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Black Thursday: A Good or Bad Idea?

More large retailers are jumping on the Black Thursday trend, but is it right?

As more and more stores are joining Black Thursday it seems that even more people are also starting to voice their opposition.

Target’s employees, customers and shareholders have joined a petition that already has over 200,000 signatures and many are protesting the fact that Target’s workers have to leave their families early on Thanksgiving Day to handle the crowds of shoppers that are likely to visit stores.

Target recently announced it was opening on Thanksgiving this year in addition to Black Friday.

Other retailers like Walmart and Toys "R" Us have also joined the Black Thursday trend, where doors open almost a day earlier than they normally would, and many believe stores are putting profit over people and forcing employees to cater to those customers who prefer not to wait until Black Friday to do their shopping.

Consumers don't seem wild about the idea. A sentiment analysis of nearly 9,000 social media postings over the last year finds consumers holding mostly extreme opinions, i.e., they either really like the idea or really hate it.

 

 These wide fluctations may, of course, be due to the relatively small sample size. 

More shopping days

Rojeh Avanesian, who is the Vice President of Marketing and Analytics at PriceGrabber--a company that deals with retail cost comparison--says Black Thursday is beneficial to those customers who are looking to maximize the number of days they are able to shop and take advantage of deals.

“Black Thursday gives shoppers an opportunity to take advantage of deep discounts for a longer period of time,” he said in a ConsumerAffairs interview.

“Some retailers are offering additional sales to promote the extended hours and really push to get consumers in the door during Thanksgiving weekend. Since shoppers were preoccupied with the election, consumers will hit Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend hard with holiday shopping.”  

Avanesian also says the inclusion of Black Thursday should push holiday sales over the top this year compared to 2011.

“According to our survey, more than 60 percent of consumers are planning to spend about the same or slightly more money this holiday season than in 2011,” he explained. “Over half of the consumers we surveyed said that they plan to spend over $500 or more.”

Widespread dislike

A handful of recently released surveys show that a large number of people will avoid shopping on Black Thursday, which could indicate a widespread dislike for the controversial shopping day.

These survey results could also show that many consumers are in no rush to deal with the legions of people, the busy stores and the long lines. But experts say there are still some people who are solely focused on good deals, and if consumers believe there is a way to save a dollar or two-- they are willing to get up from the Thanksgiving table and head to a store that’s open for business.

According to a PriceGrabber survey, about nine percent of consumers plan to head to the stores on Black Thursday, which is a small number of people compared to those who still see Black Friday as the best day to shop and get deals.

“Consumers are largely focused on one major theme this holiday season—deals, deals, and more deals,” said Avanesian.

“Our survey results indicate that 71 percent of consumers believe the best deals can be found on Black Friday, and in order to capitalize on retailer incentives that day, 64 percent of shoppers are planning to take advantage of Black Friday extended store hours this year.”

Family shopping adventure

But some store executives are sticking to their point that Black Thursday was created with the customer’s shopping interests in mind. There was even a Target vice president that said Black Thursday was a way that households can participate in a family shopping outing after dinner is finished.

“We heard from our guests that they look forward to kicking off their holiday shopping with deal hunting on Thanksgiving night,” said Target’s Vice President Kathee Tesija in a statement. “Opening at 9 p.m. gives Target’s Black Friday guests a more convenient way to create an after dinner shopping event that the entire family can enjoy.”

However, many consumers would probably disagree with this logic, because anyone who believes that entire families are dying to leave the coziness of Thanksgiving dinner to pile into a car for late night shopping, has probably been in the retail business a little too long.

But some retailers are using exclusive deals to attract shoppers to leave their homes on Thanksgiving night and many  believe this sales tactic just might work.

Walmart is offering an Emerson 32-inch television set for $148, an Apple iPad 2 for $399 and a Blu-ray player from LG for $38 for those consumers who are in the store between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

It will be interesting to see if consumers take this type of bait and head to stores on Thanksgiving or if they’ll exercise a little patience and just visit retailers on the following Friday and over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Of course 2012 isn’t the year that Black Thursday was invented, as many retailers have opened their doors on Thanksgiving in the past, but Avanesian said that most consumers still see Black Friday as the official start of the holiday shopping season--and according to PriceGrabber’s research-- consumers will spend more this Black Friday than last year.

