Black Friday sales tips to know & traps to avoid
A few years ago UK shops started to import the American idea of Black Friday sales, which are the first Friday after Thanksgiving in the US. Then we got Cyber Monday too, other online discounts and offers on the following Monday, and eventually a long weekend of continuous sales.
This year Black Friday will be on the 25th of November, and Cyber Monday will be on the 28th, which coincides with what for decades has been the busiest British shopping weekend. The general thinking of most consumers is that you might as well get a discount when you’re getting the shopping done, which is completely understandable – and I’ll be rounding up the best sales for you later in this article.
Meanwhile, the cost of living crisis continues to deepen, and most people simply have far less to spend than they did last year and the year before that. This has led to several very noticeable changes in consumer behaviour, such as starting the Christmas shopping earlier to spread the cost, making fewer and smaller purchases than usual, and buying different types of items, The shops, of course, have responded, trying to get a bigger share of a shrinking and shifting marketplace.
‘Black Friday’ is being used in a somewhat nebulous way, no longer related to a specific weekend, and offers and discounts have already started in many stores. For example, there are plenty of month-long deals, and pre-Black-Friday incentives. I haven’t heard any rumours about offers being more generous than usual on the day, which is interesting.
Anyway, back to Black Friday weekend itself. First and foremost, remember it’s not compulsory to buy anything at all at this moment in time, however strong the siren song of marketing hype may be. If you do plan to get the bulk of your shopping out of the way around the 25th of November though, you’ll have some deals and discounts coming up that you might like to make the most of.
First, set your budget
What can you really afford to spend? Be honest with yourself. It’s never been more important in my lifetime to make a sensible budget and stick to it. This year is not the time for impulse purchases.
Second, make your list
What do you really, really need to get? Is there anything you could get now that would help you or someone else to save fuel or keep warm and cosy? Is there anything else that you really, really want, if your budget allows? Is there a little treat you might buy, but only if you can get a good deal on it? Make a note of your priorities: need > really want > want, but not essential.
Early retail statistics suggest we’re shopping differently this year. Total spend per household is down, glamourous or frivolous purchases are fewer and smaller, and we’re choosing more practical tech and household-type items. For example, air fryers, slippers, vacuum cleaners, fleece-lined maxi hoodies and iPads are more popular for 2022, and many retailers have already sold out of their top-rated electric blankets and heated clothes airers.
Third, research and track
Look at online customers reviews and expert reviews before deciding on exactly what you’re buying, and have a look at current prices among different large retailers. You might like to have a short hit list of reliable shops to check on the day too, to save time.
You might also like to look at price trackers Such as UKCamelCamelCamel (tracks prices on Amazon UK) or Pricerunner (whole of market) for any branded goods as this will tell you how prices have fluctuated over the last weeks or months. Is it really cheapest on Black Friday? Often this will be the lowest price of the year, but that’s definitely not guaranteed.
Also, price tracking usually gives you the best idea of which shop’s going to have the most generous offer. They might even have some on the go already.
Remember, not all deals are good deals
Recent research suggested that about half of UK Black Friday deals were not the best deals of the year, so isn’t always the best time to shop. However, I do understand that sometimes it’s convenient to get your Christmas or other shopping out of the way, as December can be a hectic time for so many of us, and the weekend coincides with most people getting their November pay packets which allows for spreading of costs.
Also, if a deal looks too good to be true, it usually is. Watch out for fraudsters and fake websites, and don’t rely on ‘just Googling it’ as it sometimes brings up things that aren’t legit.
Appy versus un-appy
This year there seems to be an even greater trend towards enticing shoppers to use retailer apps, often with app-only short-lived offers or extra discounts. While this can work for some people I think a little caution is required for two main reasons.
Firstly, using a shop’s app can ‘silo’ your shopping experience and make you forget to use whole-of-market comparisons so you might not be getting the best deal. Secondly, you can end up being rushed into things and upsold various extras that you might not really want or need.
[I actually ended up deleting my Amazon app a couple of Novembers ago because it was giving me the jitters with all the constantly-changing short term deals, not all of which were particularly good or even obtainable as the limited stock sold out so fast. I had lots of paid work on and it was too much of a distraction and a drain on my time.]
I’m not saying don’t use apps, I just mean shop slowly and maybe use a desktop or laptop to compare prices and deals as well as using your mobile.
It’s not the last chance saloon
Just as there were lots of better offers around before Black Friday, there will probably better deals around after Black Friday. Your shopping plans aren’t doomed if it doesn’t work out exactly how you’d hoped on the day, and there’s no need to panic buy. Other opportunities will present themselves.
Just as the shops started holding their sales and offers early this year, it looks like they’ll probably be doing late offers too. Spending is down, so they need to keep attracting customers.
In particular, if you need things that aren’t specifically for Christmas, such as household or practical items or a gift for a January or February birthday, I suspect the New Year sales will have some extra deep discounts tacked on at the end of January 2023. A little patience may be all that’s needed.
Don’t ‘consolation shop’
Hyped and time-sensitive marketing makes most of us behave in emotional ways, and if a deal doesn’t appear or a must-have item sells out then it can create a strong feeling of loss for many. In the past I’ve been guilty of trying to chase that unpleasant feeling away by buying something, anything else instead – and I’ve almost always ended up regretting those purchases. I’ve forgotten to shop around, or bought things that weren’t what I really wanted, both of which waste money.
Now whenever I get that icky feeling I remind myself that marketing hype is an illusion, that the shops don’t necessarily have my best interests at heart, and that the unpleasant feeling of missing out will pass.
The easiest thing to do is take a break from the shopping, make a cup of tea, run an errand or two or get a quick chore out of the way, and then go back to the budget and the shopping list to remember those priorities. If in doubt, walk away.
Hey! Where are the actual Black Friday bargains, Penny?
Okay, okay, yes there will definitely be some good offers, and generally the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.
Shops that have their roots in the USA tend to be the best bet for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Cyber Weekend discounts, including:
Many of these shops and brands have ‘gone early’ this year too and are already offering their usual sort of deals.
I’m especially keen to see what the new UK arm of Sephora brings us on the beauty offers front for their first November back in Britain, as the marketplace has long been dominated by other shops and they’ll be vying to attract customers away from their usual haunts. They currently have 33% off lots of stock.
On the home grown business side of things, it looks like all these:
- Activity Superstore
- Cult Beauty (big offers not live yet)
- John Lewis
- Not on the High Street
- Virgin Experience Days
… should be reliable places to look. Nearly all of these retailers have offers on their websites already, so it’s worth keeping tabs on them or buying before the main event.
Let me know if you find any amazing bargains, or you spot a few retailers taking the mickey.