Just 2% of Black Friday sales were at the cheapest price on the day of the sale last year, according to a study by Watchdog Who?
The consumer group warned that the vast majority of so-called Black Friday deals were cheaper or the same price at other times, and said the deals “should be taken with a grain of salt”.
Which? analyzed 208 Black Friday deals last year at eight major home and tech retailers – Amazon, AO, Argos, Boots, Currys, John Lewis, Richer Sounds and Very – looking at their prices every day in the six months before and after the November 25 sale day.
It found that only five of the deals were at their cheapest on Black Friday itself.
Black Friday sales often start earlier in November and continue past the sale day itself, so Which? also extended the sale period to include November 18 to December 2, taking into account ‘Cyber Monday'.
It also found that 86% of products were the same price or cheaper at other times of the year.
In one example, Apple Airpods (2nd generation) at both Argos and Curry were discounted from £139 to £119, but were cheaper than the Black Friday price every day between May 25 and September 9, when the price ranged from £99 and £109.
The price only rose in September to £139 and then dropped to £119 the week of Black Friday.
At Amazon, the Garmin Lily Sports Edition smartwatch has been reduced from £199 to £149, but Which? found it was cheaper 58 days before Black Friday, including £114.99 during the Amazon Prime Day sale, when the retailer often offers significant discounts.
At Richer Sounds, the Bowers and Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition floorstanding speakers went from £1,599 to £1,299 on Black Friday, but are £1,299 from October and were only £1,199 for 23 days in May and June.
The price then dropped on December 8 to £1,249, showing that customers willing to hold out until after Black Friday could find a bigger discount just weeks later.
At Argos, three-quarters (75%) of products on offer on Black Friday included in the Who? were cheaper at other times of the year – the highest rate for any of the retailers included in the study.
The vast majority of products at Argos were TVs, which usually drop in price after new models are launched in the spring.
A TV was £120 cheaper than the Black Friday price next March.
Argos said to Which? that only one product in its analysis was a Black Friday offer, but the watchdog found that many of the Argos products included in its analysis were included in the online URL and included in a section of the retailer's website called “Black Friday » offers and hot products».
Amazon had the second highest percentage (69%) of products that were cheaper than the Black Friday price at other times of the year.
Amazon also has its own sale day event – Amazon Prime Day.
In Very, AO and Richer Sounds, which one? found that about half of the products were cheaper in the six months before or after Black Friday.
Retailers rarely claim outright that they're offering the best price on Black Friday, but which one? said that “shoppers could be forgiven for thinking this is the time when the best sales of the year are available, given the huge hype and marketing during the sales period.”
Which? urged shoppers not to feel pressured to shop on Black Friday, but to take the time to make sure a product is of good quality and is being sold at a price that really offers value for money.
Ele Clark, Which? Retail editor, said: “Our research shows there's no need to feel pressured to go out on Black Friday as it's rarely the cheapest time to shop.
“Retailers are not unaware of the added pressure on household finances this year and will be keen to use Black Friday to attract shoppers looking to get the most for their money.
“Although rare, there are some genuine opportunities to be had – just make sure you do your research and don't panic. It's worth comparing the price across a number of retailers and checking the product's price history using a site like PriceRunner or PriceSpy – that way you'll know a lot when you see one.'
An Amazon spokesperson said: “What? looked at fewer than 30 products in their analysis.
“Black Friday Sale 2023 will offer hundreds and thousands of deals to our customers, including the lowest prices of the year on a range of top brands including Ninja, Braun, ghd and our own Amazon appliances.”
A spokesman for Argos said: “Which? has come to outrageous conclusions, based on just one “Black Friday” deal in Argos. We offer hundreds of great value deals on a wide range of products every year. This does not exclude these items from other offers and clearance sales in the future.
“Customers now have extra peace of mind when shopping with us, thanks to our Black Friday Price-Promise brand. This guarantees that the product will not fall below the current price before January 1, 2024.”
An AO spokeswoman said: “This is classic biased, unbalanced Which? ‘Research' released every year always misses the point and doesn't represent the value the Black Friday promotional period offers to hard-pressed households to cut Christmas costs.'
A John Lewis spokeswoman said: “Our customers can get great deals with us all year round, but anyone who visits our website today will see that we have thousands of great Black Friday deals for our customers – including up to 40% discount on selected small kitchen appliances. 20% off select beauty products and 25% off select Legos to name a few.”
A Currys spokeswoman said: “Prices may change throughout the year – especially due to other great sales we run across a range of categories – but Black Friday is still a great time to get a good deal and always we encourage our customers to take advantage of our price match guarantee right now.”