It's official. Black Friday is bigger than Christmas. And while you may have trouble selling that concept to any child under 14 online retailers and high street stores know it. There may not be any catchy pop songs about Black Friday. Nor any cheesy sugar-coated movies about elves or even TV specials flogging tired old characters. But Black Friday has its own version of jingle bells. It’s the constant ringing of the cash register.
Black Friday generates around £1.5 billion in the UK. A figure which Santa just can't match. This must be really annoying for the big fella. After all, he's hundreds of years old. Black Friday in the UK is a young whippersnapper in comparison. It's only really been a thing since Asda introduced it in 2013.
Why shops can't wait for Black Friday
Retailers' love Black Friday as a massive number of sales come in just a few days. Although Christmas as a whole sees more cash flowing through the tills, UK shoppers spend around a billion pounds on Black Friday alone. Never mind the ‘pre-Black Friday’ sales as well. This explains all the hype we hear about 'unbeatable bargains' and 'massive discounts.'
Avoiding the hype
The Black Friday hype plays on one of the most basic human emotions. The fear of missing out. We all love a bargain. And we hate the thought of someone else getting anything cheaper than us. This is why we've all seen those horrendous YouTube videos of shoppers literally fighting over discounted goods.
Sometimes it’s best to ignore the sales and save our cash. And it used to be easy to avoid Black Friday. You simply had to stay in bed, pull the duvet over your head and stay there until Saturday. Now you can't even do that. Most big websites and stores have a Black Friday week or even month. "Don't miss the early bird deals" and "mega-bargains all month." You know the sort of thing. As much as you'd want to, you can't keep hiding under the bedclothes until it’s over. And even if you could those canny marketers will still catch you unawares with their Cyber Monday sales.
But, hang on. Is everything really as it seems? Is Black Friday the bargain fest it purports to be? Or is the slick marketing and hyperbole making suckers of us all?
Here's a fun fact. Did you know 62% of the products in the 2017 Black Friday sale were actually cheaper in the six months before or following the sale? That sound you can hear is bargain hunters’ jaws hitting the floor. Scandalous isn't it. But just in case you're not entirely convinced here are a few random examples:
Fancy a Garmin smartwatch? Only £129.99 during Black Friday 2017. A nice £10 saving. But you could have got it for £104.99 if you'd waited. Or how about a Toshiba 43" smart TV? You could have saved a massive £149 and paid just £330 on Black Friday. Awesome. Except it was available for just £300 either side of the sale.
See where this is going?
Bluetooth on-ear headphones. Who doesn't need a pair of these? £129.99 normally but a great Black Friday bargain at just £79.99. I'm sure the shoppers went crazy at that price. Unfortunately, they were available at other times during the year for just £48.00.
Now I'm painting a pretty black picture about November’s sales extravaganza. Don't get me wrong. You can find some great deals. But you have to dig deep. Don't take those 50% off banners at face value.
How you and your wallet can survive Black Friday
Here are a few tips to remember if you're tempted into a shop or onto a website to do some sales shopping.
- Check the spec of the product. The biggest discounts on Black Friday are on technology products. But often they’re out of date stock or low-quality imports. If you're looking at a TV for example visit the manufacturer's website. You may find there are at least one or even two newer versions of the product. And they may not be much more expensive than the one you're considering buying.
- Compare prices. If you see a product on a website just copy and paste its name into Google. Press enter and when the search results come up click the 'shopping' tab. You'll see a range of prices from different websites which stock the product. It's not an infallible method but you'll get an idea if the product really is a bargain or if it's cheaper elsewhere.
- Take some claims of discounts with a pinch of salt. When stores claim 'up to 70% off' they aren't lying. But it only needs one product out of hundreds to have that discount. Look beyond the bold headlines and think about the price itself rather than the claimed discount.
- Don’t let claims of ‘limited stock’ pressure you into buying. Nine times out of ten this means there are thousands stocked high in a dusty corner of the warehouse. Take your time and consider whether you really need this product and if it's worth shelling out your hard-earned cash.
- Enter a monastic retreat for a week.
That last one may be a touch extreme. But the bottom line is if you take a healthy dose of scepticism with you to the Black Friday sales you won't end up with a purchase you'll regret. Or one that will be even cheaper in a couple of months time.
Enjoy the sales. But be careful out there.