Originally published on chicagotribune.com.
Black Friday is around the corner, but with Cyber Monday and retailers flogging sales constantly since early November through December, has it lost its cachet as the day with the best prices?
No, say shopping experts. Black Friday (and really, Thanksgiving night) sales are the real deal. If you shop only at one time of the year, do it then.
“If you’re going to shop, you’re going to see more stuff on Thanksgiving and Black Friday than Cyber Monday,” said Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, who has followed Black Friday shopping trends for several years. Cyber Monday has deals, too, but more general and strictly online, he said.
Generally, on Thanksgiving, retailers often feature iPads, iPhones, kitchen appliances and clothing, he said. Top Black Friday deals are usually on TVs, Android smartphones, laptops and often travel deals. On Cyber Monday, beauty products, toys, speakers and other audio products reign.
Here are 10 tips to win Black Friday.
1. Research prices now
Make a gift budget and research prices now, said Trae Bodge, shopping expert at TrueTrae.com, adding that sites like Slickdeals, Flipp and others have most of the major Black Friday circulars a few days ahead of Thanksgiving. Compare and contrast prices. Because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a good deal, Bodge said.
2. Budget for spending on you
Impulse shopping is huge this time of year, so set aside a budget for yourself, she said, and stick to it. Include in your research prices on items you may be tempted to buy and set a limit on spending. That keeps you from shop mindlessly. “Sales can create this sense of urgency and cause us to kind of go off the rails,” she said.
3. Confirm deal location — online or in store
Although retailers will have most deals both online and in stores, both Bodge and Bonebright said stores like Walmart and Best Buy are starting to have more store-only limited-time-only doorbusters to lure people inside. The good news, Bodge said, is that shopping in stores is less frenzied now than in previous years when physical stores were the only game in town.
4. Map out your drives
If you do shop in-store for limited-time-only doorbusters, pick two to three stores in the same general geographic location. If traffic is bad, “you’re not going to have time to get to them all,” Bonebright said.
5. Use all available tools
Browser extensions like Honey (joinhoney.com) or Invisible Hand (getinvisiblehand.com) can instantly find the best price on a particular product at bigger retailers and store apps may hold special deals, they said. We tried both extensions looking for robot vacuums. When we went to iRobot’s site looking for a Roomba 960, pop up windows from the shopping tools alerted us to a one-day sale on QVC to buy it $180 cheaper and found QVC coupons that sweetened the deal. Holders of store credit cards like Target’s Red Card or Amazon Prime members often get early access to deals or additional discounts. This year shopping using voice-activated digital assistants such as iPhone’s Siri or Google Home may unlock specific discounts, said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research at CTA, a consumer technology association.
6. TVs are great deals
Black Friday is the best day to buy a new TV all year, Bodge and Bonebright said. Rohrbaugh says new technology features introduced at the Consumer Electronic Show like 8K TVs could be on sale during Black Friday, as well as steep discounts on other models. Again, research prices now.
7. Consider upgrading smaller appliances
Is your blender, robotic vacuum or other small home good on its last legs? Consider upgrading on Black Friday, but only if you’ve researched prices ahead of time to make sure the advertised deal is good, Bodge said. This is the best time of year to upgrade to small kitchen appliances in general.
8. Double dip
Kylee Magno, principal analyst at Astound Commerce, which analyzes retailer websites, says sign up for free loyalty programs and join merchandisers’ lists to get discounts to use during Black Friday. She says retailers want customers to keep coming back so they may offer perks like 10% or points. Often retailers will give new email subscribers discounts, too, even higher-end stores like Williams-Sonoma, which give new subscribers 15% off their first purchase.
9. Don’t preshop
Putting something in your online cart the day before Thanksgiving won’t keep it from running out of stock and doing so may backfire by not showing the new discounted price, Bonebright said.
10. Don’t expect deep discounts on hot releases
Retailers won’t slash prices on hot new releases such as the iPhone 11, Bonebright said. The most you might get is a few bucks off the latest model. However, you might score a bigger discount and a hefty gift card with purchase on second generation model such as iPhone 10s at places like Walmart or Target, he said.
Debbie Carlson is a freelance writer.
Get More Insights
For expert insights and actionable tips at the heart of today’s digital landscape, subscribe to the Astound Insights newsletter today.