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Black Friday 2018: What date is the shopping event and who will have the best deals?

Hannah Daly
People walk past a Black Friday shop window advertisement in Oxford Street, London - PA

Summer has sadly come to an end. The crisp autumn air and darker evenings are returning and the Black Friday sales will soon be in full swing, marking the start of the festive season. 

Retailers such as Amazon, Currys PC World and Debenhams are expected to compete in the pre-Christmas sales day to offer the best deals and Britons will search their local high streets and the online shopping world in hope of finding bargains. 

But is the shopping event all it's made out to be? Can you really pick up a good deal or are the deals a con? 

Here's our ultimate guide to Black Friday, from the history of the sales day, advice from business experts and tips on how to shop smart and save.

When is Black Friday 2018?

Black Friday takes place next week - the day after the U.S celebration of Thanksgiving and this year, the shopping event falls on November 23, followed by Cyber Monday on November 26. 

For those looking to save money on big ticket items ahead of Christmas, then the sales weekend is usually worth hanging on for because of the range of tech, toys, clothes, gifts and appliances that are discounted.

Despite some cynicism around the nature of the 'discounts', experts insist there are still deals to be had as the retail sector races to the bottom - but only if you do your research.

Expect the usual big name retailers to get involved as they try to out-shop leader of the pack, Amazon.

The growth of Black Friday

Police officers in Philadelphia, USA, first used the term "Black Friday" in the 1950s, when large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city the day after Thanksgiving, creating chaos, traffic and shoplifting opportunities.

The name "Black Friday" soon grew throughout the U.S and today, it commonly marks the start of the Christmas season, where shops compete to offer the best deals. 

The concept was first brought over to the UK in 2010, when online retailer Amazon, promoted a range of discounts and deals to consumers - and Britain was hooked. 

Supermarket Asda, owned by the American retailer Walmart, later held its own Black Friday sale in 2013, which quickly turned into mayhem, making national headlines as customers physically fought for flat-screen televisions.

Since then, the sales day has grown year on year, although much of the shopping is now done online thanks largely to the rise of the smartphone.

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG, the UK's industry association for online retail, said the event has impacted the way we shop in Britain: "Consumers are now delaying purchases because of Black Friday."

Customers fought for televisions in Asda's Black Friday sale in 2013 Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg News

How big was Black Friday 2017 (and what did we buy?)

The hype around Black Friday continues each year and shows no sign of abating. According to data from Barclaycard, spending was up by seven per cent in 2017 compared to the previous year. IMRG also reported that the amount spent on UK online retail sites increased by 11.7 per cent to £1.39bn, year on year.

Unsurprisingly, it's big-ticket tech products that people tend to snap up over the Black Friday weekend - including top of the range televisions, laptops and household appliances. 

Which? discovered the most popular product reviews on its website across the sales weekend last year included the Samsung UE40MU6120 40-inch TV, HP 15-BS series laptop, Samsung HW-M360 soundbar, Dyson V8 absolute cordless vacuum and LG OLED55B7V 55-inch TV. 

In 2017, search engine Bing also found that searches for the best 4K TV deals were high while Amazon, revealed the Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa voice remote, Nintendo Switch, Bosch PSB 1800 Cordless Combi Drill and Lego Ninjago Manta Ray Bomber were some of their best-selling products. 

What deals and savings were on offer last year? 

IMRG found the voice assistants, Amazon Echo and Google Home, were particularly popular in the sales because prices were slashed by up to 50 per cent in an attempt to get more people to install them in their homes. 

In terms of gadgets, Amazon offered deals including price cuts to the Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Surface Pro and Fitbit Blaze, while John Lewis offered discounts on the Google Home speaker, Amazon Fire 7 tablet and MacBook Air.

Currys PC World reduced the price of the Delonghi coffee machine, KitchenAid mixer and Xbox One X. 

Tesco had a range of deals on Marcy exercise equipment and gift experiences such as a helicopter flight for two while ASOS offered 20 per cent off everything on their site across the Black Friday weekend.

Next also held their own sale across the Black Friday weekend last year with up to 70 per cent off a range of items in store and online until Cyber Monday.

In terms of travel deals, Europarc offered up to 50 per cent off holidays at 50 of their most popular parcs.

Do all UK retailers hold Black Friday sales?

No. Despite a number of UK retailers participating in the 2017 Black Friday sales, many chose not to participate, including Ikea, Asda, Marks and Spencer, Homebase and Primark.

Selfridges sort-of joined the shopping event by holding its own weekend promotion called "Christmas Comes Early" instead.

What did we learn from Black Friday 2017?

Black Friday is not a one day event

The increasing competition between UK retailers has meant sales are no longer confined to just one day, as many shops began offering deals in the days leading up to Black Friday, which saw it dubbed 'Black Fiveday'.

Some online retailers even started their sales as early as the start of November, continuing across the Black Friday weekend, and concluding on Cyber Monday.

According to research by Springboard, the volume of online transactions in the week before Black Friday was up 11.3 per cent as retailers cut prices early.

Patrick O'Brien, a retail analyst at Globaldata, said that this has led to less excitement on the day: “There’s been a lack of urgency about the day itself. People have been making those purchases for at least a week and some of the best promotions have already been around for a while.”

