It's now less than two months until Black Friday! If you don't know what that means, Black Friday is a huge American shopping event offering huge savings on electricals and more, and in 2014 it exploded across the rest of the world in unprecedented fashion.
Forget Prime Day. On Black Friday last year, websites crashed, sales records were smashed and shoppers ravenously scooped up deals on tech, games and clothing in what was in many countries the biggest weekend of online shopping in history.
Adobe crunched the numbers and reported that on Black Friday in the US last year consumers spent a record-breaking $2.4 billion - up an extraordinary 24% on the previous year.
Walmart-owned ASDA stores moved 8,000 TVs before breakfast and made 130 sales every second throughout the day, while GAME's website was selling PS4 and Xbox One consoles to British gamers at a rate of 3,600 per hour.
It was an international spending frenzy the like of which the internet had never seen before.
So what's in store for Black Friday 2015? Well despite MPs having urged UK retailers to boycott Black Friday this year, the likelihood is that Black Friday will be even bigger and even better than it was last. So where should you go to get the best deals on the day?
What happened on Black Friday last year?
The numbers on Black Friday in 2014 were so big that websites fell over like Victorian ladies on a hot day, with HP, Best Buy, Currys, Tesco, Argos, Boots and Game's websites all requiring smelling salts.
The Currys website in the UK crashed despite the company having implemented a system where users had to queue to use it, a queue that was still over an hour long by lunchtime.
The chaos isn't over, either. Black Friday 2015 is now just six months away and it promises to dwarf last year's stats in almost every way. Online retailers are already planning for it.
You're much safer online...
Of course, Black Friday is not by any means a phenomenon that's confined to the virtual realm.
It was conceived originally as a unit mover for high street retailers, a way for stores to shift a lot of stock at a time when most people in the US have time off work for Thanksgiving.
And while Black Friday chaos online led to websites crashing, bedlam on the highstreet tends to be a lot more troublesome.
Last year, fighting broke out in many stores in the UK, with Police being called to supermarkets including a number of Tesco stores which were heavily criticised afterwards by police. In Scotland, one supermarket had to be closed due to the excessive number of people trying to push their way inside.
While in the US, it's not unheard of for bargain hunters to pepper spray each other in an attempt to get the best deals...
Clearly - it's much safer to stay at home and pick up your deals on the internet, and that's what the majority of people did on Black Friday 2014.
To give you an idea of just how busy the sites were, John Lewis and Currys - two of the UK's biggest retail websites - both saw their web traffic triple compared to Black Friday 2013. Meanwhile, TechRadar's own Black Friday pages attracted more than 1.6 million page views.
So it's no exaggeration to say that the pre-Christmas retail landscape was changed forever on November 28 last year. Retailers knew Black Friday 2014 was going to be big, but it actually ended up being far bigger than they ever imagined.
So what lessons have they learnt, and what can we as consumers expect from Black Friday 2015?
Lessons from the past
Some retailers were like ducks on Black Friday last year: they may have appeared calm, but under the water their little legs were going like crazy.
Some stores totally panicked, as Patrick O'Brien of retail analysts Verdict Retail told TechRadar:
"Some retailers like Amazon planned promotions well in advance, but others were sucked in when they saw the scale of Black Friday and realised that without promotions, they would lose out on footfall or website hits in a key spending weekend."
The upshot? Those retailers cut prices even though they hadn't originally planned to.
"Those retailers ended up losing margin as they typically went for a percentage cut across numerous or even all lines, rather than having planned promotions that they could have organised with the help of their suppliers," O'Brien says.
Winners and losers of Black Friday 2014
Not everybody was hurt, though. Some firms used Black Friday as cover. "The weather meant that clothing retailers had a lot of stock left to shift, so they used the cover of Black Friday to mark down stock."
And others had deals in place with their suppliers to deliver apparent bargains, with stock bought in especially for Black Friday.
You can see the Black Friday winners and losers in ComScore's UK figures for November 2014. The big winners were mainly large electrical, digital and entertainment retailers, with Amazon, Argos and Tesco at numbers 1, 2 and 3 respectively.
In America, meanwhile, we're seeing an interesting shift: the Black Friday money is moving to Thanksgiving instead.
According to IBM, Black Friday sales were 63.5% higher than Thanksgiving Day sales - but last year they were 70%. For US consumers, Black Friday is increasingly becoming a shopping weekend that starts on Thanksgiving and ends on Cyber Monday
Indeed, Cyber Monday is bigger than them all for US customers - last year's Cyber Monday was the US's biggest online shopping day ever.
Where does all the money come from?