“We expect Black Friday sales to increase slightly this year compared to 2011,” he says. “We predict sales will fall in-line with the industry projections of an approximate 4 percent increase. “Black Friday sales are also a good indication for how the rest of the holiday season will shape up.”

“According to our survey, more than 60 percent of consumers are planning to spend about the same or slightly more money this holiday season than in 2011. Over half of the consumers were surveyed said that they plan to spend over $500 or more,” said Avanesian.

As more and more stores are joining Black Thursday it seems that even more people are also starting to voice their opposition.Target’s employees, c...

Are Black Friday Deals Really Worth The Effort?

Study shows consumers can find lower prices throughout the year

Some diehard shoppers are no doubt already in training. They're getting ready for the big day – Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving – when only the strongest, who rise well before sun-up and stand in the freezing cold, get the best deals.

As much as the nation's big box retailers would like you to go on believing that, it just isn't true. Anecdotal evidence each year suggests many shoppers go home disappointed with little to show for their efforts.

Now the Wall Street Journal reports it has crunched the numbers and proved what many long suspected. While a limited number of big screen TVs might be generously marked down, the kinds of things you routinely buy as gifts aren't. If you want a wristwatch or Barbie doll for example,you'll save more money by watching sale circulars throughout the year and sleeping in on Black Friday.

Black Friday jinx?

And if you really want a flat-screen TV, Black Friday might not be the time to buy. The Journal found that these items get more expensive the closer you get to the holidays. The lowest prices on the widest selections of sets, it turns out, is in October. And in fact, you might not want to purchase a TV on Black Friday, even if it's a steal.

While flat screen TVs are notorious for blowing capacitors or suffering other problems right out of warranty, ConsumerAffairs noted a year ago that sets purchased on Black Friday – consumers usually specify when they bought it – appeared particularly vulnerable.

“I bought this (Emerson) TV on Black Friday as well,” Patti, of Fair Oaks, Calif., wrote to ConsumerAffairs. “A couple months later the TV's sound started muting. Picture would be fine but the sound would go out. I would have to turn the TV off then on again to get the sound back. To make a long story short I had to return the TV three times for the same problem.”

One explanation for the large number of problems with TVs purchased on Black Friday is they tend to be the cheapest models in the first place. Retailers probably aren't going to slash the price of their premium sets, so if you select on Black Friday price alone, you could be purchasing trouble.

Sorry, we're out

Sometimes the “door-buster” specials and other sale items designed to draw shoppers in on Black Friday are only stocked in limited quantity. Sometimes they're very similar to another item that costs a lot more.

“I went to shop Black Friday sales and went there (Kohl's) especially for an item listed in their sale bill,” Toni, of Norman, Okla., posted at ConsumerAffairs. “The item was a Bella brand Belgian rotating waffle maker for $9.99. When I went to pay for it they told me that this was $62.99. I explained and showed the sale bill to them advertising this exact product word for word. The cashier said that several people have complained about this and she didn't know why they didn't specify the two machines they had.”

Jane, of Overland Park, Kan., says she specifically chose Target for her Black Friday “camp out” because of an ad declaring "Our low price promise: We'll match the price in any local competitor's printed ads for identical products. This applies to current local printed ads for in-store products. This does not apply to Target.com. See guest services for details."

“The store would not honor competitor's ads, citing various (inconsistent) rules, such as 'those are door busters, we can't match those,' and 'we won't match the price unless the exact same item is listed in the Target ad,'” Jane wrote. “However, it is what they said. There’s no satisfaction.”

Rules

And each year, there are always complaints about how particular stores enforce their Black Friday rules. Some have complained they made their plans based on the opening time advertised in the newspaper, only to arrive and find the store had been open for nearly an hour.

“Walmart was handing out tickets for the PS3 bundles that were on sale for $199.00 this Black Friday,” wrote Sarah, of Santa Ana, Calif. “I got my ticket, waited in line for 2 1/2 hours for 10:00 pm to come. When it was 9:50 pm, a worker came around and said, 'okay, if you have a ticket, you will be getting a PS3, if you don't have one, please don't line up.' When it came to our turn to get the PS3 they said, 'sorry, we have no more PS3s. All we have left are PS360s that are an extra $150.'”

