One of the biggest shopping day of the year.  Massive discounts.  Buy now.  Limited supply.  Unrepeatable offers.

The marketing headlines come at you from all angles.  70% off banners are everywhere.

Getting caught up in all the excitement is very easy.  Forecasters expect UK shoppers to spend £10-billion this year.

But should you believe the hype?  Are there really unmissable bargains?  And where and when did Black Friday become a thing?

What is Black Friday?

It won't be a surprise to learn Black Friday began in the United States.  It is the day after Thanksgiving which is always the fourth Thursday of November.

The day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the run up to Christmas in the US and became a popular shopping day in the 1950s.  But it was only labelled Black Friday relatively recently.  Probably in the 1980s.

Why Black Friday? 

No one quite knows where the name came from.  The most credible explanation seems to be it is the day when retailers begin to turn a profit and go from being in 'the red' into 'the black'. 

However it got its name Black Friday has become a huge global event.

Amazon introduced it into the UK in 2010.  But initially it had little impact as Brits still flocked to the traditional Boxing Day and January sales. 

By 2013 other retailers including Asda had got involved and Black Friday quickly became a multi-billion pound event. 

Are the bargains real?

An investigation by Which? confirms what anecdotal evidence had suggested for years.  Many of the so called discounts and mega-deals are nothing of the sort. 

Which? tracked many Black Friday deals and found 60% were either cheaper or the same price on other days of the year. 

Many of the seemingly huge discounts mean little in reality.  60% off an item doesn't always mean it is a bargain.  You may still find it cheaper elsewhere. 

Remember.  Low-quality goods from unknown brands attract the biggest discounts.  This is especially true of electrical items.

But, having said all that. There are some genuine bargains.  Just not as many as the shops would have us believe.

Bargains and brawls

Black Friday has become infamous for TV footage from the US as frenzied shoppers literally fight for bargains.  People swapping blows over TVs.  Toys snatched out of children's hands.  Even shootings.   The sales bring out the worst in people.

We saw similar scenes in the UK in 2013.  Asda, owned by US giants Wal-Mart, staged their first Black Friday sale.  The sight of shoppers brawling in the aisles has since made Asda throttle back on their Black Friday promotions.

How to survive Black Friday

At this time of year many are thinking of Christmas.  And Black Friday seems the best opportunity to save some money on gifts for the family.  But don't feel pressured to buy.  There will be plenty of other products on offer before Christmas.

But you can still enjoy Black Friday and bag a genuine bargain.  Just follow our survival tips:

  • Always shop on price. Ignore claims of huge savings.  Compare prices on like-for-like products from different retailers.
  • Use Google shopping search to compare prices.
  • When you spot a bargain always think twice. Do you really need this product?
  • Set a budget for gifts and stick to it. No matter how tempting the 'bargains' are.
  • Pay attention to brands. Huge savings on low-quality brands are often a false economy.
  • Finally, always ask yourself if you can really afford the item.