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Black Friday guide: shopping safely and getting the best deal

09 March 2020

Black Friday is one of the biggest days in the UK shopping calendar. But what is Black Friday, when is it, what deals are typically on offer, and how do you shop safely in the retail maze?

Keyboard with a padlock key to represent paying securely online
Secure payment sites, like PayPal, give customers an easier, safer and faster way to pay online without having to share any financial information

Usually on the last Friday in November, Black Friday has in recent years emerged as one of the biggest days in the UK’s annual shopping calendar.

Black Friday sees major retailers mark the occasion by promising some big discounts.

Where does Black Friday come from?

Black Friday began life as a major shopping day in the United States. It falls on the day after Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. As such, it’s really the US equivalent of our Boxing Day or January sales.

We might not observe Thanksgiving in Britain, but Black Friday has become a big event over the few years, largely due to the efforts of UK retailers to generate extra revenue.

It's now followed by Cyber Monday, which falls three days later and focuses more on online deals.

What deals are usually available?

The first few Black Fridays in the UK witnessed extraordinary scenes, as shoppers descended on stores in their thousands to get their hands on bargain electronic goods and appliances.

While some outlets say they no longer plan to open at midnight as they have in the past, trading hours will still be extended and there will again be some big savings available.

If you brave the crowds, don't get caught out by scammers in car parks

A lot of the most substantial in-store discounts are being kept under wraps until the day itself. To take advantage of these, you’ll have to head to your local high street or retail park and take your chances with the crowds.

Airlines also get involved with flash sales, so if you're hoping to bag a cheap holiday, it might be worth keeping your eyes on the flights. 

Go online and avoid the crowds

But for those of us who don’t want to join the throngs, Britain’s online retailers are already taking advantage of the interest in the shopping bonanza by cutting prices on a wide range of goods.

Do you know these six worrying things about online shopping?

Another word of advice

Don’t be drawn in by something that looks like a good price – decide what you’re after, check the prices in the run up, and make sure you’re not distracted by the worry of missing out.

Some companies have been known to actually hike the prices up on Black Friday, relying on the blind panic of shoppers to get what they mistakenly see as a good deal – so be wary.

Do your homework, and don’t lose yourself in Black Friday fever!

Stay safe online on Black Friday and beyond

Many people choose to avoid crowded shop floors over the festive season so more and more people are shopping online. With massive discounts on a huge number of products from online stores such as Amazon, we all need to be aware of the scams that online shopping events such as Black Friday can lead you into.

Check and check again!

There are a lot of places to shop online and many of these places are safe and secure. If you find yourself shopping online at store you are not familiar with do some research into them first. A simple Google search on a web shop will offer some guidance.

The most obvious thing to look for to help identify a scam website is the quality of the site itself. If the site appears unprofessional or is full of spelling errors, this can be an indication that things are not genuine.

Make sure you keep an eye on your address bar at the top of the page to ensure the web address does not completely change, especially when you come to pay for your goods. Remember, if an offer appears to be too good to be true, it probably is… even on Black Friday!

Ensure your payment is secure

Whenever shopping online, only use recognised sites with payment systems such as PayPal. Alternatively, opt to pay by credit card, as this gives you an extra bit of protection.

Check that the web address starts with https:// and then look for a padlock symbol in the address bar or browser window.

How credit cards can protect your consumer rights

Make sure you know your consumer rights so you can return goods that turn out not to be right.

If your PayPal is connected to your credit card then you don’t have the same protection as when paying directly with your credit card. So on any purchase over £100, if you have the option to pay via credit card or PayPal, then a credit card is better.

Do not click on any strange links

It doesn’t matter what device you are using or even if a link appears in an email you have been sent, do not click on any unfamiliar links. Be mindful of clicking on adverts and links on social media.

If you see an offer or deal that looks tempting on Facebook for example, it is best to go directly to the website advertised than accessing the offer through a link you have found.

Do your research

On Black Friday it can be tempting to buy items because of the hefty savings that are being advertised.

But sometimes these savings can be exaggerated, with certain retailers offering hefty discounts on poor-quality goods or old models in a bid to shift stock.

The best approach is to do your research and check the reviews beforehand while you have the time to take things in. That way, when the discounts come up on Black Friday, you can just add to your basket.

This is particularly important when purchasing items such as TVs and washing machines, as you want to be sure the deals you are chasing are worthwhile.

Try a site such as HotUKDeals where members comment on whether a deal is value for money based on price, quality of the product and retailer.

Be ready in advance

While Black Friday doesn’t take place until the end of November – coinciding with the last payday before Christmas – it’s worth being ready before the day arrives, as some deals can start any time during the week (or weeks) before the event.

Keep an eye out for details of when and where discounts will be by signing up to retailer websites for newsletters and following them on social media.

