Friday, November 5, 2010

Black Friday Survival Guide

Nov 2, 2010 Anna Smith

Save Money by Shopping on Black Friday - Image by Steven Depolo

Save Money by Shopping on Black Friday - Image by Steven Depolo

The day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is one of the best known traditions in American shopping history. The day received its ominous moniker as a nickname from shop owners as being the first day their accounting books moved out of the red and started showing a profit. Stores noticed the trend of families beginning their Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving and began offering sales, incentives, and early openings to cater to this habit. Today the event resembles a marathon race that occasionally involves high-stakes boxing, and should be treated with the same preparation, dedication, and cool thinking as any other competitive sport.

Plan the Attack Early: Black Friday Ads

Serious shoppers will want to make a plan of attack the night before. Take half an hour Thanksgiving morning, while the turkey is still simmering and the marshmallows are caramelizing, and hit the local gas station for a paper. This is usually filled with a gold mine of Black Friday ads.

Stores will advertise their opening times at the front of their ads. These can be used to create an itinerary. If Target opens at 4am and Best Buy opens at 5am, then with some fast (but safe) driving and even faster walking, dedicated shoppers can get the door-busting deals at both stores. Midnight openings are also increasing in popularity and allow shoppers to feed the frenzy without ever having to go to bed.

Make a list of which items should be purchased from each store. Once the Black Friday rush has begun, there will be little time for thinking or deliberating. Lines tend to form around popular stores hours before doors are scheduled to open. Once the lights flicker to life and the automatic glass slides back, all bets are off as shoppers speed-walk, trot, then run to the discounted items that have pulled them out of bed before the crack of dawn. To ensure total sale success:

  • Head straight toward the item(s) desired as soon as the doors open and grab it
  • Do not be embarrassed to run - everyone else will already be doing it
  • Get in line immediately - the faster checkout is completed, the sooner the next store may be shopped!
  • Shop in a group - assign each family member a different item to grab and meet back at the registers
  • Scout ahead - the truly dedicated will want to visit stores that are open a few days in advance to locate where items are on the shelves

Visit Price Matching Stores

Electronics is the most popular category in which to shop during Day After Thanksgiving sales. Televisions, gaming systems, MP3 players, and more often receive discounts of up to 50%. Cost conscious parents can fulfill their game-loving teen's addiction to digitally rendered combat while completing their den's entertainment system upgrade without breaking the bank.

The lines at most electronics stores on Black Friday morning are legendary and frequently involve hour long waits to enter the store and two hour long waits to check out. Many of these stores receive limited shipments of popular items and can sell out of them before the sun rises. They utilize the low supply and high demand concept that guarantees a big sales volume without significantly denting the remainder of their Christmas inventory.

To avoid long lines and potential disappointment, find out which stores carry similar items and guarantee a price match policy. Wal-Mart and K-mart frequently advertise that their prices can beat or match the competition's when presented with a valid Black Friday ad. Bring the ad into the store and make sure that it specifically lists the price of the item in question. As long as the store has the item and the price cannot be disputed, they are bound to honor it.

Pack Power Replenishing Supplies

Stay hydrated! Put several bottles of water in the car and a few cereal bars to snack on. Attempting to visit a fast-food drive-in during Black Friday is a beginner's mistake that can easily be avoided. Lines at these venues are long and only take away from time that could be spent shopping savvy.

Many stores only offer their door-busting deals until the clocks strikes noon, at which time the minivan becomes a pumpkin and prices return to "as marked". Eat last, when there is ample time to wait in line, enjoy the meal, and bask in the money saved during the morning. Remember, a big meal was consumed the day before, so use this time as an opportunity to earn back the calories.

Save Clothing Sales for Last

Clothing stores don't want to miss out on the excitement and typically carry a special Black Friday deal of their own. These items tend to last throughout the morning, however, and can be visited as the last stop on the tour of the greatest shopping day of the year. Dress in layers so that clothing can be tried on easily in the aisles, when appropriate, to avoid lines in the fitting rooms.

Malls offer the ideal location to indulge in clothing shopping sales. Multiple stores can be visited without having to move the car in the parking lot and guarantee that every family member receives the perfect gift on Christmas morning. Most malls also have food courts which provide chairs, tables, an orange julius, and a cinnamon bun to create the perfect location to relive the triumphs and heartaches of a productive and exhausting morning.

With a little planning, some light stretching of the leg muscles, and determination, Black Friday can be a shopping success. Many fans of this sport can purchase an entire Christmas list in seven hours for half of the cost on any other day of the year. Make it a goal to not just survive these sales waters, but to dominate them and return home from the store as the family's Most Valuable Shopper.

Copyright Anna Smith. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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