Need to know
- The Black Friday sales in November are an increasingly popular time to grab a bargain
- You can expect some big discounts, but beware of duds and scams and ensure you're actually getting a good deal
- CHOICE experts give advice on shopping for some of the most popular sale products
The Black Friday sales are officially live, and ads for discounted items are popping up left, right and centre. But with high-pressure sales tactics and clever marketing tricks around every corner, it's worth arming yourself with the information you need to keep your cool and shop smart in the sales.
We've compiled the latest info on what to expect, and advice from CHOICE's product and shopping experts for everything you need to know to shop smarter in this year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events.
Black Friday is the high point of a period in late November when many major retailers have significant discounts on their products, both online and instore.
These sales often run for at least a week, with retailers offering further online-only discounts three days after Black Friday on "Cyber Monday".
The Black Friday sales originated in the US, but have become common in Australia over recent years and are often seen as marking the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
True to its American roots, Black Friday is the first Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday. In 2023, that will fall on November 24, with Cyber Monday three days later on November 27.
But while these two days get a lot of the glory, the timing of the sales seems to vary by retailer every year, and some brands have been offering discounts since the beginning of November in the weeks and days leading up to actual Black Friday.
The bargains tend to continue over the weekend until at least Cyber Monday.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more and more of us are participating in Black Friday, with Aussies increasingly saving in October and splurging in November.
Australian consumers spent over $7 billion over Black Friday last year and early research by consulting company Nature indicates that we will spend just as much in 2023.
Almost all (96%) of Australian consumers we asked in our recent national Consumer Pulse survey told us they're aware of the sales and over 60% said they're interested in buying something during Black Friday.
Just over a third (36%) said they thought Black Friday was worth waiting for because of the large discounts on offer.
While many Australians are keen to take advantage of Black Friday, they're also sceptical of whether the discounts are any better than those of other sales events.
Only 26% of our Consumer Pulse respondents said they thought Black Friday offered better deals than the Boxing Day or End of Financial Year sales.
Several major retailers are already offering early Black Friday deals of up to 40% off selected products, with more brands offering new discounts almost every day in the lead up to the end of the month. This allows you a bit more time to do your research and compare prices before deciding what to buy,
Black Friday is increasingly popular in Australia, with many of us saving up for the event.
CHOICE buyers, who purchase the products we review, say they have seen some pretty good Black Friday deals in the past, including tech products like game consoles being sold for the cheapest prices they'd seen all year.
But Sonja, one of our buyers, says while shoppers can see deep discounts on tech or whitegoods, she doesn't think there's a "huge need" for consumers to hold out for the Black Friday sales, particularly on clothes and shoes, which she now sees many retailers often discounting.
"I'm finding that stores are having sales on a weekly, if not monthly basis," she says. "Places like Myer for instance, have 'percentage off' or 'spend and save' offerings regularly throughout the year."
Most big retailers, including David Jones, Myer, JB Hi-Fi, Appliances Online, Target, Kmart, Big W and BCF, and many specialist retailers, are offering discounts this Black Friday.
You'll be able to take advantage of the reductions instore and online, but some offers may be exclusive to a retailer's website.
Consider joining the mailing lists of these stores and any others you're interested in via their respective websites and follow them on social media to get the first word on any new deals.
Clothes and shoes
Around a third (32%) of Australians said in our Consumer Pulse survey that they were interested in buying clothes or shoes this Black Friday.
CHOICE buyer Narelle advises looking beyond the appealing price reductions and being realistic about what's on sale (which can be limited) and whether it suits you.
"They usually have limited stock, colour and size options," she says. "Retailers are hoping the promise of big discounts gets people in and caught up in a frenzy and starting to buy things they don't want or need."
She agrees that, because many clothing retailers are offering deals at almost every turn, it pays to keep an eye on bargains at other times, as they may be better than Black Friday or offering discounts on the items you're actually after.
"With sales happening all year round, people would be better off keeping a close eye on their favourite stores and websites for sales all year round," she suggests.
Visit your favourite retailer's website and look for an option to sign up to their newsletter and follow their social media pages to be notified about sales all year round.
Small kitchen appliances were another product category that Black Friday shoppers had their eye on, with 21% of our survey respondents saying they were considering buying some at sales time.
CHOICE kitchen tester Chantelle Dart's advice for buying discounted kitchen appliances is to think carefully about how – or if – you'll use it.
"Try not to get sucked into the 'bargain' and consider if you will actually use the appliance or whether you may already have an appliance at home that performs similarly," she says.
"For example, do you really need to buy a new blender when you already have a stick blender or food processor which can perform similar tasks?"
Microwaves and toasters were among the specific kitchen gadgets consumers told us they would be looking for on Black Friday.
If you're weighing up buying a microwave, CHOICE kitchen experts recommend firstly looking at the controls – they should be easy enough to interpret that you won't need to refer to the instruction manual, especially if you're using it often.
Also check that the interior light is bright enough and the viewing window transparent enough that you'll be able to keep an eye on your food as it cooks. You can ask the store to power up any models you're considering buying to confirm this.
For toasters, check that the model you're considering is straight forward to operate and clean, with easy-to-read controls that are positioned away from hot areas, and a removable crumb tray.
It's also important to consider the types of bread you'll be toasting. Make sure that the toaster is wide and long enough to accommodate the slices and that it has the right settings and controls to get the toast just how you like it.
A decent number of our survey respondents also indicated they will be on the lookout for phones (16%) and TVs (15%) during the sales.