One of the most interesting questions about Black Friday is whether it created new demand or just brought forward people's Christmas shopping by a few weeks.
The answer appears to be the latter - Verdict Retail found "no evidence that it stimulated demand" - and some retailers' panicky discounting was tantamount to shooting themselves in the foot.
Essentially, the Black Friday frenzy moved a lot of stock, but that stock was less profitable than usual.
AO.com founder and chief executive John Roberts used the firm's annual report to note that Black Friday "did not produce incremental sales, but condensed sales into a shorter time period", while GAME issued a profits warning because its heavy discounting on games and consoles had a negative effect on its bottom line.
In the US, IBM reported that while overall sales were up, the average order value was down across both Black Friday and Thanksgiving.
That might explain why John Lewis boss Andy Street has poured cold water on the idea of Black Friday, telling the BBC that "We've got to ask if it's right to concentrate trade so much in that one period… I don't think we can put the genie back in the bottle but do we need to stoke that fire any more? I personally hope not."
Street predicts that Black Friday 2015 will still see lots of deals around electronics and computing, but says he hopes that fashion brands and other kinds of retail would be "more confident holding their price."
As Patrick O'Brien points out, though, John Lewis's "never knowingly undersold" guarantee means that if rivals go crazy on Black Friday 2015, "it cannot opt out!"
Rubbish for retailers, excellent for everyone else
If you take a step back, Black Friday should really be called Foolish Friday. Slashing profit margins during the busiest shopping period of the year for no good reason doesn't make much sense, not least because it gives retailers less room to manoeuvre if sales closer to Christmas need some extra oomph.
But as John Lewis's Andy Street said, the genie's out of the bottle - so if retailers don't take part, they'll see their rivals get all the business.
And that's why Black Friday 2015 is likely to be another step up in terms hype and excitement.
Expect even more commercials leading up to Black Friday, bigger headline promotions and even more chaos.
"Black Friday is here to stay," Patrick O'Brien says, "but it will be a lot different in 2015. Retailers are planning for it."
You can be sure that retailers are already talking to their suppliers about the kinds of promotions they can support, and that the deals we see this year will be what Verdict describes as "geared toward gaining footfall and upsetting to full price goods rather than across the board percentage discounts."
What deals can we expect this year?
It's impossible to know for sure which products will receive the biggest discounts this year, but we can certainly make some predictions based on what we saw in 2014.
One of the hottest products on Black Friday last year was the iPad mini and that will likely be the case again in 2015. In fact we'll likely see some highly attractive deals on many Apple products, partly because they're so popular but also because there is room for manoeuvre in their prices.
Last year in the US we saw the Macbook Pro and 21.5-inch iMacs selling for $900 a pop, with Macbook Airs available for $780. In the UK the iPad mini was going for under £150 practically everywhere.
It's worth retailers offering us these headline products with big discounts because they expect that we'll buy more than one item once we're on their site.
It's a safe bet also that Black Friday 2015 will see the cheapest-ever PS4 and Xbox One deals as well as some irresistible bundles. If you fancy buying your kids a console this Christmas, wait until November 27.
We saw many amazing deals on TVs last year so if you're interested in buying a 4K TV in time for Christmas, again you'd be wise to wait for the Black Friday deals madness to begin.
Last year in the we also saw amazing soundbar deals, DualShock 4 game controllers for under half price, Google Chromecasts for under $23/£18, huge savings on iPhones, amazing deals on cameras of all shapes and sizes from all the biggest brands, headphones, fitness bands, speakers.
You get the picture. Expect more of the same...
Where to find the best Black Friday deals in 2015:
Here's our rundown of where you will find the best Black Friday deals throughout November this year and specifically on Friday 27th November itself.
Last year, over a million people visited TechRadar's Black Friday deals page where we rounded up all of the best deals from all of the most trusted retailers in the UK. This year, you'll be pleased to hear, we're doing it all over again! Throughout November we'll bring you a constantly updated page with all of the hottest tech and games deals on the internet, from super cheap PS4 bargains to laptops, TVs, Chromecasts, iPads and anything else we can find. If it's an amazing Black Friday deal, we'll have it on TechRadar.com!
In 2014, Black Friday was Amazon UK's busiest day ever with about 64 products being sold every single second and you can count on the online retail supergiant being right in the thick of it in 2015 as well. Expect enticing sales discounts in practically every area, from tech and games to kitchenware, white goods, furniture, clothing and everything else.
