Is Black Friday dead?
I've been asked that question every November since stores started Thanksgiving Day openings in 2012.
The answer: Not by a long shot.
On Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, 164 million shoppers will hunt for bargains, according to this year's National Retail Federation holiday survey. Of those, only 21 percent plan to shop on Thanksgiving. Black Friday is king, with 71 percent, or 116 million, heading into stores.
Several big box retailers will again open on Thanksgiving. JC Penney opens at 2 p.m., Brandsmart at 4 p.m., Best Buy, Macy's, Kohl's and Target open at 5 p.m., and Walmart starts deals at 6 p.m. Many will offer the same doorbuster deals online.
Most retailers buck the early-opening trend. Lowe's Home Improvement, Nordstrom, The Home Depot, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Publix, Office Depot and IKEA stay closed on Thanksgiving, instead offering deals online and opening stores early on Black Friday. Tradition lives.
This year's NRF survey of 7,313 adults shows sales will be stronger than last year, thanks to a booming economy. Consumers are projected to spend an average of $1,007 during the shopping season, up 4.1 percent from last year.
Consumers will equally split shopping online and in department stores, the survey found.
Savings will be bountiful for five days starting Thursday. My advice to bargain hunters: Don't stress about deals. Instead, use my tips and tricks to save more in stores and online, no matter what day you plan to shop.
SHOPPING IN STORES
Research. Buy the Thanksgiving Day newspaper. The biggest paper of the year is stuffed with ads and coupons that are an invaluable resource. Clip the best offers and keep them together.
Set a budget and stick to it. Draw up a list of what and for whom you need to buy and when and where and what day you'll shop. Resist budget-busting impulse purchases so you don't start the New Year in a hole.
Sign up and get social. Join reward clubs, download retailer apps and follow stores on social media to get early notifications of sales. For instance, Best Buy's Early Access sale starts on Nov. 18 for Elite Plus and Elite members and Nov. 19-20 for all My Best Buy members. It's free to sign up at BestBuy.com/rewards.
Use price matching. Many stores and online retailers have price-match policies, though they are not valid on upcoming limited-quantity doorbuster deals. Target and Best Buy, among others, price-match against each other and Amazon. BrandsMart U.S.A. offers a 110 percent low-price guarantee. Bring ads or online offers on your smartphone to the service desk. (Walmart no longer price-matches competitors, according to a new policy.) Check retailer websites for policies before you shop.
Save receipts. Keep sales slips in an envelope so you can easily find them if you have to return items. Also, ask for gift receipts and include them in packages in case items need to be exchanged or returned.
If you don't want to dine and dash for deals on Thanksgiving, bargain hunt from the couch in your jammies while the turkey cooks. Retailers who don't open stores on the holiday will offer online deals with sale times listed in their ads.
Know when to shop. Adobe analyzed a trillion online visits and 55 million products to make its 2018 holiday predictions on the best days to get the biggest discounts online. Thanksgiving is the day to buy sporting goods; Black Friday is the best day to purchase computers, tablets and televisions; No-name Sunday (Nov. 25) is the day to shop for clothes, appliances and jewelry; Cyber Monday is when to buy toys; Giving Tuesday will yield the best offers on furniture and bedding.
Amazon sales. The Seattle-based online retailer's Black Friday Deals Week runs Nov. 16- 23 at Amazon.com/BlackFriday. Get nice savings on toys, electronics and Amazon devices with free shipping. Then, expect more deals starting on Black Friday.
Free shipping. Paying for shipping is a deal-breaker for most consumers. A whopping 94 percent will take advantage of free shipping online, according to the NRF. This year, Target and Amazon are both offering free shipping with no minimum purchase. Free Shipping Day is Dec. 14, when more than 1,000 retailers offer the service with guaranteed delivery by Dec. 24. Sign up for an email reminder at FreeShippingDay.com. If you have to mail gifts, the U.S. Postal Service deadline for Christmas arrival for first-class mail is Dec. 20.
Install browser extensions. Automatically get coupon codes and ensure you're getting the best prices by using free plug-ins installed on internet browsers, which run in the background while you surf for deals. They're easy to install. Honey (JoinHoney.com) will find coupon codes automatically at checkout when you put items in your shopping cart. CouponFollow.com and PriceBlink.com are other good choices.
Use price trackers and price-adjustment apps. CamelCamelCamel.com magically finds you the lowest price on Amazon. Rakuten Slice (Slice.com) and Moolah (JoinMoolah.com) picks up tracking numbers in your emails whenever you buy something and gets you a refund if prices drop.
Track sales. Retailers are offering hot doorbuster deals at different times online and in stores. Use GottaDeal.com's Online Black Friday Deal Tracker to see start times of sales with links to ads. The list can be sorted by store. The site also has an online coupon section.
Abandon items in your cart. Add items to your shopping cart and leave them there without paying. Usually, retailers will start sending emails offering additional discounts or free shipping to close the deal. Another trick: Change the ZIP code (Google to find them) when searching retail sites to see if you're getting the lowest price. Many retailers set online prices based on region.
Cyber Monday. Cash in on the bargain bonanza on Nov. 26, which is projected to be biggest online shopping day ever. Did you know the NRF coined the term Cyber Monday? It also operates CyberMonday.com, with 900 participating retailers offering deals and free shipping. Also, go to RetailMeNot.com for online promo codes for extra savings, free shipping or both.