shoppers on busy street in the UK

UK consumers are being urged to do their research and not get lured into retailers’ Black Friday promotions, with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute emphasising the temptation to ‘bag a bargain’ could actually leave shoppers out of pocket.

The caution comes as retailers across multiple sectors gear up for Black Friday, a shopping event expected to be one of the busiest days for companies in the year which will take place on the 29th November.

A recent Which? report suggested that 87 percent of the Black Friday deal items it investigated were available for the same price or cheaper at other times of the year.

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“In some instances, prices have been found to be better before or after Black Friday,” commented CTSI Lead Officer on Fair Trading (Pricing) Wendy Potts.

“All markets are capable of making doubtful claims which push the legal requirements to the limit. Consumers need to be aware of what the rules are when retailers are selling goods via online marketplaces.”

Underlining how misleading consumers with promises of offers for products that are overstated or false is against consumer law, the CTSI emphasised that it had the power to challenge retailers that break consumer rules.

“Black Friday is one of the biggest retail events of the year, but the deals aren’t always as good as they may first appear. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement, but you need to keep your wits around you. For example, products are often discounted throughout the year, so may not be on sale for their best price on Black Friday. Others may have their prices inflated in advance in order to make their sale prices seem better than they actually are,” stated Sylvia Rook, Lead Officer for Fair Trading and Trade Descriptions at CTSI.

“Businesses are not allowed to mislead customers as to the saving you are making, so if you think any claims are false, give it a miss and contact trading standards via Citizens Advice consumer helpline. Black Friday is a time when you may be able to get a good deal, but CTSI would advise you to think carefully before you buy.”

The CTSI is advising consumers to resist the temptation to purchase products hastily before doing research first, emphasising customers to consider value over cost.

“Don’t look at the savings, look at the cost. Is it good value? Don’t get sucked in by the hype,” commented Peter Stonely, Lead Officer for Civil Law at CTSI.

“By doing your research, you’ll be more aware of what you really should pay and not be blinded by ‘offers’.”

Representing trading standards officers throughout the UK, the CTSI says shoppers should research different prices of products, both during the sale and historically, before the sales to see whether the saving is genuine.

It also advises consumers to follow their favourite shops on social media and sign up to newsletters to stay up to date with the latest deals, as well as search online for additional discount codes which may be available.

With its roots in the US, having started as a sale extravaganza on the first Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday has increasingly become popular in the UK, fuelled largely by Amazon’s rise to retail dominance over the last decade, with the online retailer importing the American event to British shores.

According to the CTSI, many retailers market aggressively to take advantage of consumer enthusiasm and some stores have even started announcing selected deals early to give shoppers an idea of what to expect on the big day.

There is also a move among retailers to stretch Black Friday into a two-week event, states the institute.

“This early aggressive marketing could make it easier for shoppers to do comparisons and effectively play the retailers at their own game,” said Peter.

“The trick is to be organised and to always know what you want before you splash the cash. Consumers need to be on their guard regardless of whether they are shopping in-store or online.”

A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in October said that consumers are spending more online than ever before, with the proportion of online spending increasing threefold between 2008 (4.9 percent) and 2018 (17.9 percent).

It said that 87 percent of adults are in 2019 daily users of the internet and that the proportion of users shopping online in the last 12 months was 82 percent this year, up from 53 percent in 2008.

Despite this rise, it found consumers still spent most of their money in stores in the last 12 months, with just over 80 pence of every pound spend in-store.

Recently, five mobility retail leaders shared their thoughts on Black Friday, considering if an event solely focused on convincing consumers to make purchases based on price alone is the right fit for the mobility industry.

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