If this year's Prime Day is anything to go by, there will be more emphasis on lightning deals this year - deals which last just one day or even just a matter of hours before they either sell out or time out. That would mean that you'd need to be more on the ball to get the best deals out of Amazon this Black Friday, but while Prime Day was almost entirely lightning deals, Black Friday and indeed 'Black November' will certainly offer a lot more across the board. Last year's best deals on Black Friday included PS4 and Xbox one bundles for up to £100 off, 5.1 home cinema systems for £105 and Kindle tablets for crazy cheap prices.
Quick link: Amazon Black Friday homepage
John Lewis' managing director spoke out in January, warning against heavy discounting on Black Friday. His argument is sound, that retailers are shooting themselves in their collective feet by all heavily discounting. The flip side to that, though, is that if everyone else is doing it, John Lewis will be forced to follow suit. So you can expect John Lewis to offer similar deals to last year. The best Black Friday deals from John Lewis in 2014 included iPad mini deals for £150, good discounts on Apple Macbooks and a powerful price match scheme to outfox its competitors.
Quick link: John Lewis Black Friday homepage
In 2014, Currys introduced a controversial queuing system that had online visitors waiting up to 30 minutes to even access its site. Was this an attempt to drum up interest or was it simply to try and avoid the site crashing? Cynics be damned - we think it was a genuine attempt to stop the damaging impact of website crashes, and that's supported by the fact that most of the major retail sites in the UK did indeed go down for prolonged periods in 2014. Expect Black Friday deals from Currys on all things - computing, gadgets and mobile. Last year there were deals on Beats by Dre headphones, Apple iPad Air 2's were going for £209 and there were good discounts on Nikon DSLRs and lost more - in 2015 we'd expect laptops, iPads and tablets, peripherals, kitchen goods and everything in between.
Quick link: Currys Black Friday homepage
If Black Friday 2015 is anything like last year, many of the best deals will be found at Argos. However, this is another retailer that warned against the sales frenzy of Black Friday in January - its excellent Black Friday deals in November ended up negatively impacting its sales over Christmas which might point to a more reserved offering in 2015. However, with a whole year to plan the word is that Argos will still be offering up a whole range of Black Friday deals in all its areas - last year we have amazing deals on TVs, great PS4 bundle deals and everything else from electric toothbrushes to Dyson vacuum cleaners at £149.99 and lots more.
Quick link: Argos Black Friday homepage
GAME is definitely a hot retailer to keep an eye on during Black Friday 2015. Last year's best deals included PS4 DualShock 4 controllers for under £30, PS4 bundles such as the console PLUS Grand Theft Auto V AND The Last of Us Remastered AND Destiny + Vanguard AND a 12 month subscription to PlayStation Plus... all for just £399.99. The Black Friday deals were so attractive that GAME was one of the sites that crashed for long periods last yearso expect more of the same, but hopefully less crashes!
Quick link: GAME Black Friday homepage
Ebuyer is a trusted retailer of computing goods such as laptops, hard drives, memory cards, components, software, TV and office supplies. The site has, in the last couple of years, offered up to 50% on products in all of its various categories. So if you're looking for a new USB hard drive, a computer monitor or a laptop, ebuyer.com will certainly be worth checking out!
Quick link: ebuyer.com daily deals homepage
This year, Boots is promising "more unmissable Boots Black Friday offers, both online and in store". In 2014, the deals from Boots were quite varied but included items such as wearables, electric toothbrushes, hairdryers etc. Expect more of the same this year - if there's an item you've got your eye on at Boots, it's probably worth waiting for Black Friday just to see if it goes into the sale.
Quick link: Boots Black Friday homepage
ASDA is traditionally one of the shops that makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons on Black Friday. The stores will always have crazy-cheap flatscreen TVs to draw customers into the stores and onto its website which inevitably results in compelling TV news footage. Luckily, most if not all of the deals are also available online so there's little to be gained from fighting your way through the crowds at 6am on the day. Expect a raft of cheap tech deals on items like TVs, Blu-ray players, Android tablets as well as toys and gadgets.
Quick link: ASDA Black Friday homepage
Tesco Direct is building itself a good reputation as a destination for good prices on tech items online, although last year it, like ASDA, hit the news for the wrong reasons. Many of the best PS4 deals on Black Friday last year were available from this site so it's almost a given that we'll see the same again this year. Expect also excellent deals on ipads and tablets, Xbox Ones, HD TVs, 4K TVs, Blu-ray players, Google Chromecasts and plenty more including videogames, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
Quick link: Tesco Direct Black Friday homepage
Apple's form on Black Friday has been inconsistent on Black Friday. The Apple Store will likely offer some discounts on iPads and Macbooks, but as per last year you'll probably find better deals on offer elsewhere from sites like John Lewis, Currys and Amazon.