If you decide to forgo Black Friday this year, then when should you shop. According to the Journal's research, popular gift items get more expensive the closer you get to the holidays. On the other hand, an item that isn't moving as well tends to get marked down as the holidays approach.

Some consumers shop for the holidays year round, which is probably a very good strategy. If you aren't one of them, however, then starting your shopping now could be your next-best option.

Some die-hard shoppers are no doubt already in training. They're getting ready for the big day – Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving – whe...

Black Friday Backlash Puts Focus On Chain Store Employees

Some Walmart Stores employees reportedly threaten a job action

The decision by major retailers to push up the start of Black Friday to Thanksgiving night has struck a nerve. Not with consumers but with the people on the other side of the counter, who often work long hours for low pay.

Now they have to come in on Thanksgiving. It's resulted in an online petition launched by Target employees and shareholders. And at Walmart Stores, the first chain to announce a Thanksgiving night opening, there are reports employees are planning a one-day strike on Black Friday.

An employees group calling itself OUR Walmart has reportedly called the informal job action for the company's most important shopping day. The reports have surfaced online this week, though there has been no official confirmation.

“This unique, one-day strike by non-union workers with public support can have significant impact because even a small dip in sales on Black Friday has significant implications for Walmart’s stock,” said Ken Margolies, a Cornell University labor expert. “The strike is part of an ongoing strategy and regardless of the outcome, the campaign is likely to continue.”

Whether it is a direct response to the change in Black Friday hours, Margolies says it's part of a campaign to pressure corporations to improve pay and working conditions.

Recognizing service workers

Freeman Hall, author of the book Retail Hell, says the backlash is an opportunity to give back to the service worker in a big way this holiday season. The best way to do that, he says, is to show courtesy and appreciation for those behind the counter.

“Corporations and many customers don’t see the faces of the people serving them, as with the Abercrombie CEO employee abuse scandal,” Hall said.

To try to change that he's declared Saturday, November 24 -- the day after Black Friday -- as Be Kind to Service Workers Day.

“It ultimately comes down to how we treat each other as human beings, Hall said. “I chose this day because many service workers are now forced to work Thanksgiving Day and there is a lot of negative energy surrounding Black Friday, and the stress of the upcoming holiday season.”

The retailers who are opening on Thanksgiving night say they are doing so as a benefit to consumers, who may be looking for something to do after a Thanksgiving dinner. However, it remains to be seen if consumers actually want that. More than 200,000 consumers have signed the Target petition, suggesting not everyone thinks it's a good idea.

The decision by major retailers to push up the start of Black Friday to Thanksgiving night has struck a nerve. Not with consumers but with the people on th...

Before shopping, know your store's return policies

Some stores make the process easier than others

With the holiday shopping season looming – and it seems to start earlier every year – consumers will soon be trekking to the mall or ordering online. And if the purchase is the wrong size, color or is defective, it will be returned for something else or a refund.

Returning something you bought at a store or online can be easy or challenging, depending on the particular retailer, its policies, and a number of other circumstances.

Walmart

Consumers rate Wal-Mart - Customer Service

Walmart, for example, does not have one return policy but several, depending on the department. 

For example, some – but not all – items from the electronics department must be returned within 15 days of receipt. The jewelry department, meanwhile, gives you 90 days.

“All jewelry, including fine jewelry, may be returned to a Walmart store with a receipt,” the policy states. “If you choose to exchange the item in-store, you may only exchange for an item that is in stock at that store; the exact same piece may not be available.”

Target

At Target, the store will take returns of “most” unopened items in new condition returned within 90 days. Again, there are variables within the return policy. 

“Some items have a modified return policy that is less than 90 days,” the policy states. “Those items will show a 'return by' date or 'return within' day range under the item on your receipt or packing slip and in the 'Item details, shipping' tab if purchased on Target.com.”

Consumers rate Target - Returns & Exchanges

Target does not accept returns of opened or damaged items.

Best Buy

Electronics and appliance retailer Best Buy  requires the original receipt, gift receipt or packing slip for all returns and exchanges. In addition, if you are returning or exchanging an item in a Best Buy store, you'll need to show a valid photo ID.

As with many retailers, time is of the essence. Best Buy allows a 15 day return window on all eligible products, but extends it to 30 days for Best Buy Elite members. The window widens to 45 days for Best Buy Elite Plus members. However, there is a caveat.

“Best Buy reserves the right to deny any return or exchange,” the policy states.

