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Friday 15 December 2017

Black Friday goes on - but beware 'dirty discount', 'price creep' and 'shrinkflation'

Don Nugent of Dundrum Town Centre Photo: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography
Don Nugent of Dundrum Town Centre Photo: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

Jane O'Faherty and Colm Kelpie

Bargain hunters are flocking to shops and websites as big-name brands continue to offer Black Friday deals.

The annual event, a time-honoured tradition in the US, saw hundreds of Irish stores slash prices before Christmas.

In some stores, the discounts will continue all weekend and into 'Cyber Monday'.

As the trend takes hold on this side of the Atlantic, consumers are being warned that not all bargains are what they seem to be and some retailers are sneakily pushing up prices throughout the year. 'Price creep' is the phenomenon where items gradually rise in price over time, meaning that consumers barely notice the change.

Coffee and pints of beer are common examples of the phenomenon.

The most recent inflation figures from the CSO reveal a rising cost of hotel accommodation and higher prices for alcoholic drinks and food consumed in licensed premises, restaurants, and cafes.

It means there was an annual 2pc rise in the 'restaurant and hotels' category in the consumer price index.

An even less visible trick is known as 'shrinkflation', where products may not rise in price, but are actually getting smaller.

Public outrage swept across social media earlier this month when it emerged that Toblerone bars were to get a little less chunky.

"The new gappy-teeth Toblerone is yet another example of shrinkflation, where shrinking pack contents allow for a backdoor price rise," said Ratula Chakraborty, a senior lecturer in retailing at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

UK consumer body Which? earlier this year found an Andrex pack of four toilet rolls has been cut to 221 sheets from 240, yet the price in the UK has remained static.

McVitie's Digestives dark chocolate biscuits went down in weight from 332g to 300g; Tropicana Creations Pure Premium Orange and Raspberry juice was one litre and decreased to 850ml.

Consumers have also been warned to look out for "dirty discounts" while shopping for Black Friday bargains. Some stores have been accused of setting their original prices far too high in order to advertise deep discounts in the run-up to Christmas and lure customers.

For example, a TV's first listed price in March may have been €1,000. Now, as it comes to the end of its shelf life in November, it is €600.

The reaction to the Black Friday phenomenon here remains mixed among both shoppers and retailers.

Denis O'Connell, centre director of Liffey Valley, said the centre had extended its opening hours in anticipation of the big day.

"Things were quiet earlier when we opened at 8am. Our customers are normally families, so many would have been on the school run," he said.

"At around 9.50am it got dramatically busy, much busier than normal for a Friday morning."

Don Nugent of Dundrum Town Centre also noted large crowds early on Friday morning.

Mr Nugent pointed out that Black Friday could put an extra burden on retailers to deliver bargains.

"I think retailers would prefer if it didn't exist, but the reality is that it does," he said.

Irish Independent

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