Which? Swings And Whiffs On Black Friday Sales Prices – Of Course They’re Lower Later

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Which? is the magazine – and website – of the Consumers Association. They also appear to operate a nice little affiliate buying site. Go for the reviews, buy the product through the links, they gain a commission. But, you know, why not leverage a brand?

However, they also seem not to quite grasp how the pricing of consumer goods works:

Black Friday “deals” are available at a cheaper price during other times of the year, a study by Which? has revealed.

An investigation by the consumer advice charity found that out of 94 popular products on offer last year, including TVs, cameras and fitness trackers, 87 per cent of them cost less money at multiple times before and after Black Friday.

Taking place on 23 November this year, Black Friday is a Thanksgiving tradition that was imported to the UK from the US around five years ago. It is widely regarded as the first day of the Christmas shopping season, where many retailers reduce the price of products to boost sales.

All fine so far. But then there’s this:

Which? tracked product prices at leading retailers including Currys PC World, Amazon, John Lewis and Argos, finding that almost half of products on offer were sold for less in the six months following Black Friday.

And there’s our problem.

What’s the defining feature of this free market capitalism we operate under? That manufactured consumer items get cheaper over time. That’s just what the system does, it’s the defining feature and it’s why it makes us all so rich. It’s especially true of any newish technology. Prices come it at the top end, they’re rich men’s toys, then mass manufacturing girds loins and we end up with cheap whatevers. Elizabeth I had stockings, we even know the day she was given a pair upon. It took the Dark Satanic to produce stockings that the girls working up t’mill could also own.

So things becoming cheaper after some date, that’s just what we expect the system to be producing. This is going to be especially true of those headline – just by the nature of the exercise, newish technology stuff – products hyped up in the sales. The 8k TVs, the latest mobile phones etc.

We do actually have laws about how you can’t ramp up the price of something, then cut it and call it a sale. Worth noting that.

The questionable deals investigated by Which? include a 60 inch TV, which Amazon advertised as £799 on Black Friday but was £50 cheaper on at least 62 occasions afterwards.

Well, yes. This is something that causes the most horrible problems in our inflation statistics. Leads to hedonic adjustment. Which we try to do but really still don’t get right, inflation being overstated by 0.5 to 1% as a result. These goodies do become cheaper. And if we look at a fixed price – or even market segment, say “top end TV” – then they get much better over time for the same spondoolies.

We all know this. Any type or standard of TV is going to be cheaper in 6 months than it is today. This has been true for 70 years now, the thought is embedded in the very culture.

This deflation is significant too. As a good enough guide, it’s about 1% a week actually. 50% -ish per year. This standard of electronic gizmo, these pixels, RAM, Ghz, will be half the price in a year’s time.

Which? is complaining about deflation in electronics prices. And dressing it up as a problem with sales prices. Ah well, hope their affiliate links are doing well for them. Or at least will do, after everyone stops buying in the sales and returns to using their website.

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Jonathan Harston

It’s like the complaints that prisoners have flat screen TVs. Have you *tried* buying a CRT TV in the last 20 years? Of course prisoners have flat screen TVs, that’s bog standard normal.