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By Herb Weisbaum
After weeks of “leaked” ads and early deals, the most hyped shopping event of the year, Black Friday, is almost here. Of course, Black Friday is no longer just one day; it’s now an ongoing event that starts right after Halloween. Serious bargain hunters have already done some early Black Friday shopping.
Major retailers, such as Kohl’s, JCPenney, Costco, Target and Amazon, have already launched some of their Black Friday deals. More major retail chain stores will roll out deals and doorbusters on Wednesday.
“It’s really become Black November,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser for the NPD Group. “Retailers realize that we don’t have any more money just because they start their sales earlier; it’s all about market share and trying to capture that early dollar.”
Is this marketing frenzy, combined with a seemingly endless number of sales throughout the year, tarnishing the allure of Black Friday?
About half of the consumers surveyed in mid-October by WalletHub said Black Friday no longer offers the best deals of the year.
For its new report, 2018’s Best Stores for Black Friday, WalletHub compared the regular price with the Black Friday price for a broad selection of items, including TVs, computers, home appliances, video games, clothing and jewelry. The result: 14 percent of the items “offered no savings” — had the same price or were more expensive when compared with their pre-Black Friday prices.
That said, shopping experts contacted by NBC News do expect to see some great deals unveiled on Wednesday and Thursday on all types of merchandise.
Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org considers Black Friday “the single best shopping day of the year.”
Angela Davis, who runs the website FrugalLivingNW, said she “loves Black Friday” because it’s not just about buying Christmas presents.
“I do a lot of my personal clothing shopping for winter during Black Friday week,” she said. “There are big deals on clothing, shoes and accessories — winter jackets and boots, tons of women’s clothes. Deals on small kitchen appliances are nuts over Black Friday, as well as crazy deals on tools and large kitchen appliances.”
Do your homework
We all love to save money, and retailers are working overtime to build excitement for their sales.
“Just don’t get caught up in the hysteria,” Dworsky said. “Some circulars are 60 or 70 pages long. Clearly every one of these items is not a great deal.”
To cut through the Black Friday marketing hype, you need to do your homework before you go shopping. Consumer World’s “10 Tips to Bag a Bargain During Black Friday Week” include:
- Read the ads: Find scans of ad circulars for dozens of major retailers at BFAds.net. Check websites for your favorite stores for additional “hidden” bargains and look for coupons listed on their social media sites. The Black Friday Charts at gottadeal.com let you search deals on specific items by store or product and then sort them by price.
- Evaluate the deals: Use a pricing tool such as Google Shopping and CamelCamelCamel to separate the good sales from the ho-hum.
- Research the product: “A low price on a lousy product is no bargain,” Dworsky cautions. Read the reviews posted at online stores, but if it’s a significant purchase, like a television, computer or home appliance, check for professional reviews from trusted sites, such as Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, or PCMag.com.
“A lot of the doorbuster deals we see on electronic items may not really be the products you want to own, so it’s a good idea to check the specs,” Jim Willcox, senior electronic editor at Consumer Reports, told NBC News.
Discounted computers may have slower processors or less storage. Some doorbuster TVs are made especially for Black Friday. These so-called “derivatives” have unique model numbers, so it’s impossible to find reviews.
“These derivative models come out right before Black Friday, so you don’t know how they’re going to perform,” Willcox said. “That’s especially true of secondary and tertiary brands where you may see low prices, but don’t know how good they really are.”
TIP: The best prices on top-of-the-line televisions are typically found during the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl and again in late February and March (when stores want to clear out last year’s models), according to Consumer Reports.
Do you really need to go to the stores?
For many, shopping after Thanksgiving dinner or camping out to hit the stores early Black Friday morning is a tradition they wouldn’t miss. Retailers hope their doorbusters will get you in the store, where you’ll be tempted to buy more expensive items.
Keep in mind: Doorbuster deals on big electronic items are often “limited quantity” at most stores, so unless you camp out overnight and are at the front of the line when the doors open, you’ll miss out. And typically, there aren’t any rain checks for these offers.
While some doorbuster deals are only available at the store, most of the things you want are probably online, shopping experts say, as retailers try to build up their online business.
“I fully endorse the people doing it for the fun of it, but the amount of money that you can really save isn’t worth the hassle to me and the fight to try to get the deal,” said Frugal Living NW’s Davis.
Frank Behring, who handles Black Friday sales comparison charts for gottadeal.com, said he’s noticed fewer in-store doorbuster deals.
“Everything is going online now, so there are what you might call online doorbusters,” Behring told NBC News. “You have to be online at a specific time. And it’s not just Thanksgiving or Black Friday, some of these deals went live on Monday.”
Many of these online deals are available for a limited time, sometimes for only four or five hours.
If you really want a specific computer or television model, don’t wait too long. Quantities on some of these online doorbusters are limited, and the seller may run out. E-commerce sites sometimes cancel completed orders when they run out of supply.
“It happened a lot last year,” Behring said. “Once they realize they don’t have enough supply, they’ll send out an email that says your order has been cancelled, and by then the doorbuster is no longer available.”
If you miss a deal on Black Friday, especially on an electronic product, check again on Cyber Monday. Many of the deals on Cyber Monday are similar to those on Black Friday, shopping experts told NBC News.