More than 110 million Americans are expected to shop the day after Thanksgiving, with many rolling out of bed well before sunrise in hopes of scoring a once-in-a-season bargain.
And those crazy good deals are out there. Best Buy, for example, is advertising a 60-inch Sony ultra-high-definition TV for $599.99. That’s an impressive $400 off its regular price.
But here’s the thing — you don’t necessarily have to shop on Black Friday to score a bargain. A number of retailers have a slate of deeply discounted items available right now.
Most of the Black Friday deals at Kohl’s went online Monday. T-Mobile is running a buy one, get one offer on the $700 iPhone 8 with a contract for a new line. Macy’s kicked off an online-only Black Friday preview sale that runs through Tuesday, then goes directly into its actual online Black Friday sale on Wednesday. If you have a Target charge or debit card, you could access a handful of special deals Wednesday as well.
J.C. Penney’s Black Friday deals have been online since Sunday. A company spokesman said JC Penney has seen consumers pushing to get their shopping done before Black Friday and they don’t want to miss out on those opportunities.
“There’s no question that retailers the last few years have been trying to get consumers to go earlier than on Thursday and Friday,” says Britt Beemer, a retail analyst with America’s Research Group.
In other words, retailers want you in their stores and on their websites early and often, and they’re aggressively marketing their deals to lure in your dollars.
“The strategy for them is exactly that,” says Ana Serafin Smith, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation. “Let’s try to get them to come into our store or shop on our websites multiple times through the holidays, not just on Black Friday anymore.”
The result is nearly the entire month of November being chock full of promotions.
While retail experts say some of the year’s best deals really can be had on Black Friday — particularly with electronics — many of those blowout doorbuster deals are available in such limited quantities that only a handful of people are going to get them.
In those cases, retailers are hoping folks who aren’t lucky enough to be one of the first few shoppers in the door for their headline deal will find something else to buy. That’s something shoppers should keep in mind, and one reason it pays to plan ahead if you are going out on Friday and stick to your plan.
Another thing shoppers should note is that in promoting their low-price deals, stores often advertise the manufacturer’s suggested retail price — not the price that the item is actually selling for regularly or at other retailers.
Take, for instance, Target’s $250 55-inch Westinghouse ultra high-definition TV, which leads their Black Friday circular. Target shows it at a regular price of $650. But you can buy that same TV today for $400 at Best Buy. So while Target’s deal is still good, it’s not quite as good as it might seem.
Also, pay attention to brands. Many of the best deals on electronics such as tablets and TVs are on lesser-known brands that may not have the same reliability or features that well-known brands offer.
One more thing to note this year. In lieu of mark downs, some retailers are offering buyers the equivalent of gift cards that can be used later in the shopping season. If you think you’ll be shopping that particular store again before the season’s out, then that might be worth it. If it’s a retailer you don’t regularly shop, that extra “free” money may not do you any good — or it might lead to you spending money you wouldn’t otherwise spend.
I asked personal finance expert Lauren Lyons Cole for a few more tips on shopping around Thanksgiving.
“If you're going to buy in-store, make sure to look for price matching. If you can find the item online at a cheaper price, ask the cashier if the store will match the lower price. Most places will,” she said.
Cole says often the online sales are every bit as good as in-store deals, so if going to crowded malls isn’t your thing, don’t worry. And there’s also not a whole lot of pressure to get those one-day specials.
If you like that tradition of going shopping the day after Thanksgiving as a way to get into that old Christmas spirit, go for it. I’ve covered the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping story more than a half-dozen times, and the bulk of the people I meet every year are there primarily because it’s fun for them.
But that’s not to say its the only way to score a great bargain.
“Deals also last longer now — shoppers can find deals beginning in early November and throughout the holiday season. So, you can relax over the weekend and enjoy time with family rather than feeling pressure to start your holiday shopping,” Cole says.
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