How to make sure Black Friday doesn't leave you in the red

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There was a time when the word sale in big, red capital letters actually meant something.

When people would queue up in the cold and wet winter streets in the early hours of the morning for a 6am store opening.

When customers knew beyond a doubt that shop signs boasting of “prices slashed”, of “everything half price” of the “biggest sale ever”, were accurate; that you were making a real saving, getting a proper bargain.

Why? Because “The Sale” happened just once a year - usually on Boxing Day.

But these days with “Mad March Markdown Madness”, “Super Summer Sales” and “Autumn Clearances” as well as competition from online shopping, discount stores and voucher websites the idea of paying full price for anything from holidays to groceries, furniture to cars, seems somewhat old fashioned.

And even though the UK has imported the American “big sale event” which is Black Friday, it’s been interesting to note that already this apparently major sale “moment” has lost its thrill with a lot of shoppers.

Of course it doesn’t help when the hype around such sales doesn’t match the reality and bargain prices aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Indeed, new Which? research has found that 60 per cent of Black Friday prices were lower at some other time over the course of the year.

Nor does it help when some retailers - particularly furniture stores - have sales on for nine of the 12 months of the year. Why would anyone pay full price for a sofa when another sale is likely very soon?

British retailers seem to have lost the art of the sale; or have forgotten why sales were so successful in the past.

Pricing is always important, but for some stores and outlets it seems to be the only marketing tool in the box. And ultimately it may well turn off savvy shoppers who wonder if a higher price is a con, or who put more stock in good service and quality of product.

So if they’re never-ending, or aren’t all they’re cracked up to be price-wise, it’s hardly surprising that the excitement which once greeted the “sizzingly hot sale” sign in a shop window is these days rather lukewarm.

Remember and send me your consumer queries at askalex@which.co.uk

PRICE POINTS

Which? tracked the prices of 35 popular products over a year to see if Black Friday prices were all they were cracked up to be.

Of those looked at, 22 were from Currys PC World, 12 were from Argos and one was from Amazon. Surprisingly, 60% of products could be bought for the same price or cheaper at other times of year. For almost half the deals, the price was the same or even less in the December immediately after the Black Friday period.