Amazon.com

More and more shopping is being done online, meaning brick and mortar retailers have to maintain policies for both in-store and online sales. Amazon.com doesn't have to deal with in-store returns but does have the challenge of maintaining a policy for a wide variety of merchandise. 

However, in general the company says you may return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon.com within 30 days of delivery for a full refund.

Consumers rate Best Buy
The reason many retailers closely scrutinize returns is because they say the process has been abused. Despite that, some national retailers have been recognized for their relatively liberal return policies.

Costco

Costco is a membership organization, meaning its customers pay an annual fee for the privilege of shopping there. That could be why the store asks few questions when a member wants to return something

“We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund,” the policy states.

However, Costco places a 90-day window on refunds for televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, MP3 players and cellular phones.

Kohls

To return an item at Kohls a customer can take the item and receipt to a Kohls store customer service desk. If the item was purchased online, you need the packing slip.

“Our stores have the capability to locate a Kohl's Charge purchase for up to 12 months after the purchase date,” Kohls says on its website. “Once the purchase has been located, the credit may be applied to your Kohl's Charge account. At this time, non-Kohl's Charge purchases, or purchases made outside of the 12 month time frame may receive a Kohl's Merchandise Credit or a corporate-issued refund check.”

Nordstrom

Nordstrom also has a reputation for a relatively easy return or exchange. Nordstrom requires the receipt, or the packing slip and credit card used to make the purchase if it was an online transaction. 

It maintains a toll-free number – 1-888-282-6060 – for consumers who have questions or need help making a return.

L.L. Bean

While L.L. Bean operates some brick and mortar stores, the bulk of its sales are online. When a consumer wants to make a return, they are required to fill out a return and exchange form. 

“Download and complete the online form, or use the form printed on the packing slip that came with your order,” the company instructs.

Consumers then print a pre-paid return label. However, only Visa card members get the free shipping – all others will have $6.50 deducted from their refunds.

CVS

Like many retailers that sell diverse products, CVS has different return policies for different types of products. But its store brand pharmacy products carry a straight, “no questions asked” policy. 

“All CVS/pharmacy Brand products are 100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back,” the policy states. “If you're dissatisfied for any reason, you can return the CVS/pharmacy Brand product (opened or unopened) along with your receipt or invoice to any CVS/pharmacy store. We'll refund the full purchase price — no questions asked!”

CVS maintains the same return policy for the beauty products it carries.

With the holiday shopping season looming – and it seems to start earlier every year – consumers will soon be trekking to the mall or ordering o...

Quick ways to raise extra cash for the holidays

See how much you can save between now and Black Friday

Millions of consumers increase their debt during the holidays each year because they put their spending on a credit card, to be paid later. Personal finance experts often advise that it's much better to pay with cash.

For most, however, that's easier said than done. But it can be done, says Cameron Huddleston, contributing editor at Kiplinger.com and author of “How to Save $1000 or More by Black Friday.” She breaks down her advice in two areas – how to save money and how to earn money. Most people can save, she says, by reducing telecommunications charges. 

“You need to evaluate whether you really need that landline,” Huddleston said. “Are you using it enough to justify the expense? You could be saving $30 to $40 a month if you can get by with just your cell phone.”

Consider a pre-paid smartphone

Even then, she says, consumers might be able to save money on their cellphone bills. Her advice? If you aren't locked into a two-year agreement with a major carrier, consider moving to one of the pre-paid wireless providers. Straight Talk Wireless, for example, offers unlimited talk, text and data for about $45 a month. That's about half what you might pay on a major carrier's contract plan.

Another area where consumers can save is by reviewing their insurance coverage. Premiums are affected by the policy's deductible – the amount a driver or homeowner pays on a claim. By raising the deductible – and assuming more of the risk – the consumer pays a smaller premium.

“I saved by doing this myself,” Huddleston said. “I shaved about $300 off my annual premium by boosting my deductible from $1,000 to $2,000. That's a savings of about $25 a month. You can also do the same thing with your auto insurance. It's also a good idea to do this, especially with homeowner's insurance, because you don't want to be tempted to file small claims, which will just lead to increased premiums.”

Park your car

When gasoline costs more than $3 a gallon, driving less will obviously save money. Sometimes you have to drive but if you don't – if you can bike to work, for example – that eliminates some expense.

