Posted on November 17, 2012 at 5:11 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Your turkey could still be warm by the time you wrap up your Black Friday shopping this year – retailers have pushed the kickoff for the mammoth shopping day firmly into Thanksgiving Day itself.
Retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us and Sears, are starting their deals Thursday night. Consulting group BDO USA is forecasting a 3.1 percent increase in Black Friday sales compared with last year, based on the company’s survey of retailers.
Black Friday, traditionally the year’s single busiest shopping day, is also earlier than normal since Thanksgiving is on the next-to-last Thursday in November this year. With frenzied crowds and limited quantities of the most sought-after items, Black Friday can be a stressful day. Here are five things that will help you survive the shopping rush:
Don’t let the door busters fool you – quantities might be limited
Beware of limited quantities for door-buster sale items. There might be only a few of the most highly discounted items, such as electronics, actually in stores on Black Friday.
For example, Sears’ Black Friday ad specifies there are “limited quantities” of most electronics, such as Xbox 360s and Asus laptops. Some of them have small numbers guaranteed in stock, such as the “at least 4 per store” specified for a $39.99 Nook Simple Touch, or the “at least 3 per store” for a $99.99 Garmin GPS unit. At Target, a $349, 50-inch LCD television is marked “quantities limited,” as are most of the big-ticket items.
And consider what categories of goods you’re standing in line to wait for: Black Friday might not be the best deal. On items such as brand-name televisions and winter apparel, experts say there are typically even better sales after the holidays, as retailers look to clear stock for the coming year.
To avoid long waits in line, consider going online
Consider staying at home and skipping the lines. More retailers than ever are offering online-specific deals for Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday. They’re responding to customer demand: Twenty-two percent of consumers shopped online during Thanksgiving last year, up from 15 percent in 2008, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.
For example, Best Buy notes in its frequently asked questions that most of its Black Friday deals will be available online starting on Thanksgiving. Members of Sears’ “Shop Your Way” loyalty club can purchase door-buster sale items online starting Sunday.
Many retailers also offer free shipping for purchases above a certain amount, or free delivery for in-store pickup. That means you can skip the late-night or early-morning trip to the mall and still reap the benefits.
Time is limited to get the most deals, so if you’re looking to save the maximum possible number of dollars, focus on big-ticket items. This one is a matter of math. If you’re going to Wal-Mart for Black Friday, you’ll save a lot more money on a 60-inch LED television from Vizio ($688, marked down by $310), than you will on several smaller items such as an Essentials 32-piece tool set ($14.88, marked down by $5), a Black & Decker cordless drill set ($49.88, marked down $29) and a Better Homes & Gardens plush blanket ($15, marked down by $14.88).
At the same time, don’t blow your whole shopping budget: With the extra week of holiday shopping this year, the season is going to feel more like a marathon than usual.
Be careful in parking lots
Be careful in the parking lots. The last thing you want to do on Black Friday is get relieved of your recent shopping coups by an early-morning robber, or cancel out your shopping gains with a car accident in the parking lot. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police recommend parking in well-lit areas, having your keys in hand as you approach your car so you don’t fumble around while waiting to enter your car, and hiding packages in your trunk or under something in your rear seat.
And car insurance company Progressive says nearly 25 percent of auto insurance claims on Black Friday happen in parking situations. The most frequent Black Friday claims include striking a parked car or your parked car being struck (11.1 percent of claims) and backing into another car or being backed into (7.7 percent of claims).
Use those shopping apps
Use your smartphone. In addition to shopping apps from specific retailers, there are also hundreds of apps specifically geared toward compiling Black Friday deals. The Black Friday App from Dealnews.com allows you to save sale ads and compare in-store prices with online retailers, while TGI Black Friday, from Ecatcher Inc., lets you view and download ads, create shopping lists and compare prices. There are hundreds of other similar apps for iPhones and Android devices, most of them free.