Staying out of the red on Black Friday: ‘Plan in advance to get the best deals’
Bairbre Power warns of the pitfalls of splashing out this weekend and on Cyber Monday with Christmas just around the corner
We've no turkey to avoid or emotional Thanks-giving cabin fever to escape from, but irrespective of geography and tradition, this side of the Atlantic, Irish shoppers like nothing more than to pull up a chair and immerse ourselves in that very American of retail habits - Black Friday.
One theory is that the day got its name from businesses finally going from 'the red' on their balance sheets into profitable black on the back of shoppers getting stuck into what is now dubbed the biggest shopping day of the calendar year.
On the eve of Black Friday, shoppers are being advised to be careful of losing their heart to so-called deep discounts that will push you into the red and trouble with the bank manager four long weeks before Christmas.
The thrill of the chase is one thing, but hidden costs of indulging in a dollar-led 'click and buy' can be hefty because of the additional costs of VAT and duty which Revenue expect you to pay on top of shipping and handling costs. The limit for VAT is anything over €22 and chasing American designer labels can be expensive if duty is 12pc, VAT at 23pc.
Shoppers are warned to check out the facts before they get click happy after Which? magazine in the UK found that not all products are cheapest on Black Friday.
If you're not good in the morning without a cup of coffee to help brace yourself for commuter gridlock, just how good will your online performance be after setting the alarm for midnight and going online bleary eyed for some retail risk and reward?
With sterling rates more attractive to euro shoppers, the temptation to buy abroad is undoubtedly heightened, but you should really have a game plan and an upper-limit spending target before you step into any cross-currency frenzied shopping.
You don't have the same protections if you buy from a website outside of the EU and just because it has an 'ie' or 'co.uk' address doesn't mean it's an EU site.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission have an excellent website (consumerhelp.ie) where they offer invaluable advice. They recommend you check the business's geographic address on the website. If you are buying from a business based outside the EU, you should make sure you read and understand that site's returns policy beforehand.
When you buy online from an EU-based website, you have a cooling-off period of 14 days - starting from the date you receive your item - to cancel the order and get a refund. You don't have to give a reason to cancel, but you may have to pay for the cost of returning the item. If you buy something online that turns out to be faulty, you have the same rights as if you bought it in a shop.
The Black Friday weekend truly made its mark here last year with Irish consumers spending up to €100m, according to Retail Excellence Ireland.
Five times more Irish consumers shop online at midnight or just after on Black Friday than any other day of the year, according to new research carried out by Littlewoods Ireland.
The study, which analysed almost 250,000 online sessions, found that ecommerce revenues have tripled year on year as Irish consumers get into the Black Friday shopping habit.
Rossa Butler, ecommerce and marketing manager at Littlewoods Ireland, said: "Black Friday has become a hugely significant shopping event. Our data suggests that the savvy shopper plans their Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping well in advance to get the best online deals."
Shopping centres in Blanchardstown (pictured right) and Dundrum will be among Ireland's busiest retail hubs over the next few days. Dundrum Town Centre's marketing manager Jeanette Jordan says: "We've had a huge amount of customers emailing us in advance to find out what is going on for Black Friday because some stores are offering discounts all week long and others are doing it for one day. On Friday, we are open until 11pm and some of the restaurants are getting involved and offering meal packages."
To make Black Friday work for you, give yourself plenty of time to go online and hunt around Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favourite retailers to find out about deals and promotions.
While 20pc-30pc off is the norm, seasonal pieces such as that designer bikini you want will probably have 40pc or even more off in the Christmas sales next month, so play the long game.
The cheapest is not always the best and, as I found to my horror, designer labels don't always deliver either, so read the small print.
A delicate luxury garment with too much cashmere leads to lots of aftercare - I have to resort to 'shaving' a designer coat on a Sunday night to remove the pilling - and a garment that signals "dry clean only" can be a costly addition to your wardrobe, so think twice.
My tip is to buy things that you will use all year round. If it's a coffee machine that you will look to 365 days a year, it might replace that €4 jumbo latte mocha on your way to work. That's immediately a saving of €20 a week, €80 a month or a whopping €4k saving per annum, so think about items that will actually put money back into your pocket.
You can side step unhealthy Black Friday behaviour if you have a plan. Time is on your side and if you don't fancy shopping, you could always pull the curtains and watch the Gilmore Girls' A Year In The Life reunion on Netflix. Sleepy Hollow or shopping? I know which Lorelai and Rory would chose!
Adrian Weckler’s online shopping tips for Black Friday weekend
1. How to check if it’s really a sales deal
Retailers claim products are discounted more than they are. Harvey Norman is touting Sony’s RX100 camera (above) as a Black Friday deal for €429, claiming it “was €469”. But it has been priced at €429 for months. Argos says its €259 Panasonic Lumix TZ60 camera “was €369”, but it was €309 in August. Check the WayBack Machine for earlier pricing.
2. Suss out the value of a sale price with an immediate comparison
Instead of visiting a dozen websites, check the price of something on a reliable price comparison website such as pricespy.ie. This should also give you local pricing versus offshore (but online) UK or EU pricing.
3. How to get around ‘no Irish delivery’ clauses
If a UK-based retailer ‘doesn’t deliver’ to Ireland, you can still buy from it using services such as ParcelMotel (above) or AddressPal. Your package gets delivered to a post office or Topaz garage or some other designated location, where you pick it up with a PIN code or by showing photo ID. It costs between €3.50 and €25 depending on the package. You can also return items using the same method.
4. With online shopping, you have extra rights to return a product with no questions asked
Buyer’s regret? Thanks to the EU’s 14-day cooling off period, you can change your mind within 14 days and return it to the seller for a full refund. It doesn’t have to be faulty.
5. Use a PC, not a phone
Phones still give an inferior, slower experience at buying things online, with many ecommerce vendors still optimising for laptops and desktops.