Jessica Dyer / Albuquerque Journal – Black Friday: It just isn’t like it used to be. No longer does the day after Thanksgiving serve as the standard launch of the holiday shopping season. More than 40 percent of Americans start gift-buying before Halloween, according to a recent National Retail Federation survey, and many retailers decked their halls weeks ago.
Black Friday also is not the end-all, be-all for deals. Yes, door-busters abound for certain items, but scintillating sales crop up for weeks on either side of Thanksgiving.
Heck, “Black Friday” isn’t really even a Friday anymore as the term has come to encompass an extended spending extravaganza that begins right after pumpkin pie and, for some, extends for days.
“Black Friday strangely has sort of morphed into Thanksgiving through the end of that weekend,” said retail consultant Jeff Green, president and CEO of Arizona-based Jeff Green Partners. The mobs of yore now spread their spending across the weekend, thus leading to slightly smaller crowds on Friday, Green added.
And yet Black Friday remains an American tradition, one still expected to lure hoards of turkey-stuffed consumers into stores and malls later this week. The retail analytics firm ShopperTrak predicts it will be the second-busiest shopping day in the lead-up to Christmas, second only to the last-minute rush of Saturday, Dec. 20.
And many will still find it worthwhile to shorten their tryptophan-induced stupor in order to scour shelves and comb racks around the city.
“It is still a good time (to shop), and you can get really good deals on Black Friday,” said Rebekah George, a New York-based expert for RetailMeNot. com, a coupon- and deal-oriented website.
Research, however, should guide every bargain-hunting Black Friday excursion, she said.
Study ads, seek additional coupons or discounts online and sign up for deal email alerts from stores you plan to visit. Know in advance which stores offer price-match guarantees on products advertised cheaper elsewhere and cash in on those promises, George said.
Also try to discern which items will be worth navigating the post-Thanksgiving shopping chaos.
Discount tracking website DealNews.com has predicted the best buys for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday — Dec. 1 — based on archives from the past three years.
Those who start on Thanksgiving Day, for example, might want to pick up video games, tools, TVs, tablets and cameras. On Friday, consider headphones, laptops and kitchen items, DealNews says, though its experts caution that the advice reflects trends as opposed to “hard and fast rules” since some sales run for weeks.
As for what not to buy? DealNews warns against wasting Black Friday on chocolate, exercise equipment, gift cards and high-end laptops (which usually sell cheaper during the back-to-school rush).
While Thanksgiving weekend still packs plenty of penny-pinching promise, steals should keep coming well after Sunday. For those who can’t — or simply refuse to — head out that weekend, George said Cyber Monday remains a golden opportunity to get outstanding online deals, and not just on the traditional electronics assortment.
“You can find great deals on anything from shoes, apparel, workout clothes, appliances, health and beauty items (to) things for the home,” she said.
It could also pay to wait it out a little longer.
ShopAdvisor — which tracks prices and availability for consumers who use its website and mobile app — found Dec. 18 was the best day of the 2013 holiday shopping season for “the lowest across-the-board prices in-store and online” based on its assessment of 6,000 products across many categories. Discounts that day averaged 17.5 percent versus less than 5 percent on Black Friday.
A similar study of 2012 data found Dec. 1 was the low-price champ that year, prompting ShopAdvisor CEO Scott Cooper to call Black Friday “more about sport than savings.”
But Green cautions consumers not to wait too long if they have explicit needs. He said retailers started stocking less during the recession to avoid having to sell off excess inventory at reduced, post-holiday prices, so it’s possible popular items could disappear from shelves by Christmas.
“They’re not buying as much as they used to for the holiday season, so if you want a specific item, buy that early,” Green said.
Thanksgiving/ Black Friday schedules
Best Buy: 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
Target: 6 p.m. Thursday through Friday night (closing times vary)
Toys “R” Us: Open 5 p.m. Thursday through 11 p.m. Friday
Wal-Mart: Hours vary by location, but in-store Black Friday deals start at 6 p.m. Thursday
Coronado Center: 6 p.m. Thursday-6 a.m. Friday (select stores) 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
Cottonwood Mall: 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday; 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday (some stores will stay open all night Thursday
ABQ Uptown: Closed Thursday; 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
Dillard’s: Closed Thursday; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday
JC Penney: 5 p.m. Thursday through 10 p.m. Friday
Kohl’s: 6 p.m. Thursday through midnight Friday
Macy’s: 6 p.m. Thursday through 10 p.m. Friday
When shopping starts
First two weeks of December
Last two weeks of December
SOURCE: National Retail Federation’s Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics What the average American will spend this holiday season
Total of all related expenditures
Gifts for family members
Gifts for friends
Gifts for co-workers