CHOICE tech expert Denis Gallagher says anyone looking for a smartphone this Black Friday should expect decent discounts on slightly older models.
Among these could be the iPhone 13 and 14 from Apple, the Google Pixel 7 and even some Samsung releases from earlier this year.
"Avoid the cheapest smartphone range, as the margins are very small and the savings during Black Friday sales will be insignificant," he says.
"And don't buy a smartphone that doesn't support 5G. You may think 4G is all you need, but in the next year or so, 5G coverage will be rolling out and the 3G network coverage will be winding down."
Get more tips from our smartphone buying guide.
When you're looking at TVs, CHOICE recommends getting one with a screen size that matches the space where you plan to put it. Sitting too close to a big TV means you'll start seeing the pixels (dots) that make up the screen.
You should also make sure you can connect any devices you want to use with your TV (most new TVs only have HDMI ports) and check the unit's model number – this will tell you what year it was made and can help you identify the latest model or drive a hard bargain on something older.
As with any sales rush, Black Friday has its fair share of common consumer pitfalls that you might be more susceptible to when rushing for a bargain.
"Black Friday is a huge time for online shopping and sales, which also means scammers will be out in full force," says CHOICE senior campaigns and policy advisor Alex Söderlund.
Scams have been on CHOICE's radar all year and some of the biggest threats we've seen to consumers in the retail space are phishing websites impersonating major brands.
Fraudsters have recently been setting up these pages and passing them off as the official shopping portals of popular retailers such as Peter Alexander, Lorna Jane and Kathmandu, to name a few.
Shoppers making orders through these sites are usually left waiting for products that never arrive or find their purchases are poor-quality knock-offs.
To make matters worse, CHOICE has seen scammers promote these criminal sites through ads on social media and search engines.
"Our recent investigation showed that scam ads are rife on digital platforms," Alex explains. "Platforms like Google and Meta should be ensuring this kind of fraudulent content doesn't reach users."
Black Friday is a huge time for online shopping and sales, which also means scammers will be out in full forceCHOICE campaigns and policy adviser Alex Söderlund
Despite the spread of these sites, the good news is that they can be easy to spot if you take some time to look for the red flags.
These include discounts that are too good to be true on almost all the site's items and an unusual or overly complicated URL for a page that's claiming to be a well-established brand.
Missing, irrelevant or otherwise unusual information in the 'About Us' or 'Contact Us' sections of the site, and links to social media or other pages that don't work when you click on them are other signs you're looking at a scam site.
Get more information on how to spot a fake retailer page with our guide to spotting a scam shopping site.
When buying a new, expensive product, the retailer might offer you extra protection that goes beyond the manufacturer's warranty. These extended warranties (sometimes also called 'protection' or 'product care' plans) come at a cost, but most of them aren't worth it.
Most extended warranties sell rights you already have under the Australian Consumer Law.
"Extended warranties are not worth purchasing in most situations," says Alex. "This is because they often carry the same or weaker protections as people's existing legal consumer guarantee rights."
These rights are given to you under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and decree that expensive products should last a reasonable amount of time, such as a few years.
If staff are trying to upsell you to one of these plans – something former retail workers have told us they were told to do, and many consumers say they've experienced – ask what rights it will give you beyond your ACL rights.
Also, pay close attention at the checkout: we've seen retailers adding these products to your total purchase both instore and online without making it obvious.
Black Friday's global status means you'll likely be served up offers from international retailers if you're shopping online.
In addition to considering how much of a bite the shipping costs will take out of your bargain, it pays to also watch out for foreign currency or transaction fees.
Your credit card provider might slap you with transaction fees if the retailer's bank is outside Australia, even if you bought from a site ending in .com.au and paid in Australian dollars.
Sites often don't disclose that this will happen and you may only notice after it appears on your card statement. You can avoid it by using a credit card that doesn't charge international transaction fees and some consumers report that banks refund the fee if you complain.
Another risk that comes with shopping online is ending up with a product that doesn't meet Australian safety standards.
Children's and babies' toys, baby safety items, USB chargers and power banks are just several items we believe you should think twice about before buying from overseas.
These items have often been known not to meet safety standards designed to protect Australian consumers or may even be the subject of a targeted recall here. Check if an item you're considering is the subject of a recall by searching for it on Product Safety Australia.
Businesses in Australia don't have a legal obligation to ensure their products are safe before being offered for sale
That's not to say that everything you buy in Australia is safe – only a small number of high-risk products, such as aquatic toys, bicycles and some baby products, are subject to mandatory safety standards.
What's more, businesses in Australia don't have a legal obligation to ensure their products are safe before being offered for sale.
See how you can protect yourself with our guide to avoiding unsafe products.
Even safe products can pose a risk to your savings. As always, stay alert for poor-quality products to avoid sinking your hard-earned money into a dud.
CHOICE has been testing and assessing products and services for over 60 years, and we still see under-performers across all categories.
In Australia, you're protected under the ACL, whether you've bought a product in a bricks-and-mortar store or online.
Companies that sell to Australia need to adhere to the ACL as well, but while that's the case in theory, in practice you might find it difficult to get a satisfactory resolution if you have problems with a faulty product.
Retailers need to provide a remedy (refund, replacement or repair) for a faulty product, but they're not obliged to give you a refund or exchange if you just change your mind or find that something doesn't fit.
Therefore, if you're stocking up on Christmas gifts and aren't sure whether your mum will love that vacuum cleaner, check the store's returns policy.
Find out more about what you're entitled to with our guide to using your consumer guarantees.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.