Monday, November 28, 2022

Fake deals, cynical shoppers and warehouse chaos: the rise and fall of Black Friday in the UK

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It used to cause fights in supermarkets, but revelations of bogus discounts have angered many shoppers, while stores often see little benefit

Black Friday is said to be every bargain hunter’s favorite season. But in the countdown to next week’s big event, the telltale signs are already being spotted of retailers preparing to scam us with bogus discounts.

Some experts believe this year’s fake may be worse than ever – and that rising consumer apathy coupled with early signs of slowing footfall and “nightmare” logistics for retailers could ring the “death knell” of the shopping phenomenon.

To make their discounts look more stunning and unmissable when they go live on Friday November 25th, many stores have been secretly increasing prices over the past few weeks.

Between Saturday, October 1 and Tuesday, November 15, 31 percent of products monitored by comparison site PriceSpy at more than 6,100 stores increased in price, according to data shared with I — and 17 percent are up 10 percent or more.

In and of itself, that might not be evidence of a retail conspiracy. High inflation has led to dramatic price spikes throughout 2022 as companies try to cope with rising costs. It would be strange if prices hadn’t gone up, even though 10 percent over the past six weeks is a big increase.

But inflation can’t hide the tactic of preparing for “fake sales” as experts see this sneaky trend every 12 months. Last year, 14 percent of products tracked by PriceSpy increased in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and then suddenly “reduced”. In 2020 the total was 11 percent and in the previous year it was 13 percent.

The beauty industry was the hardest-hit sector in 2021, with 22 percent of all perfumes and 21 percent of all skin care products sold being counterfeit. Others were computer components (18 percent of all products), hiking and trekking shoes (16 percent) and kitchen appliances (15 percent).

“Our data suggests that Black Friday fake sales may be much more prevalent in 2022 than in recent years,” says Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, the site’s UK manager.

That would be quite an achievement, albeit a shameful one, given that the consumer magazine is coming out in 2021 The? found that a staggering 99.5 percent of products in supposed Black Friday “deals” were actually cheaper or the same price at other times of the year.

Price drops are also rigged on new items, says Emile Naus, who spent years working in senior positions for big high-street brands and is now a partner at consulting firm BearingPoint.

Naus explains: “I know retailers who will bring a product and put it on their website for 28 days at an inflated price, but it will never make the front page – so the chance of anyone seeing it at that price is pretty slim . but technically it was sold at that price. They then lower the price to what it should be all along and show it as discounted.

“Retailers are also buying cheap stocks specifically for Black Friday. It’s either an older version, or they struck a specific deal with a manufacturer — the oldest trick in the book — where it used to be sold as a 7-pack and is now a 5-pack.”

The public has learned from reports of nefarious tactics, says money and consumer rights expert Martyn James. “Shoppers have become very cynical about Black Friday and whether the bargains are real or not,” he says. “The mere repetition of warnings and bad experiences over the years has reminded people that many deals just aren’t real.”

Just 8 per cent of people in the UK say they plan to use Black Friday weekend to start buying Christmas gifts, according to a consumer sentiment survey by retail consultancy Sensormatic.

Some shoppers will no doubt be more keen than ever to find bargains on gifts, as 48 per cent of people in the UK plan to rein in their Christmas spending, according to a recent survey of 2,000 people by Barclaycard.

and The? believes Black Friday sales could increase this year. “Despite the cost of living crisis, many people will want to celebrate the first winter without Covid restrictions [in two years] and this could lead to more people wanting to buy extravagant gifts or homewares to make this Christmas a memorable one,” says a spokesman.

“Retailers also know what customers are going through, so I think we will offer more lower-priced items to attract consumers who are feeling the pressure.”

But the way sales are marketed and the types of products that are usually included are often not conducive to sensible gift shopping. “Black Friday works by panicking people into getting things they don’t need,” says James. “It’s very easy to casually go to Amazon and panic-buy 100 electric toothbrush heads when you see the time ticker counting down, and with one click you’re paying for them before you know it.”

He adds: “Never underestimate the power of boredom at work, which is also a big factor. If you look at trends online, it’s around lunchtime and in the early evenings that these things kick off.”

It is also the prime time for online scams. The National Cyber ​​Security Center has launched an awareness campaign ahead of the sales, with its chief executive warning that “criminals will try to take advantage of consumers this time of year.”

As people become more cautious about spending at the start of what is likely to be a long recession, James believes the result could be the ‘extinction’ of Black Friday as we at least know it.

“Millions of people worry about not being able to afford their mortgage and utility bills. This could well be the death knell for Black Friday as a seasonal event. It will exist as a concept as long as retailers want you to buy crap – I don’t think they will ever give up, it will continue but just lose momentum.”

Another reason to think Black Friday will fade into obscurity in the UK is that “most retailers would like to get rid of it,” says Naus.

“It increases sales, it increases visitor numbers. It’s certainly not profitable,” he says. “Normally a retailer would say, ‘We’re going to take a margin hit, but we’re going to sell more, so it’s worth selling at a lower price. The problem with Black Friday is that it got so big that the profit margin was actually huge.”

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