Question the discount

Be aware that retailers sometimes increase the cost of an item before a sales event to make the sale look better. Check out RRPs (recommended retail prices) to ensure you know exactly what deal you are getting.

Be disciplined

Resist the urge to make purchases purely on the basis that an item is heavily discounted.

If you do, you will fall into the trap of buying goods you don’t really need.

Before you start shopping, set aside a few minutes to write a list of all the things you really want. This will avoid you making a host of impulse buys that you will later come to regret.

Don’t assume Amazon is the cheapest

When shopping from the comfort of your sofa, don’t assume that Amazon is going to be the cheapest just because it’s Black Friday – you still need to shop around.

Take a moment to check out PriceRunner, as this site compares Amazon with other online retailers, plus you get access to lots of reviews.

Camelcamelcamel is another useful site where you can track prices on individual products as they fluctuate on Amazon. Or add the url of the product you're interested in to the Alertr site and you'll be notified when the price drops.

Keep an eye out for hidden costs

While you may think you’ve bagged yourself a bargain on Black Friday, you need to be on your guard, as you could end up getting stung by “hidden” costs, such as shipping, which could reduce the discount.

Be quick

You need to be ready to be super-quick when making purchases on the day, as some deals will sell out in seconds.

Make extra savings

See if you can get additional discounts on your Black Friday purchases by searching for codes for “free shipping” or an “extra 10 per cent off” on deal-sharing communities and forums. Try sites such as Vouchercloud, VoucherCodes, and MyVoucherCodes.

Be a VIP

Some retailers release Black Friday deals to their VIP members first, so sign up to receive emails from your favourite stores and brands so that you will be put on the “VIP list”.

Check delivery times

If you’re planning on buying Christmas gifts on Black Friday, make sure you check estimated delivery times to be sure that presents will arrive in time.

Take heed of any alarm bells

If something is surprisingly low in price and you haven’t heard of the retailer, listen to the alarm bells in your head. Make the checks below to see if the company is legitimate, and the offer worthwhile for you to part with your details.

How to cut the cost of Christmas

Check that the company is legitimate

Use sites like Endole, Scam Adviser and VAT search to check if a company is legitimate and safe to buy from.

These sites let you to see if a company is registered to a credible address and how long it's been operating. If it’s only a short period of time the company may have been trading under a different name, which may have incurred bad reviews or the company may have had a different status.

Checking the address also gives consumers the chance to think about where the company stores stock and where products are sourced from. If stock is shipped from outside the UK, there may be shipping costs to consider, as well as longer delivery times.

Check reviews

Look at websites such as to check business information, which also lists reviews of companies from consumers, which can help you decide whether to trust them or not. Scam Adviser also includes reviews from customers.

Signs an email may be a scam

How to pay safely and securely online

How a credit card can protect your consumer rights

Ask other shoppers

If you’re still unsure about a retailer and the service they offer, look on shopping and deal forums – members will happily share their experiences of delivery times, customer service and more.

They will also have tips on alternative retailers so you don’t miss out on the items you want to buy at the right price.

Tell us about Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday has emerged out of the Black Friday phenomenon as a day which shows a big surge in people shopping online.

So if you prefer to buy online in the comfort of your own home and want to give busy shopping centres and crowded pavements a miss, Cyber Monday is the perfect alternative .

What discounts can shoppers expect on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Discounts can be generous at around 40% off some items. There is no telling exactly who will discount what until they release details. But you can expect to see big price cuts on household names, from technology brands to fashion and beauty.

Which items are discounted?

The most popular items sold on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are electronics and gadgets from iPads and tablets to laptops, TVs and video games.

Retailers keen to get people shopping earlier for Christmas are extending the discounts to fashion and beauty.

Sign up to receive emails from your favourite shops and brands

Email is the best way to hear about offers, so you don't miss out on bargains. Sign up for emails from all of your favourite brands in advance and you could find yourself in their VIP list. 

Did you know you get protection on purchases over £100 if you pay with a credit card?

Shop during unsociable hours online to get the best deals

Not only can you shop 24/7 online: retailers often release their deals at very unsociable hours.

In some cases it's part of their marketing strategy, in others they're bridging time zones and simply want to put all of their offers up at one time.

Since you can shop in your pyjamas from the comfort of your sofa, shopping "out of hours" isn't so bad after all.

Don't take retailers' word for it that you’re getting a bargain

Do your research and check what other retailers are charging elsewhere for the same item.

A 25% discount on a product that's being sold at a higher price still doesn't make it a bargain.

Make your shopping list in advance and use a shopping search engine such as PriceRunner to help find the cheapest price for the item you're looking for before the sales start.

Compare the prices to any relevant discounts to decide whether it's worth buying while the promotion is running.

Read our guide to paying safely online

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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