The consumer group warned that the vast majority of so-called Black Friday deals were cheaper or the same price at other times, and said the offers “should be taken with a pinch of salt”.
Which? analysed 208 Black Friday deals last year at eight major home and technology retailers – Amazon, AO, Argos, Boots, Currys, John Lewis, Richer Sounds and Very – looking at their prices every day in the six months before and after the sale day on November 25.
It found just five of the deals were at their cheapest on Black Friday itself.
It still found that 86% of products were the same price or cheaper at other times of the year.
In one example, Apple Airpods (2nd generation) headphones at both Argos and Currys were discounted from £139 to £119 but were cheaper than their Black Friday price every day between May 25 and September 9, when the price varied between £99 and £109.
The price only increased in September to £139 then dropped to £119 in Black Friday week.
At Amazon, the Garmin Lily Sports Edition smart watch was discounted from £199 to £149 but Which? found it had been cheaper on 58 days before Black Friday, including at £114.99 during the Amazon Prime Day sale, when the retailer often offers significant discounts.
At Argos, three quarters (75%) of products that were on offer on Black Friday and included in Which?’s analysis were cheaper at other times of the year – the highest proportion for any of the retailers included in the study.
The vast majority of products at Argos were TVs, which typically drop in price after new models are launched in the spring.
One TV was £120 cheaper than the Black Friday price the following March.
Argos told Which? that only one product in its analysis was a Black Friday deal, but the watchdog found many of the Argos products included in its analysis had ‘Black Friday’ included in the online URL and were included in a section of the retailer’s website called ‘Black Friday deals and hot products’.
At Very, AO and Richer Sounds, Which? found around half the products were cheaper in the six months before or after Black Friday.
Retailers rarely make direct claims that they are offering the very best price on Black Friday, but Which? said “shoppers could be forgiven for believing this is when the best discounts of the year are available, given the massive fanfare and marketing around the sales period”.
Which? urged shoppers not to feel pressured into making purchases on Black Friday but to take time to make sure a product was good quality and on sale at a price that genuinely offered value for money.
Ele Clark, Which? Retail editor, said: “Our research shows that you don’t need to feel pressured to splash out on Black Friday as it’s rarely the cheapest time to shop.
“Retailers are not unaware of the extra pressure on household finances this year and will be keen to use Black Friday to attract shoppers looking to get the most for their money.
“While they’re rare, there are some genuine bargains to be had – just make sure you do your research and don’t panic buy. It’s worth comparing the price at multiple retailers and checking the product’s price history using a site such as PriceRunner or PriceSpy – that way you’ll know a good deal when you see one.”
An Amazon spokesman said: “Which? has looked at fewer than 30 products in their analysis.
“Our 2023 Black Friday Sale will offer hundreds and thousands of deals to customers, including our lowest prices of the year on a range of top brands including Ninja, Braun, ghd, and our own Amazon devices.”
An Argos spokeswoman said: “Which? has leaped to outlandish conclusions, based on just one ‘Black Friday’ deal at Argos. We offer hundreds of great value deals across a wide range of products each year. This does not exclude these items from other promotions and clearance sales in the future.
“Right now customers have extra peace of mind when they shop with us, thanks to our Black Friday Price-Promise badge. This guarantees the product will not fall below the current price before January 1 2024.”
An AO spokeswoman said: “This is classical biased, unbalanced Which? ‘research’ that’s rolled out every year and always totally misses the point and doesn’t represent the value that Black Friday’s promotional period delivers for hard-pressed households to reduce the cost of Christmas.”
A John Lewis spokeswoman said: “Our customers can get great offers with us all year round but anyone who visits our website today will see we have thousands of significant Black Friday deals for our customers – including up to 40% off selected small kitchen appliances, 20% off selected beauty products and 25% off selected Lego to name a few.”
A Currys spokeswoman said: “Prices can change throughout the year – especially due to other great sale promotions we run on a range of categories – but Black Friday is still a great time to get a good deal and we always encourage our customers to take advantage of our price match guarantee at this time.”