Shoppers urged to beware of ‘deals’ on Black Friday

Shoppers grab bargain Christmas presents at Asda on a previous Black Friday. Picture by Tony Johnson
Shoppers grab bargain Christmas presents at Asda on a previous Black Friday. Picture by Tony Johnson
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Almost half of so-called Black Friday deals were cheaper before or after the biggest Christmas shopping day sales, a consumer group has discovered.

A Which? investigation found 49 per cent of products “on offer” were actually cheaper in the months before or after Black Friday. It claimed some retailers may be breaking government pricing guidelines.

Which? tracked deals on 20 popular tech gadgets and home appliances on Amazon, AO, Argos, Currys and John Lewis for the three months before and two months after Black Friday last year. Only 51 per cent of the products were cheapest on Black Friday itself, with the remainder cheaper before or after the day.

Less than one in ten discounts were one-day only offers, where the Black Friday price was cheaper than on any other day. Around one in ten were cheaper in the three months leading up to Black Friday and four in ten cheaper after Black Friday.

Pete Moorey, head of campaigns at Which? said: “Shoppers might be surprised to learn only half of Black Friday deals are actually cheapest on Black Friday. If you’re thinking about starting your Christmas shopping around Black Friday, do your research as some ‘deals’ may not be all they’re cracked up to be.”

In addition, Which? uncovered numerous examples of offers by retailers AO and Currys that appeared to inflate the “was” price to make deals look better than they actually are. When promoting a discount like “was £100, now £50”, the “was” price should be the most recent price the item was sold at for 28 consecutive days or more, and not a price more than six months old. One Samsung TV sold by AO for £299 – a “discount” of £200 – was often available for £289 during November and late October.

Meanwhile, a Hoover tumble dryer was sold at £200 on Black Friday alongside a claim of “When they’re gone, they’re gone” on its website.

The Which? report said: “But this ‘offer’, really a permanent discount, remained at £200 for two more months.” Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University, said: “It doesn’t surprise me. Sales of any kind are retailers trying to move product that they’ve got and to get shoppers in front of products they’ve got that they otherwise might not buy. Manufactured sales, such as Black Friday, even more so.

“If retailers are doing something that breaks laws then they should be prosecuted for it, but customers should always ask themselves whether something is a real reduction or bargain, or if it is not.”

The Which? investigation founds only 90 out of 178 deals tracked were cheapest on Black Friday. Currys claimed keeping prices low after an event like Black Friday is good for shoppers. Likewise, AO said some products may remain on promotion to give customers ‘great deals beyond just the one day a year’. Both retailers said they had followed the regulations and guidelines on displaying discounts.