. The best online deals are normally announced between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which falls on November 30, 2020, with a few so-called ‘lightning deals’ revealed during the four-day period. Otherwise, there is not expected to be a huge difference in sales prices or products over the course of the weekend. With lockdown 2 in place in England and, from next Friday in Northern Ireland, Black Friday is expected to be an almost entirely online event this year for many.
Simple Black Friday hacks
Make a list of what you really want. Consider upcoming birthdays and other events that you may need to buy presents for. And don’t forget to set a budget. Work out the total amount you have to spend on all your purchases and stick to it. And always remember: just because something is in the sale, it does not mean you can’t find the same product or similar elsewhere. Always shop around to make sure you are getting the best possible deal. Research the items you want to buy and find out the cheapest price. Websites like PriceSpy, PriceHistory and CamelCamelCamel will give you historical data on prices so you can see how much you should pay.
Are Black Friday bargains real?
The annual hype surrounding Black Friday gives us the impression that once-in-a-lifetime offers abound, as retailers slash their prices to historic lows for 24 hours only... but that is rarely the case, according to Which? The consumer watchdog tracked 83 products on offer in the six months before Black Friday 2018 and the six months afterwards to see whether Black Friday ‘deals’ really do offer the rock-bottom prices many shoppers expect — and they found that they usually didn’t. Instead, they found that 95% of the discounts they investigated — which included promotions on popular technology, home and personal care products — were available for the same price or cheaper in the six months following the sales.
How do you recognise fake Black Friday deals?
The most basic starting point for any would-be bargain hunter is to check the price of your desired product across multiple websites. Remember: quite often more than one shop will sell a product at a similar price, but only one may claim that the price is a special offer. Let’s say you are in the market for a washing machine, for example. If four outlets are selling the same washing machine for £250, but only one is claiming it is a special offer at ‘Now £250, was £300’, it’s a pretty good indicator that the price is not a particularly special deal so don’t snap it up thinking you are getting a special bargain.
How do you find a product’s price history?
Make a shortlist of the products you want to look out for in the Black Friday sales, and then look them up on websites such as Pricerunner, PriceSpy and CamelCamelCamel (Amazon only) to find out their price history, according to Which? This will enable you to know whether Black Friday prices are genuinely worth getting excited about. And be wary of ‘Was’ prices. Products bearing notes such as ‘was £100, now £50’ are abundant on Black Friday. But don’t let these ‘anchor prices’ mislead you. Retailers shout about savings — often in red to grab our attention — as a way of influencing customers and they can often be quite misleading.
How do you get the best deal?
You know what they say — a bargain is only a bargain if you get a hefty discount on something you actually need. Otherwise, it is just an added expense. Make a comprehensive list of what you are looking for. Don’t forget to sign up to email updates from retailers, download their apps, and follow them on social media. That way, you will get notifications in real-time. Also, do your research in advance and bookmark the products at the top of your wish list so you can create a shortcut to seeing the discounts as soon as the offers roll in. Unsurprisingly, Amazon often offers the widest range of deals in the widest range of categories.
Bagging a bargain
Shoppers and stores use social media to share coupon codes and deals so subscribe to your favourite stores so you are aware of any coupons that can be scanned in using your phone.
Follow your favourite shops on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and sign up to its deals newsletter to get the latest offers.
It is tempting to shop at all the big name stores with the finances to fund glossy ads but why not shop local? Call independents the day before Black Friday — many have an online presence — and ask if their deal is any better than the ones advertised at bigger stores. That way, you can support local businesses and still get great deals.
What deceptions should you beware of?
Look out for notes or signs explaining offers. The rules that govern special offers are vague so shops can get away with using ‘was’ prices that haven’t been in place for a long time if they put up a sign explaining the deal. Tactics like that can make offers look better than they are. In some historic cases, the product was actually only at the higher price for a fortnight, six months before the current offer, according to Which? Not all manufacturers have RRPs, but some do and choose to display them on their own websites. Before you buy a product in the sales, check the manufacturer’s website to see if you are getting a decent discount on the RRP.
Where are the best deals?
Laptops, games consoles, mobile phones, toys, clothes, big budget electrical goods, tech, beauty, smart devices and kitchen equipment will be up for grabs at a fraction of their usual price. In recent years, Argos, Currys PC World, Very and eBay have worked very hard to beat Amazon’s best prices: all are Black Friday favourites. Few major retailers abstain from the Black Friday sales — although Next is one. It is too soon to say exactly what will be on offer this year, but here are some of the bargains we spotted:
- Dyson V8 Absloute Pro Cordless vacuum cleaner - Was £399, now £299 (Dyson)
- Tassimo Boscho coffee machine - Was (£89.99, now £29 (Currys)
- Apple Watch Series 3 - Was £279, now £199 (Very)
- Armani Diamonds Eau de Parfum (100ml) - Was £72, now £36.99 (The Perfume Shop)
- Sylvanian Families Town Grand Department Store - Was £79.99, now £39.99 (The Entertainer)