After Americans have gorged themselves on Turkey, many of them feel the need to gorge themselves on ’bargains’ which go on sale the day after Thanksgiving. The UK has always had the Boxing Day sales, but somehow we have become entangled in Black Friday now too . Many retailers, and particularly Amazon have made a significant feature of this for several years now - even offering daily bargains in the week leading up to the big day itself.
For Retail / Consumer Psychologists this is a major event, as rarely is post-purchase-dissonance at a higher level - i.e. customers dissatisfied with their purchases in some way. After last year’s Black Friday sales, a number of the participants were interviewed and they stated they kind of got caught up in the hysteria and hype of the day and bought things they really did not need or had active requirements for. When they got home and inspected what they had bought they often discovered they had purchased end-of-line stock, typically older lines of consumer electronic goods - which were a year or two or more beyond their manufacturing date.
I have an enormous Wish List on Amazon - with around 500 items in it. I scan these every other day or so to see if various prices have improved in any significant way. Many things do drop in price over time, but unbeknown to some - Amazon prices actually fluctuate a lot over time - going up as well as down. The Wish List records when a price is lower than when you added it to the Wishlist, but does not record when the price goes higher. In my Wishlist of 500, not a single item went noticeably down in price for Black Friday!
As an example the complete DVD series of Moonlighting is currently on sale at £54.53 which is less than at my local HMV (£58) but significantly higher than what I bought it for from Amazon on the 7th September (£21.99). I promised my sister I would get her the series when it fell back down to the £20+ mark which I bought it for. I have seen the price as low as this a couple of times, I failed to buy the item the first time the price fell, but got a copy the second time. I’m now scanning regularly for the price to reach its lower end again - there are probably apps which keep tabs on this too.
The point in all of this is that a huge part of what consumers may perceive to be bargains on Black Friday are not really bargains at all. Many retailers have 3 major lines of stock - one for their High Street Stores, one for online and one for their discount / outlet stores. During Black Friday a number of those retailers will simply allow the outlet stock to flood into their other retail lines - producing a long list of apparent bargains. However, much of the outlet stock is actually composed of cheaper copies of mainline items (using lesser quality materials and missing some details) - Michael Kors has been found to do this a lot with its outlet stock.
So a lot of what you end up with is just normally discounted older stock - which for some reason many people think they are getting at bargain prices. When they get home and do further research, the find out that they typically did not end up with what they though they were getting - they often have something of lower specification and lower quality.
I have yet to buy anything on Black Friday - in the way of heavily discounted stock. As with all sales you should only ever approach these with a target list of specified requirements. If you are trying to be opportunistic to catch a bargain - more often than not you will buy something ’Too good to be true’.
It’s strange that something so US-centric has now become so commonplace in the UK, even in many parts of Western Europe. It kind of fits as a pre-Christmas discount day, but its tie-in with Thanksgiving certainly is a little odd from a European perspective. There are of course decent 10-30% discounts to be had off many major retailers mainline ranges too - so there are some sorts of bargain to be found. Just be aware what when buying bigger ticket items that ’Too good to be true’ is just that - ’Caveat Emptor’!