The busiest shopping day of the year is almost upon us, and the good news – or bad, depending on your point of view – is the Black Friday sale has moved well beyond being a 24-hour promotion, effectively stretching over more than a fortnight. But are the supposed bargains all they’re cracked up to be?
A random sampling of some of Amazon.co.uk’s offers suggests that, assuming the item in question is something you actually need, there are some good deals to be had – and some that are not quite as good.
For example, at the time of writing Amazon was offering Bang & Olufsen noise-cancelling in-ear headphones for £109 that were going for £199 at retailers including John Lewis. And while an LG 43-inch Ultra HD 4K smart TV, down from £599 to £399, looked like a real bargain, you can pick up what appears to be a higher-spec version of the TV for £399 – reduced from an RRP of £749.
Amazon introduced Black Friday to Britain in 2010, and along with Cyber Monday, which this year falls on 28 November, it’s now a key fixture of the retail sales calendar, with the emphasis on aggressively discounted electronic gadgets and domestic appliances.
Initially it was a 24-hour sale, but each year it seems to get bigger. Amazon, for example, kicked off its Black Friday promotion at one minute past midnight on Monday 14 November, and it will run until 23.59pm on Friday 25 November. Argos, meanwhile, is promising “13 whole days of exciting offers” from 18-30 November. Similarly, Tesco will be offering 11 days of deals, from Monday 21 November through to 1 December – up from four days last year – while eBay’s promotion runs for 13 days from 17-29 November.
Last year British consumers spent a record-breaking £3.3bn over the weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to Experian and IMRG, and it could well go higher this year. While some will view it as a horrific American import, it is undoubtedly a big deal for retailers: last year, the week that included Black Friday was John Lewis’s biggest-ever for sales.
However, consumer body Which? this week condemned some retailers’ “misleading” Black Friday offers, saying that in many cases “shops are exaggerating discounts”. A Which? investigation into last year’s event tracked prices on 178 deals every day for five months, and found that only half were actually cheapest on Black Friday.Currys and online electrical retailer ao.com were singled out for making some discounts “look a lot more impressive than they actually were”.
Items expected to do well this year, according to research for the website VoucherCodes.co.uk, include DVDs, computer games and books, followed by clothing, footwear and accessories ahead of the festive party season.
Most retailers are keeping their Black Friday deals under wraps until nearer the time, but some have released information about the savings on offer. Argos, for example, has announced some of its deals, and says its offers include up to half price on kitchen electricals, 25% off homeware when you spend £30 or more, up to half price on toys, 25% off any indoor furniture over £150, and up to a third off electrical personal care items. Amazon also released some of its deals. So what did we find when we did a mini price-test of its offers?
Philips Viva Collection HD9220/20 Airfryer
Amazon.co.uk was this week offering this for £69.99, down from an RRP of £200, it says. We couldn’t find it cheaper when we looked on Thursday. Philips says the suggested retail price is £180, though Argos was selling it for £99.99, and George at Asda had it for £149.96. Littlewoods were selling it for £189.99, which it said was a £40 saving on the £229.99 original price.
Bang & Olufsen B&O Play Beoplay H3 Premium Active Noise Cancellation in-ear headphones
Amazon was offering these for £109 – a £90 saving on the RRP. Again, we couldn’t find them cheaper. The Beoplay website had them for £199, as did John Lewis. A seller on eBay, meanwhile, wanted £136.89.
LG 43-inch LG ULTRA HD 4K smart TV
Amazon was offering this for £399, down from £599. Ao.com had it for £599, while one was sold on eBay for £385 on Thursday. But Richer Sounds was offering in-store customers what appeared to be a higher-spec version for £399 – a £350 saving on the £749 RRP.
Philips Azur Performer Plus GC4526/87 steam iron
Amazon had this for £34.99 – a £35.72 saving on the “was” price. An eBay seller, meanwhile, had it on for £49.99. An iron that appeared to be this one, or almost identical with an albeit slightly different product number, was listed on the Philips website with an RRP of £80, but was on Tesco’s website for £45.
So what’s the best advice for bagging a Black Friday bargain? Sarah Pennells at website SavvyWoman offers the following tips:
• Do your research. What features must your new TV have, for example? She says some shops use Black Friday “as a chance to offload old or unpopular stock”.
• Ignore the hype. Shopping comparison sites such as Idealo let you track an item’s price history across a range of retailers. A site called Camelcamelcamel does the same for Amazon.
• Don’t buy because it’s cheap. “If you don’t need it, don’t really want it or can’t afford it, it’s a waste of money.”
• Know your rights. If you order something online you have 14 days from the day after it arrives to cancel the sale and get a full refund, and another 14 days to return it.
• Watch out for fake websites. Just because it ends in .co.uk doesn’t mean it’s based in the UK, and bogus sites can have similar names to the real thing. If a website or retailer insists you pay by direct transfer (such as an online or mobile payment), be aware that your bank won’t give you your money back if the seller turns out to be a fraudster, or you’ve bought something that’s fake.
Find discount codes all year round for large technology retailers by visiting discountcodes.theguardian.com