Get the Best Black Friday Deals
This year there are sure to be epic-day-after Thanksgiving sales, but stores also have a lot less inventory (on items like toys, cosmetics and lower-priced electronics) which means your kid’s dream game console or new laptop may be gone in a flash. But don’t worry, there are ways to maximize your shopping time-and minimize Black Friday pain.
What To Expect
Last year over 172 million people went bargain hunting on Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. While sales are expected to be flat or a bit down this year, with this tight economy everyone is going to be looking for deals. Several categories that are sure to sell fast are:
- Toys: Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TimeToPlayMag.com notes that, “the toy industry is recession-resistant-because parents will always want to have presents to put under the tree.”
- Cosmetics: Russell A. Joyner, executive vice-president and general manager of the Miracle Mile shops in Las Vegas, explains, “You can have a value-indulgence splurge by buying a Chanel lipstick instead of a Chanel bag.”
- Lower-priced Electronics: The under $75 range particularly is going to be and see strong sales, believes retail strategist Jeff Green of Jeff Green Partners in Mill Valley, California.
Start With A Shopping List and a Budget
Remember, a great price can still be a bad deal if you don’t need the item (for yourself or as a gift) or if it costs more than you should pay. That’s why Lauren Bright, who writes a shopping blog for NJ.com, recommends that you go into Black Friday planning to be a smart shopper. Create a shopping list of exactly what you need to buy and calculate a budget of exactly what you want to spend-and stick with it.
Check Prices and Search for Online Coupons
Hit the web before you hit the stores, says Bright, so you can decide, for example, exactly what kind of camera you want, and what the street prices tend to range. Do this for all of the items on your list and then write the range next to the item so you’ll remember. That way if you see the perfect mp3 player or pair of boots in the store, you’ll know if the price is amazing or just okay. Also look for online and newspaper coupons-from either the manufacturer or the retailer- to bring with you. Get as many different types as you can because the store may let you batch them together for even greater deals.
Be sure to check out your favorite store’s Facebook page and consider becoming a Facebook fan of the retailer. Toy pro Silver notes that Toys R Us posts coupons on Facebook that you aren’t going to find anywhere else.
Look for Early Sales
Joyner of the Miracle Mile shops advises that, “Some retailers are starting their sales even earlier this year.” So it’s important to be on the lookout for pre-Black Friday offers.
Also keep a close eye for any changes in store hours, especially for Black Friday, recommends Silver. “There is a rumor that they might open up the stores even earlier this year, at 2 or 3 a.m.,” he exclaims. Often those sales details are first announced the week of Thanksgiving in the store circulars.
Do Store Reconnaissance
A day or two before, see where the goodies are. Will GPS’s be stacked behind the customer service desk? Will you have to run an obstacle course to get to the $399 42-inch flat-screens? Make sure you know. And though we shouldn’t be telling you this, there are some sneaky tricks to consider. “If you’re planning to buy a piece of women’s apparel, hide it in the automotive section,” says Sam Pocker, a Queens, NY, consumer advocate and deal-buster pro. “If a guy finds it there, he’s just going to say, ‘What is this thing?’ and walk away.”
Understand Retail Thinking
Traditionally, doorbusters are in-demand items (such as video game systems or TVs) that are offered in limited quantity at such ridiculously low prices the customers will practically bust down the doors to get to them. But the term has expanded to mean huge sales where large retailers (such as Wal-Mart and Macy’s) open their stores early to nab bargain-hunters. The retailers are banking on the fact that these shoppers will buy enough in their deal-hungry frenzy to yield a profit on products they are selling at a loss.
Retail strategist Green explains that, “Doorbusters are not something that retailers want to do, but they have to, in order to stay competitive.” However, Green warns, “businesses are getting leaner, with much less inventory on-hand.” What this means to shoppers is that if they put off purchases of in-demand items, they may get completely sold out, making Black Friday an even-more-crucial shopping day this year.
Know The Hot Toys
According to toy guru Silver, the must-have toy this year is relatively inexpensive. “Right now,” he says, “the very hottest toys are Zhuzhu Pets. They are little mechanical hamsters, they all sell at $8 and you can purchase lots of cool accessories, like habitrails, for them. Toys R Us has by far the largest stock in the industry.” Silver also predicts other 2009 toy hits will include “Bakugan-boys’ action figures.
