A massive 99.5% of Black Friday deals are cheaper or the same price at other times of the year, the latest Which? research has revealed.
We've crunched tens of thousands of prices in our biggest Black Friday investigation yet, and found that you're almost guaranteed not to score the cheapest price of the year by buying on Black Friday.
Here we expose the real story behind the so-called deals, revealing the products that were actually cheaper before Black Friday last year and naming and shaming some of the worst 'deals' we discovered.
We analysed 201 Black Friday deals at six major home and tech retailers (Amazon.co.uk, AO, Argos, Currys, John Lewis and Richer Sounds), looking at their prices every day during the six months before and after Black Friday 2020 as well as on the day itself.
We found a massive 99.5% were cheaper or the same price at other times of the year - and, while you might expect prices to fall over time, 92% of these so-called 'deals' were actually the same price or cheaper in the six months before Black Friday.
In fact, just one of the 201 products in our investigation was at its cheapest price on Black Friday alone.
We found some strikingly terrible deals, including a washing machine at John Lewis that was cheaper than its Black Friday price on 88 different days before Black Friday, and a smart TV from AO that was £200 cheaper than its Black Friday price less than a month later.
All six of the big-name retailers we looked at had offered the vast majority of products in their so-called Black Friday sales cheaper or the same price in the six months before Black Friday - and at Currys this was the case for every single one of the products we looked at.
But it's not all bad news: there are always some show-stopping deals hidden among the duds. This year, our experts have combined their knowledge of the best products on the market with detailed price history research to reveal the out there.
Without a spreadsheet, a calculator and many hours to spare it's pretty much impossible to work out what a good price for a particular product really is. That's why there are laws about how retailers advertise sale prices.
When it comes to reference pricing, which is when the deal refers to a previous (usually higher) price - for example, 'Was £100, now £50' - the Chartered Trading Standards Institute says the law requires the other price quoted to be 'genuine'.
This means that it can be a price that the same retailer has previously charged for that product, the recommended retail price of the product set by the manufacturer, or a price charged by a rival store for the same product.
Examples of deals which may not be genuine include where the higher price is not the last price the product was sold at because there have been other prices in between. Or if, when the product was sold at the higher price, another type of discount such as a multibuy was also available. The decision on whether any particular pricing practice is unlawful in a specific case, however, can only be determined by a court.
Which? thinks retailers should always make sure the discounts they quote are truly genuine.
We approached all six retailers in our investigation - Amazon, AO, Argos, Currys, John Lewis and Richer Sounds - with our findings. Each said they offered great prices and many highlighted their price-matching schemes.
Some also pointed out that their Black Friday sales stretch across several days (or even weeks). However, we also compared a longer two-week sales period (from 23 November to 4 December 2020) with the rest of the year, and 92% of products were still cheaper than or equal to their sales-period prices at other times of the year.
In a statement, Currys said: 'In 2020 over 98% of our Black Friday promoted products were equal to or at their cheapest price from the previous six months, and 54% of our products were at their lowest ever price.'
A John Lewis spokesperson said: 'As a participating retailer in Black Friday, we offer fantastic deals across technology, home, beauty and fashion - these are just some of the many promotions our customers can take advantage of throughout the year. The offers you refer to occur as part of our Never Knowingly Undersold price promise, where we match high street competitors and continuously monitor prices to offer great value all year round.'
Richer Sounds said: 'Prices fluctuate pretty wildly in our industry - both up and down - for all sorts of reasons, but primarily availability from suppliers and the prices we have to pay to our suppliers. So, this can mean that products (annoyingly for all) may be sold in the following Black Friday promotion at prices that are higher than during the preceding year.'
When it came to the Yamaha MusicCast deal we unearthed, Richer Sounds said: 'We did make a mistake here so we'd like to apologise to any of our customers who were misled by this and welcome them contacting us so we can make it up to them.