Fake Deals, Cannibalised Sales -- What Does Anyone Get From Black Friday?

There will be little sign of a depressed Britain in this evening's news broadcasts as the inevitable shots of what were once considered American-style queues give way to pushing and shoving for a television that appears to be offered at a bargain price. The country's debt pile is massive and it's getting worse, but it's all ok. After a day of reflection yesterday, absorbing views that paint this as the worst decade ever to be a worker in Britain, we can now go back to unrelenting, unashamed bargain hunting.

But where are the bargains, really? Apple is knocking virtually nothing off its products, but instead offering gift cards that will ultimately be spent on incredibly overpriced leads and accessories. Game consoles are only being discounted in electric stores in limited numbers and appear to be restricted to those models where a model is getting rather long in the tooth. With televisions, it's hard to know. The model numbers are so long and confusing that you can never compare like with like. And have you seen any amazing 50% off deals on this Christmas's must-have, VR headsets and controllers? No? I thought not. They don't need discounting -- they will fly off the shelves automatically.

Perhaps the point we should always remember about Black Friday is that when Which?, the consumer watch dog, looked into bargains, only half turned out to offer genuine savings. The biggest trick was to inflate a price momentarily and then reduce it so the Black Friday deal looked better than it really was. In many cases, the organisation found that bargains were being offered at prices that had previously been on offer earlier in the year, before the price was hiked temporarily to earn that "40% off" sticker.

My children have been dropping many hints about having done their lists ahead of Black Friday as a favour to our household income. It's now a part of their lives in a way that us non-Millennials can't imagine. In my day, some families would put off buying presents until the Boxing Day sales so they could feel they were getting more for their money and getting one over the large retailers. At least that served the purpose of a retailer clearing their shelves after Christmas, and to a degree, offered genuine bargains for those not fussed about opening presents a day late.

Now we have an event where many of the deals are fake and retailers pat themselves vigorously on the back about how many people they had in-store. The day after Cyber Monday, though, they will immediately transition to wondering whether the long weekend of "deals" has cannibalised Christmas. Of course it has. What else could it do?

After a bunch of "wow" figures from this weekend, we will go back to retailers saying it has been a disappointing December on the high street and many things will be rolled out as excuses. The weather, customer sentiment, parking and so on will all get dusted down again without tackling the real issue. A few people may get a bargain on old stock, but generally the public will be hoodwinked, their gifts will be bought early and they won't need to get this year's stock that is left on the shelves.

I'm struggling to see how anyone gets anything from this.

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