Bargain hunters looking for a deal in the January sales might well be searching in the wrong place.
While High Street stores and online retailers slash prices on their winter lines, savvy bargain hunters are snapping up other cheap deals elsewhere.
Unloved presents and old shop display items are being flogged for discount prices on some UK auction sites – which specialise in selling shop returns.
While many returns will end up back on the shelves, some big chain stores are unwilling to go to the effort of restocking returned goods.
These items are instead sold to ‘recommerce’ websites – where savvy savers can pick up a deal at bargain basement prices.
On one site, John Pye, which specialises in returns, second hand items and ex-display goods, an iPhone11 Pro – which normally has an RRP of £899 – is currently up for auction with the bid at £450.
On another site, iBidder, unused display perfumes worth £80 are currently available to bid on for £2.
One of the deals is for an iPhone 11 pro 64GB: Current bid: £392 /RRP: £889 from website, John Pye
Bargain hunters can bid for an Oculus Quest VR Headset: Current bid: £90/ RRP: £299, from John Pye
Aspiring baristas can bid for a Delonghi Coffee Maker: Current bid:£51/RRP: £209 on John Pye
Need a new laptop? A Lenvo Thinkpad P1 Laptop currently has a bid of: £485/RRP: £2249 on John Pye
If you are happy with an unused display version of a perfume, Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette: Current bid: £2/RRP: £80 is on iBidder
Want some new running shoes? Adidas Tresc Running Shoes: Current bid:£30/RRP: £110 on iBidder
How does the process work?
Some of the top deals on popular households items currently on sale
iPhone 11 pro 64GB: Current bid: £392 /RRP: £889 – John Pye
Oculus Quest VR Headset: Current bid: £90/ RRP: £299 – John Pye
Delonghi Ecom311 Icona Micalit Manuel Espresso Maker Current bid:£51/RRP: £209 (on sale for £109) – John Pye
Lenvo Thinkpad P1 Laptop: Current bid: £485/RRP: £2249 – John Pye
Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette: Current bid: £2/RRP: £80 – iBidder
Adidas Tresc Running Shoes: Current bid:£30/RRP: £110 – iBidder
Note: These are current bids as of 1pm on January 3. There are also added charges/buyer commissions that may increase the total cost.
Customers will often return items that they do not want or need to the retailer, whether those items were purchased online at sites like Amazon or in High Street stores.
But retailers sometimes do not restock the returned items for resale themselves because the cost of doing so exceeds the value of those items.
So the retailer instead decides to cut its losses and divert the returned items to third-party recommerce firms in the UK like iBidder and John Pye auctioneers.
The contractors then try to turn a profit by either selling the products to consumers online or selling them in bulk to wholesale buyers.
On some websites – particularly in the trade market – lots of items are packaged into large lots and sold off as a collection of items.
If that doesn’t work, the stores often recycle them. Otherwise, the items would be discarded in a landfill, thus causing environmental problems.
In recent years, e-commerce firms like Amazon have made it easier for consumers to return unwanted items.
The strategy behind this thinking is that customers who have an easy time returning items will be more likely to shop again with the same retailer thanks to the pleasant experience they had in getting their money back.
The recommerce market has created a cottage industry of third-party sellers who find functional, in-demand items at bargain-basement prices and then re-sell them on sites like Amazon and eBay.
There are two main reasons why a retailer cannot resell a returned item, even if it is still brand new and unused.
The first is shipping and handling costs, as well as reshipping and labour costs involved in sending it to its new buyer.
The second reason that retail companies don’t always put returned items back onto the shelves is that the longer an item stays out of circulation the less value it traditionally has. Pictured: Sales in Dublin this January
The second reason that retail companies don’t always put returned items back onto the shelves is that the longer an item stays out of circulation the less value it traditionally has.
As for buyers, as always, keep consumer smart, because you are not always guaranteed a discount deal.
Due to the nature of auctions, prices can on occasion rocket towards average RRP prices, and on some websites there are added fees and buyer commissions to factor in as well, along with delivery charges.