Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, is just over a week away - so you might want to keep track of the date if you're saving for something big.
This year, it falls on November 24 2017 - it's always the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. However as the day has grown in prominence and online shopping has made searching for a bargain easier, many shops launch deals well ahead of the big day.
Some have already announced that they will start releasing offers in advance - for instance, Amazon are making some of their Black Friday deals available from November 17 - a whole 10 days before the official shopping event.
Cyber Monday (November 27) always follows swiftly off the heels of Black Friday - it used to be a separate event in its own right until last year when it merely became an extension to the Black Friday weekend.
Where did Black Friday come from?
Used to describe a pre-Christmas day of commercial carnage, the term “Black Friday” originates from Philadelphia, USA, in the early 1950s. In 2010, the online retail giant Amazon introduced the concept to the UK. Asda, owned by America’s biggest retailer Walmart, followed suit in 2013.
What to expect from Black Friday in 2017
While we can't know for sure what to expect this year as retailers tend to keep their cards close to their chest before the big day, we have do have some tips.
Amazon will begin releasing Black Friday deals on 17 November, and we expect other retailers to follow suit and begin their deals before the 24 November as well - so keep your eyes peeled from now on.
It makes sense to go for deals on big-ticket items like phones, laptops, TVs, fridges and washing machines as the discounts will be sure to make a sizable dent in the price you pay.
Black Friday is also the ideal time to bag a bargain Christmas gift, so search for discounted toys, gaming consoles and gadgets when you're scanning the deals on offer.
This year, look out for deals on the new Xbox One X and the Nintendo Switch, as well as Fingerlings, Lol Dolls and Hatchimals for the little ones.
While it's unlikely we'll see discounts on the latest Apple and Samsung products, expect deals on their 2016 products - that means the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
Techies should also look out for the Microsoft Surface Pro, the Macbook Pro and the Google Pixel.
How big was last year's Black Friday?
Britons spent a record £5.8 billion over the four days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016 - an increase of 15 per cent on last year, according to VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR). Online retailers took approximately £2.8 billion of this - up 20 per cent from £2.3 billion in 2015, according to the data.
On Black Friday itself, experts estimate that £1.27 billion was spent in the 24 hour period - up 16 per cent on last year.
However, did you know that Black Friday is still completely trumped by China's Singles Day, the world's biggest online shopping day of the year? That finished on November 11 2016 with Chinese shoppers spending $17.8bn (£14.2bn) in 24 hours. It seems UK shoppers still have a way to go to beat that record.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s Jamie Merrick says that UK retailers didn’t discount as heavily as those in other countries. Consumers in the UK, he says, saw prices cut by an average of just 9%. That compared to Germany (23%), France (26%), the United States (29%) and Canada (36%).
Did all retailers take part?
No. In 2016, Ikea, Asda, Next and Homebase were among those who turned their back on the sales day. M&S and Selfridges sort of took part in Black Friday 2016 - both stores had weekend long Christmas-themed sales instead.
Asda's spokesman said: "Following feedback from customers that they wanted low prices throughout the festive season and not just for one day, Asda took the decision to step away from Black Friday."
Asda was hailed for bringing the US phenomenon of Black Friday to the UK in 2013, but the supermarket hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when scenes of shoppers wrestling over discounted televisions made front page news.
Which shops triumphed in 2016?
John Lewis trumped brands such as Apple and Amazon to take the top spot as the nation’s most popular brand this Black Friday, according to data from voucher website Vouchercloud.
When it came to tech specific purchases, the department store took the top spot once more, followed again by Apple, Amazon and Game. However, Debenhams appeared to win the fashion war.
What did we learn from Black Friday last year?
Online is king
Online spending on Black Friday topped £1.2 billion - up 16 per cent on the previous year, according to the CRR, cementing the place of the digital world as the new high street.
Payment service Worldpay said it processed 20 per cent more online transactions compared with last year, with global sales peaking at 16.01pm with a rate of 181 transactions per second. Meanwhile, Visa said online spend in the week leading up to Black Friday was up 13 per cent year-on-year with almost £1 billion spent on Black Friday alone.
Mobile is ringing the changes
Mobile proved to be the the most popular channel for purchasing goods in the UK, according to data from ChannelAdvisor. Sixty four per cent of purchases took place on mobile devices, compared to just 48 per cent in 2015.
Retailers across the board reported a jump in transactions made via mobile, proving the smartphone is now the gateway to the "digital high street". Improved store apps and the ability to pay for items at the touch of a button without repeatedly loading in card details makes shopping-on-the-go too good to resist.
John Lewis saw a 21 per cent spike in sales through mobile phones between 8am and 9am as people shopped online on their way to work. Dixons Carphone said the retailer had its highest ever mobile traffic share in 2016 since Black Friday began, while Argos said 80 per cent of its customers shopped for deals via mobile.
It wasn't just a one day event
Many retailers tried to lure shoppers in with deals for several days before Black Friday in an extension of the traditional one-day event, which some clever PR people dubbed Black "FiveDay".
Analysts say the short-lived spree has evolved into a more extended period as consumers learn to track prices and compare deals between retailers in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
More consumers shopped online in the middle of the night than ever before, keen to avoid queues and mid-aisle squabbles in shops. Compared to Black Friday 2015, Vouchercloud said it saw a 46 per cent increase in pre-6am traffic, with 208 per cent increase in traffic at 5am on Friday morning.
Between midnight and 1am was Argos' biggest trading hour, with 8,000 visits per minute and 15 orders per second. Meanwhile, Currys PC World noticed more early-bird shoppers online at 7am - an hour earlier than in 2015, while evening traffic was also up.
Showroomers vs Webroomers
Shoppers are now using a combination of store visits and online browsing when making big purchases, according to Visa’s Digital Payments study.
It points to consumers who are either “showroomers” (those who view an item in-store before purchasing online) and "webroom" consumers, who look for the best price online, and then buy the item in that retailer's shop.
What were the popular products?
At John Lewis, one of the biggest technology sellers was the smart speaker Sonos Play 1, with one selling every 10 seconds. Its Lego Simpsons house was also a big hit, as was Marc Jacobs perfume. In Home, shoppers snapped up Sophie Conran crockery.
Over at Currys PC World, TVs were a hot favourite once again, followed by laptops, Google Chromecasts, Samsung tablets and large kitchen appliances.
Argosand Very.co.uk reported that their customers were largely interested in games consoles, and wearable tech was also a big seller. In fact, Very.co.uk sold a smart watch every three seconds between peak trading hours of 9am and 10am.
Shop smart tips for Black Friday
Set a budget — It can be very easy to get carried away if you don’t set a spending limit for yourself. Even if something is heavily discounted it could still be outside your budget. Work out what you can afford to spend and stick to it.
Do your research — Do your research beforehand if you have a particular purchase in mind; be prepared to shop around to get the best price. Have a figure in mind you are willing to spend, and check online for comparison prices.
Consider how you’re paying — It can be a good idea to pay for items with your credit card because it can provide you with an extra layer of protection if things go wrong – but you should aim to pay it off any balance in full when payment is due. Don’t put yourself into debt.
Know your rights — The Consumer Rights Act says goods should be of satisfactory quality, fit to do the job intended, and last a reasonable length of time. This right is limited to 30 days from the date you buy your product.
Look long-term — In the run up to Christmas, many supermarkets put together deals where you are offered vouchers or bonuses for the festive season every time you shop, which you can then put towards Christmas shopping later down the line. You might well be offered loyalty bonuses on top of regular points too if you start saving early enough.