The LEGO-Star Wars products are also going to sell well. “They did a great job and they tied together two very hot brands that kids love,” he adds. Silver, like Green is also concerned about items selling out. He cautions parents to shop early for their kids. “A lot of the top toys will not be left by Christmas, because stock is so lean this year,” he says. Have your kids make a list, and have them make it much longer than what they’re going to get. Buy a couple of must-have items early, and try for the others, but let your child know that they are not going to get everything on their list. It’s going to be the reality, because things will sell out early.”
Keep Your Wits About You
It’s not called Black Friday for nothing. The day is notorious for crazy behavior (sometimes leading to tragedy) when shopping mania strikes the crowds, so make sure you don’t get too caught up in the frenzy. The name came about in the mid-1960s when a Philadelphia newspaper took issue with the problems caused by the day-after-Thanksgiving sales in the city’s downtown-including heavy traffic and crowds-and called it “Black Friday.”
Nothing is worse than arriving at the store ready to shop and finding that all the carts and baskets are gone. Power-shopper Toni Jacovini, of Margate, New Jersey recommends bringing a big, clear laundry bag with you so that you have something to carry your loot.
Also be sure to bring water and snacks, adds Jacovini, its critical to keep your energy going for the big game hunting. This realtor knows her way about Black Friday sales-her gift list includes “39 people and one dog.”
Plot Your Route
Create your shopping itinerary based on three key factors: store hours (don’t wait for Kohl’s to open its doors if Best Buy is already selling out); shopping priorities (if you have to have that Sony laptop at all costs, buy that first); and what the doorbuster policies are (if the store only has 10 Wiis at the crazy-cheap price, either get their early or don’t go at all).
Tag-Team Your Shopping
Time is definitely money on Black Friday so bring at least one other person with you for logistical support, advises Jacovini. Especially if you are shopping the big-box stores where there could be hundreds of people waiting for a cash register. “One person gets in line; the other person gets the stuff,” she advises. “Once the ‘shopper’ has filled the cart, they can run and hit a couple of other sales at smaller stores while their friend is in line to pay.” You can also alternate who is driving/parking, and who is shopping to maximize the time.
Don’t Forget Off-Price Stores
Sure the focus is on the crazy bargains at the traditional retailers but if you are looking for clothing, be sure swing by Filene’s Basement or other discount retailers. “There are going to be great deals and great product at off-price stores,” says Green. “A lot of manufacturers aren’t selling to the department stores, they are going directly to the off-price stores-T.J. Maxx, Ross, Marshall’s-so great stuff is ending up there first,” he explains. “Shopping at these types of retailers can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but you can find some really terrific deals there, and the numbers are showing that savvy shoppers know it.”
Don’t Feel Guilty About Buying for Yourself
“The dirty little secret about Black Friday is that only a small portion of the money spent is spent on gifts for other people. The day’s really a self-gifting festival,” explains Lee Eisenberg , author of the new book Shoptimism. “With some 7 million more people out of work this year, and with credit so much tighter, it will be harder to shower ourselves with pre-holiday presents. I believe many of us will be more thoughtful, do our online homework regarding best prices and values, and place more of premium on quality and durability. That’s why I’m, well, shoptimistic. Will we buy? Of course we’ll buy. Good times or bad times, when there there’s a will to shop there’s a way.”
Have A Good Time
For lots of shoppers, standing in line at 2 a.m. for doorbusters is the point. “It’s fun,” says Boston consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, founder of dealalerter.com. “It’s part of it is the thrill of getting a bargain. Then you have the community aspect of being at an event. Everyone talks about what they’re here for. They talk about last year. It’s a shared experience, a shared excitement.”
If you don’t find the perfect gift because the item sells out, don’t despair. Gift cards are an especially good idea this year, a lot of shopping experts point out, because they will allow a recipient to shop for either necessities or inexpensive-but-fun things, such as music downloads and books. And if you are still looking for your dream item? Don’t forget, there is always Cyber Monday.