On your marks, get set … shop
This weekend retailers will run four days of mega deals from Black Friday through to Cyber Monday. But if you’re shopping for new kit, be prepared.
Since the 1930s, Black Friday has marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US. Falling the day after Thanksgiving it has become one of the busiest dates in the retail calendar. Over here, Black Friday has a far shorter and more chequered history.
The concept didn’t really hit the UK high street until a couple of years ago, when shoppers ended up hitting each other to get at the few cheap TVs on sale at Asda. Brits do love a bargain, after all.
(Looking back at videos of the carnage, the scene at the supermarket entrance is not far off that at the beginning of a triathlon: there is push and shove before the doors are opened and then pull, grab and (sometimes) punch as the field races to that half price laptop).
But that was 2014.
In 2017, you’ll have less chance of a black eye when the discounts start next Friday. Why? Because lots of us will be staying at home. Some surveys suggest that one in four Brits won’t step foot in a shop next Friday (24th). It makes sense. Sipping a flat white whilst surfing for new gear sounds preferable to going toe to toe with Ricky as he rages down the high street in his Sports Direct tracksuit hunting for the promised £300 off a 56-inch flatscreen.
But you still need to be prepared – especially if you’re looking for triathlon gear.
Looking for a bike? Well, you’ll want to see it, touch it, and perhaps even try it before you buy it. If it’s trainers you’re after, then you’ll want to ensure you get the right fit and style; ditto a wetsuit. There are some things that it’s nice to see, feel and touch before you buy and this week is the time to do it before Ricky et al hit the shops (and anything that gets in their way).
You can also do research online. Take a look at customer reviews of specific products, for example, or compare the qualities and functions of, say one watch, over another. This will give you a better idea of the products you’re after. Indeed, what you don’t want to do is end up spending a few hundred quid on kit that doesn’t quite do what you need or want it to do.
“But I’ll just return the things I don’t want back,” I hear you say. That’s fine, and you won’t be alone (research I did recently for Retail Week showed that return rates are a massive headache for retailers: one in three people sent what they’d bought on Black Friday 2015 back, compared to rates of one in five more generally).
And sometimes the returns are easy to do. Sometimes they’re not. A heart rate monitor I bought two years ago is still in the box because it wasn’t compatible with my GPS watch (contrary to the reviews). I missed the boat on the 14-day return period and am now waiting for my watch to die so I can buy one that links with my ‘new’ HR monitor.
My point is: if you’re better prepared then you’ll shop savvy and buy exactly what you need, rather than be overcome as the floodgates open and get caught in a weekend long click-fest purchasing stuff that’s ‘on deal’ rather than the ‘real deal’ (indeed, you also need to be on the lookout for fraudsters online).
Be aware. Black Friday deals may not be as good as they seem.
An investigation by the consumer group Which has found that of the Black Friday ‘deals’ surveyed in 2015, half (49%) were actually cheaper in the months leading up to or directly after the shopping day. Only 8% of discounts they tracked were actually cheaper on Black Friday than at any other time of the year, and they even found evidence that big retailers such as Currys and AO had inflated their ‘was’ prices to make discounts look better than they really were.
If you are after something specific, make sure you have a good idea of how much it usually retails for and the sort of discounts that get applied throughout the year. You don’t want to be battling other shoppers for a Garmin that was cheaper a month before the Black Friday sale even started.
My final tip is to be patient. Millions of people will be piling into the online retail orgy next weekend looking for deals on everything from nickers and notebooks to smartphones and sneakers. So make sure you have a decent internet connection.
Even so, there’s a good chance some of the sites will crash (even Amazon has struggled with the traffic, which incidentally I see as a reason for early festive cheer given its approach to taxation and the rights of its workers). Rather than throw your laptop at the wall, sit back and take five minutes to revel in the fact that your fight is virtual rather than real.
Ready to get bargain hunting? We’ve compiled our pick of the best deals from our cycling and triathlon partners all here in one handy post so you’ll have a head start when next Friday rolls around. Happy shopping!