With Christmas Day six weeks away tomorrow, preparations are under way in earnest, writes Gráinne McGuinness.
When it comes to traditional shopping days in Ireland, an American import has taken over from December 8 as the biggest day in the retail calendar.
Black Friday, falling this year on November 29, is now the day targeted by most shoppers on the hunt for reductions on big ticket items.
For many retailers, Friday week will be flagship day for a weekend or even a whole week of offers, culminating in Cyber Monday on December 2.
However, for every bells and whistles ad for the mega-savings available on Black Friday, there will be a counter warning about getting caught up in the hype and swayed by deals that don’t really stand up to scrutiny.
So, if you hope to bag a bargain on November 29, you have 10 days to do a little preparation and maximise your change at savings.
First things first. Draw up a list of what you want to buy. This is the week to have a chat with recipients and establish what they want, and also to ensure that any outstanding letters and lists get finalised.
Once you have an idea of the major items you want to buy, do a little research online to establish what you can expect to pay now.
A useful site for this is pricespy.ie, which checks the price of an item in Irish shops plus online sites. The site covers a wide range of shopping categories, including sports, games and consoles, lifestyle and beauty items.
Knowing the retail price will give you a baseline to judge how good the Black Friday offers on the items actually are.
Remember, it won’t be just about reducing the price, many retailers will also offer deals that bundle products, particularly when it comes to electronics and gaming.
Remember, these deals are only worthwhile if you feel the recipient wants and will use the additional items, don’t be swayed by extras that are likely to still be sitting in the box in the new year. My next piece of advice for Black Friday directly contradicts what I normally suggest to shoppers.
I firmly believe signing up for emails, downloading a retailer’s app and following shops on social media are all guaranteed ways to end up spending unnecessarily.
Even if you delete the emails without reading them nine times out of 10, your eye is still likely to be caught by the occasional deal that pops up on your phone just when you feel like a pick-me-up. Hey presto — another sale for the retailer.
However, having the apps and signing up for alerts is the best way to ensure you hear about bargains as soon as they become available next week.
In recent years, we have seen retailers offer excellent deals that are only available for a very limited time or limited to a number of items.
So for the next week, sign up and register to your heart’s content, with a particular focus on the retailers that specialise in whatever items you are most interested in.
Just put a note in your diary sometime in the next few weeks to sit down with a cuppa and unsubscribe and delete.
As well as knowing what you want, it is important to know how much you have to spend. Now is the time to work out what your budget for the festive season is and if it is enough to cover all the expenses coming up — don’t forget to include food and drink, extra socialising and any new clothes to be purchased.
If your budget doesn’t cover your planned spending, better to find out now and work out ways to trim it back.
Once you know your budget stick to it on Black Friday and the surrounding days. Retailers will be doing their best to create a sense of urgency and encourage shoppers to ‘grab’ the bargains while they can.
If you feel your adrenaline rising, and find yourself tempted by items not on your list and in your budget, take a step back. Put down your phone or go for a coffee if out shopping.
The shops will still be full of products for sale the following week and you still have weeks to go to shop and find the right item at the right price.
Don’t forget to be cautious and alert to fraud. Keep receipts, check warranties and ask about returns policies.
Virgin Media are taking their ‘Black Friday’ offers to a whole new extreme, making them available from the end of last week until Monday, December 2.
Their offering includes deals on home broadband as well as phone offers.
New Virgin Media Broadband customers will get a free Google Home mini worth €59, while customers signing up to Virgin Media Broadband with TV & home phone will receive a Google Home worth €99 free of charge.
Virgin Mobile is offering Unlimited Mobile for just €5 a month for 5 months and just €25 a month thereafter. Customers who choose a brand new Samsung, Apple or Huawei phone will also get a free gift.
If you purchase one of the following mobile phones, Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+, Note 10, Note 10+ an Apple iPhone Xr or iPhone 8 or a Huawei P30 Pro, you’ll also receive a free pair of JBL TUNE 120 truly wireless in-ear headphones with a RRP of €99.
You can learn more at www.virginmedia.ie.