Many of us love a good bargain, but by the time the Black Friday discounts come around, it can be hard to know whether it's the best deal out there for a product – unless you've been tracking the item's price every week.
So we decided to do just that.
For six months, we tracked the price of four CHOICE Recommended espresso machines (Breville the Bambino BES450, Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine EM4300, Breville The Barista Express BES870, Sunbeam Barista Max EM5300) across 13 retailers, to see when they were cheapest.
We tracked the price of four espresso machines for six months.
Does Black Friday have the best deals?
Although retailer prices fluctuated during our investigation, overall Black Friday didn't offer the best deals.
Instead we found cheaper (or similarly priced) options on various dates in the six months prior – up to 33% cheaper in some instances.
"This is just one example, but it goes to show that big discounts can be found year round and you may not need to wait for Black Friday to get the best deal," says CHOICE editor, Margaret Rafferty.
"Furthermore, we recommend checking the prices across a range of different retailers, as you can save as much as 33% in the same week."
We found cheaper (or similarly priced) options on various dates in the six months prior to Black Friday – up to 33% cheaper in some instances
We also tracked six months of price fluctuations to note when each item was most expensive. Compared to those prices, Black Friday was cheaper by up to 25%.
So while better discounts can be found at other times of the year, it may still be worth adding that item to cart on Black Friday.
"And if you're willing to be flexible on colour you may get an even better deal," adds Rafferty. "We've seen red and salted liquorice versions of the Breville The Barista Express on sale for Black Friday for between $80 to $100 cheaper than the stainless steel model."
Our investigation also found that, over time, several stores no longer carried the item in stock.
"This is typical of the appliance cycle – as products get older they're often replaced with newer versions from the manufacturer," says Rafferty.
"This may mean you can grab a good deal on old stock the retailer is trying to get rid of, but you also run the risk of it selling out before you've had a chance to add it to cart.
"Sometimes, if the product you want is already within your budget, your best decision is to just buy it instead of waiting and hoping you can get it on discount at a later date."
The COVID effect
Stock shortages have also been a big issue for retailers over the past two years because the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the movement of freight around the world.
But that doesn't mean you should just buy any product that's available and on sale – after more than 60 years of testing, we know that not all models perform well – and we've even compiled a list of items we think you should avoid buying in the sales.
CHOICE product reviews can help you avoid buying a dud.
Still keen to nab a last-minute deal?
According to our research, half of all Aussies are hoping to get a bargain in the Black Friday sales, with clothing and shoes, small kitchen appliances and TVs the hottest items.
But to make sure you don't end up with a dud item, follow our expert tips:
Clothes and shoes
Legally, retailers don't have to offer a refund or exchange if something's the wrong size or if you find it cheaper elsewhere. So try on the items instore, or compare your measurements to the information online to make sure you're buying the right size.
Small kitchen appliances
Air fryers, ice-cream makers, Sodastreams… they're all cult kitchen appliances, but do you really need them? Ask yourself if a gadget is actually going to help you in the kitchen, and consider how easy it is to use and clean.
Don't be afraid of buying last year's model – there's no real downside and the discounts can be huge. To find out the difference between a 2021 and a 2020 model, look at the product code.
Do your research
Time and time again, our expert testers have found that not all products available for sale are safe, and that price doesn't equal performance.
We're seeing more and more Australians turn to independent reviews and testing to escape the marketing hype and pick up a genuine bargain
"Australians are getting smarter every year and amping up their research into products during the big sales periods," says Rafferty.
"Particularly when it comes to appliances and tech, there's so much variation and choice on the market, it's easy to get duped into buying a dud.
"We're seeing more and more Australians turn to independent reviews and testing to escape the marketing hype and pick up a genuine bargain."
We recorded the price of four espresso machines every week from 21 May to 26 November 2021, across 13 retailers' websites: Amazon, Appliances Online, Betta, Big W, Bing Lee, Bi-Rite, Breville, Catch, Harvey Norman, Kitchen Warehouse, Myer, Target and The Good Guys.
Not every item was available at each retailer, but we price-checked each product against a minimum of four retailers.