Quick link: Apple UK homepage
Sainsbury's has, for the last few years, created a special section in its stores for Black Friday deals and has also started offering more bargains online. It has less form than ASDA and Tesco among its supermarket rivals but the Sainsbury's website is becoming more of a force in 2015 so it's certainly one to keep an eye on. Last year's in-store bargains included super cheap TVs, projectors, Dyson vacuum cleaners and Amazon Kindles.
Quick link: Sainsbury's Black Friday homepage
Marks & Spencer:
Last year was the first time M&S participated in the Black Friday deals frenzyand while it didn't go crazy like some of its competitors, it will have seen how much money was spent on the day last year and want to get in on the action a bit more in 2015. M&S now has a growing electronics arm so be prepared for TVs, hi-fi, Blu-ray deals as well as iPads and the rest. Marks & Spencer won't be the place for the most Black Friday bargains, but it might surprise with one or two stand-out offers.
Quick link: Marks & Spencer homepage
Many of the very best and most popular deals during Black Friday last year came courtesy of Carphone Warehouse. The contract reseller was responsible for discounts of up to £200 on new iPhones throughout the weekend and will likely get in on the action again this year as it seeks to capitalise on the increased spending during the period. It won't just be iPhones either.
Quick link: Carphone Warehouse Black Friday homepage
Mobile Phones Direct:
Of course, Carphone Warehouse might be the most familiar phone deal reseller in the UK but there are others and Mobile Phones Direct has become a big name in the last couple of years. The site was offering some compelling Black Friday deals in 2014 and will be doing so again. Expect Black Friday 2015 deals on iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones and plenty more.
Quick link: Mobile Phones Direct Black Friday deals homepage
Like the sites above, Mobiles.co.uk is taking advantage of the growing trend to buy and upgrade phone contracts online rather than on the highstreet. The site will be featuring many attractive Black Friday deals as it attempts to compete with Carphone Warehouse and Mobile Phones Direct as well as the networks themselves. If you're due for a new phone come November time, be sure to check out these three sites before you choose a deal.
Quick link: Mobiles.co.uk Black Friday homepage
This year Black Friday falls on November 27th
Quick links UK:
- Amazon.co.uk - Black Friday page
- John Lewis Black Friday page
- Currys Black Friday page
- Argos - Black Friday deals homepage
- Boots - Black Friday weekend
- GAME - Black Friday deals
- ASDA Black Friday homepage
- Tesco direct Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals
Cheat sheet: What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is the first Friday after Thanksgiving, and it represents a perfect storm for retailers: many people in the US have the day off, and as a result it's been the busiest shopping day of the year for nearly a decade.
To make things even busier, many retailers now offer some of their best sale bargains on Black Friday. Even Apple joins in.
When is Black Friday?
That depends on when you're reading this. If it's 2014, Black Friday is Friday 28 November. If it's 2015, it's Friday 27 November. And if it's 2013, you've been asleep for a year. The things you've missed!
How did Black Friday get its name?
Take your pick: some say it's the day that retailers' profits finally move into the black, although Wikipedia reckons that the true origin of the term comes from Philadelphia where it referred to the disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that occurred during the holiday.
Is Black Friday as big a deal as it seems?
Yes it is. Every year there are reports of fisticuffs as bargain-crazed shoppers beat each other up, partly because of the practice of using "doorbusters" - amazing and excruciatingly limited deals to attract as many customers as possible. US-based retailers such as Amazon are now keen to make it a tradition here in the UK.
Is Black Friday connected to Cyber Monday?
Cyber Monday is the Monday immediately after Black Friday, and it was invented in 2005 in an attempt to create an online equivalent of Black Friday. What this has resulted in now, is an entire 4-day weekend of hot deals both in store and online.
What's TechRadar doing for Black Friday?
No one likes a tech bargain more than TechRadar! And we don't want to keep them all to ourselves.
So we'll be beavering away tirelessly all weekend to constantly bring you the hottest deals as they go live online. You'll need to keep your wits about you though, because many deals only last for an hour or until stocks run out. So you need to be quick off the mark - and we'll be on hand to make it as easy for you as possible.
Tune in to TechRadar on November 28th, 29th, 30th and December 1st to get at the hot deals first!
Where do retailers put their best Black Friday deals?
Don't you know that patience is a virtue?! It's not Black Friday yet, but okay - we've put together a list of retailer's Black Friday pages so that you can take a look now and see what it's all about. We'll be adding more soon, and of course, this page on TechRadar will be the place to be with a curated list of all the best deals!