Don Williams, retail partner at KPMG, linked the length of sales to consumer demand as "customers don't want to be involved in the rush of sales".

If we shoppers don't want to be rushed, then the stores don't either. Spreading the event across several days cuts the pressure on websites and the huge flurry of online deliveries can be spread more evenly. 

Online sales (and click and collect) triumphed 

Despite an overall increase in Black Friday spending from the previous year, high streets and shopping centres were emptier because - let's face it - it's easier and quicker to browse online and then buy.

Research from Springboard found high street footfall was down 4.2 per cent from the previous year and including retail parks and shopping centres, 3.6 per cent fewer shoppers went out to look for bargains on Black Friday.

Down by 0.9 per cent, Saturday footfall was slightly higher as shoppers went to collect their online purchases from stores.

Mr Mulcahy, at IMPG, said one in three online orders for multi-channel retailers use a click and collect service, suggesting that online sales are likely to remain prominent across this year's Black Friday weekend.​

More people looked for bargains online on Black Friday Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Technology and electrical deals dominate the sales

Discounted gadgets appeared to be prominent in the Black Friday sales last year, with a range of retailers competing to offer the best deals on laptops, televisions, game consoles and voice assistants.

Retail analyst Bryan Roberts of TCC Global, suggested Black Friday is a "huge deal" for electrical retailers such as Currys PC World, which face tough competition from online retailer Amazon. 

Currys said orders for over-ear headphones were up 223 per cent, games consoles were up 158 per cent and large TVs were up 44 per cent compared with the previous year.

E-commerce director Stuart Ramage at Dixons Carphone, said last year that TVs had been "flying off the shelves" as shoppers "made the most of our stores being open early".

Britons love late-night shopping

With a trend towards less shopping on high streets, it appears more Britons are in favour of online shopping, particularly in the evenings. 

Argos said its website attracted two million visitors in the four hours after its Black Friday deals were launched at 9pm on Thursday November 23. 

Consumer Rights

Across the Black Friday weekend, your consumer rights will remain in place and you may need to use them if you receive faulty goods, discover an online scam or simply wish to return your purchase. 

If you have changed your mind about a product, most British shops have a returns limit of 28 days from the purchase date while online purchases can be returned within 14 days of receiving an item to receive a full refund.

However, some retailers have different policies regarding returns of sale items, so think carefully when purchasing items in the Black Friday sales.

For more advice on Black Friday purchases, read our full guide on consumer rights.  

Scams and online hacking

Unfortunately, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales can make the perfect opportunity for online hackers to obtain your personal and sensitive data.

If you're planning to browse the web on Black Friday, stick to trusted websites, which have a padlock symbol in front of the URL and secure banking services.

Mr Mulcahy, at IMRG, said: "Scams tend to happen through phishing emails and scammers can try to imitate retailers' email addresses."

Mr Mulcahy also recommends signing up to your preferred retailers' newsletters before the sales and to always avoid clicking links in any suspicious emails you receive. 

It's also worth creating strong passwords to all your online accounts and avoiding suspicious emails to prevent your purchase details being stolen.

For more help on staying protected when online shopping, read our guide to online hacking.

Only make purchases from websites with secure payment services Credit: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Can you really find good deals on Black Friday? 

With the increasing competition between UK retailers and more sales being launched in the days leading up to the shopping event, trying to find the best deals can be difficult.  

Mr Mulcahy at IMRG insists that "you can absolutely get a deal on Black Friday" with good research in advance, particularly as "more and more retailers switch on their campaigns early".

If you're planning to shop online during the sales, setting up your accounts beforehand can give you more browsing time and a faster checkout process.  

It is important to understand what you're hoping to achieve from the sales event. Think about what you're looking to purchase and if you can make any savings on the day. 

Research the retailers in advance to see what deals they will be offering and compare prices with others to find the lowest costs. 

However, it is also important to remember that retailers will offer discounts throughout the year and prices across the Black Friday weekend might not necessarily be the cheapest.

Alex Neill, Managing Director of Home Products and Services at Which?, said: “Our research shows that although Black Friday can offer some great discounts, not all offers are as good as they seem.

“It’s easy to get swept along by the hype and excitement on the day, so we recommend  doing some preparation and research to help make sure you really are getting a good deal when shopping in the sales.”

Which? also discovered that 60 per cent of products they investigated were available for the same price or cheaper at other times of the year, proving research in advance and on the sales day is key to saving cash.  

To find out how to get the best deals, read our full guide of shopping tips.  

What is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday marks the continuation of sales following Thanksgiving and Black Friday, with deals and offers promoted exclusively online. This year, it falls on November 26.

The name was adopted in 2005, by Ellen Davis, senior vice president of the National Retail Federation in the US, when she found an increase in online sales on the Monday after the Thanksgiving celebrations.

A range of retailers got involved with Cyber Monday last year including Amazon, Tesco, Debenhams, House of Fraser and Argos.

According to a study by Sale Cycle, last year more sales were made on Cyber Monday than Black Friday in the USA, with a total of $6.59bn spent. However in the UK, Black Friday sales were 78 per cent higher than Cyber Monday. 

Discover Black Friday voucher codes and Cyber Monday offers