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Black Friday 2024: Should you shop in store or online?

In this day and age, is it better to shop online or shop old-school and head in store? We're weighing in on the pros and cons.

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Image: Shutterstock

Online shopping can be a very polarising issue. Some people swear they'll never enter another store ever again now that they've discovered the joys of shopping online. While others insist in store is the only way to go.

During sale periods the differences between these two shopping experiences can be even more marked. And with every shopper on the hunt for the best deal, where should you be heading? The stores? Or your computer screen? Black Friday sales are looming, so we've decided to weigh in on how you should tackle this mammoth sale.

So, should you shop online or in store this Black Friday? Here are the pros and cons.

In store shopping

Pro - Sometimes physical stores have stock that's not available online

You'll see this is often the case for department stores like David Jones and Myer. The physical stores will have different volumes and types of stock than the online stores. Different items sell different rates at each store, so the sale offerings can really vary depending on which store you're in. So sometimes there are discounted pieces and unique items that you'll only find in the physical stores.

This is particularly true of limited edition, designer or Christmas only stock.

Pro - You'll never have to wait for delivery

There is something quite nice about making a purchase and taking it home with you the same day. Even though most sites offer an express shipping option, you still are left waiting for a day or two. Plus paying for shipping at all is a bit of an annoyance.

This is especially true during sale period. Many stores will take an extra few days to dispatch your purchases due to high sales volume. So if you need something pronto, shopping in store is probably a better option.

Con - The overwhelming number of people at in store sales makes you want to give up

Have you ever headed over to store having a big sale and left after just a few minutes because you simply couldn't deal with the pushy people around the sale bins, the giant lines for the changing rooms and the frustrated sales assistants? Yeah, us too.

Sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the number of other bargain shoppers around you can stop you from taking full advantage of the sale. In these instances, shopping online is a much better option. You'll have plenty of time to consider your purchases and you won't have to wait in any lines.

Con - Promo codes don't work in store

Did you see a 20% off promo code online? Great, but these won't work in store. There are very, very few stores that will accept discounts you find online at the physical stores.

If you want to use a discount code to save, you'll need to shop online.

Online shopping

Pro - Many sales go live at 12am, much earlier than when physical stores open at 9am.

During sales like Black Friday, the popular items sell out faster than you think so its important to snap up anything you really want straight away.

Many of the online deals will go live from midnight so you can shop all night long. But with in store sales, you'll have to wait until the stores open at 9am before you can get what you want. Shopping online allows you shop in a more organised manner with access to sales earlier and secure all the things you want.

Pro - Online stores tend to have better deals

Online stores have fewer overheads and generally have more competitive and more frequent sales that physical stores. You've probably noticed that Missguided, Boohoo and NastyGal each have a different sale each week. And it's not the same with stores like Sportsgirl, Fantastic Furniture or Freedom. For hot beauty, fashion and homeware sales, Black Friday online shopping is your best bet.

If you want the best price, you should at least look at the prices online first.

Pro - You can shop at your leisure

When you shop online you don't need to hunt for a car park. You don't need to wait for a changing room. You don't need to push through crowds.

Online shopping allows you to browse on your own time from the comfort of your own home. This is a much nicer experience than dealing with overcrowded stores during sale periods.

Pro - It's far easier to compare discounts

So you've found a top you like at David Jones and you want to head over and compare it to the price of a similar top at Myer. Well, you'll probably have to ask David Jones to hold it or maybe you'll just put it back on the rack and race to Myer?

When you're shopping online, comparing the discounts at a different store means you just open a new tab. It's so much easier to find where the best price is when you're shopping on your computer.

Con - You can't actually see what you're buying

This is the key risk with shopping online. If you're buying clothes, they might not fit you. If you're buying furniture, it might not be the right proportion. When buying makeup, it might be a slight different colour to the photo. And many stores choose not to offer returns on sale items.

If you're not 100% sure about an item, it might be worth shopping in store. Or you could check it out in store ahead of time and buy it online later. Just saying.

Con - Returns can be a bit more challenging

When you buy online, returning can be a bit of a hassle. You'll need to repackage and repost your item back to the store. Sometime you'll need to pay the postage to return your item too. And then there are those sneaky online boutiques that don't offer change of mind returns. So you could risk not being able to return your items at all!

If you hate returning online purchases, perhaps shopping online during a sale period is the better option for you.

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Written by

Mia Steiber

Mia Steiber was the shopping editor for Finder. She previously worked for publications such as Bauer Media, The Daily Telegraph, POPSUGAR Australia, Gizmodo and Lifehacker. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology Sydney, a travel writing certification from the ACIJ and and a total obsession with skincare and Australian fashion labels. See full profile

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