Another obvious way to save money is by taking your lunch from home instead of buying it at the corner deli. While everyone knows there's savings to be had, Huddleston has done the math. A pound of deli meat for $6, a loaf of bread for $2 to $3 and you replace a week of meals out.

Cable TV is another big expense and many people might not think they can do without it. If you can get by on Netflix, says Huddleston, you can save $70 or more each month.

Keep more of what you earn

When it comes to earning extra money, perhaps the easiest way is to simply adjust your federal income tax withholding. This, after all, is money you are already earning.

“This is a really easy way to earn money and most people can do this,” Huddleston said. “The majority of taxpayers get a refund and the average refund this year was about $2,600. If you get a big refund each year, go to your human resources director or your boss and adjust your withholding so you'll get more money in each paycheck. Better to get it now than have to wait until spring.”

Another easy way to raise cash is to liquidate some assets. That doesn't mean selling stocks and bonds. Rather, it means taking some of your unused or little-used possessions – the stuff your significant other commonly refers to as “junk,” to a consignment shop and sell it. The shop may keep 50% but still, it's a fairly painless way to clean out your closet and get some holiday cash.

“I recently made $300 selling furniture and over $100 selling clothing,” Huddleston said. “It's a really easy way to make extra money and you don't have to deal with the hassle of having a yard sale.”

These individual steps, by themselves, might not produce a lot of money but Huddleston says the more of them you can do, the more substantial your holiday fund becomes. Starting now gives you almost two months before Black Friday, when the deals get better and the temptation to load up your credit card intensifies.

Millions of consumers increase their debt during the holidays each year because they put their spending on a credit card, to be paid later. Personal financ...

This Year, More Online Tools for Black Friday Shoppers

New 'Hub' promises to weed out the 'fake' deals

Before shoppers head out in search of bargains on Black Friday, they have plenty of chances to research advertised deals at their retailer of choice. It seems there are more Black Friday deal sites than in previous years.

One of the latest is the 2012 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Hub from Ben's Bargains. It's been designed to cut through fake “good” deals and help consumers uncover only the best, real online Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

For example, consumers often complain that after standing in line waiting for a store to open, they find that the “door-buster” special that drew them to the store has already sold out. Others say that some online and in-store deals come with conditions that make the deal less attractive.

Early start

With more retailers ramping up early this year, the company says its Hub will inclusively showcase the exceptional early bird deals and carefully selected Black Friday specials that are each validated for authenticity and true savings. Each deal, the company says, will be verified by a team of bargain hunters.

“The holiday shopping season is already upon us, and we’ve seen a range of notable to less than impressive holiday deals come to light,” said Phong Vu, Managing Director of Ben’s Bargains. “Because we monitor online deals 24/7, all year long, we have a keen sense for what makes a great deal and what makes a not-so-great deal. This becomes especially important during the holiday season when shoppers are overwhelmed with ‘deals, sales, and specials.’ We’ll help them look past the hype and focus on deals that offer real value.”

Among the deals listed today is a Kenneth Cole Reaction Shawl Men's Cardigan for $22 at Macy's. Or a washable USB computer Keyboard for $20 at Best Buy.

In addition to human-verified deals, the company says the Hub will include consumer buying guides, print ad scans, and retailer schedules for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  

Before shoppers head out in search of bargains on Black Friday, they have plenty of chances to research advertised deals at their retailer of choice. It se...

Retailers want you to shop now for the holidays

Survey shows many of us are doing just that

Since 2008, the holiday shopping season has been more competitive and, it seems, increasingly hyped. Black Friday has become an unofficial holiday like the Super Bowl and retailers try to outdo one another, not only in their door-buster deals but with their earlier and earlier openings.

For the last two years most major retailers have been open at least part of Thanksgiving Day. This year Kmart is pushing the envelope, announcing it would open early on Thanksgiving Day and remain open the next 41 hours straight, through Black Friday.

But while millions of consumers are expected to fill the stores on Black Friday, the stores are offering holiday deals now, encouraging consumers not to wait until Black Friday. Make no mistake, they still want full stores on November 29 but their strategy appears to be to persuade consumers to shop early and often. The strategy appears to be working.

Shopping early

ICSC, a trade group representing the shopping center industry, says its research suggests 62% of consumers plan to wrap up their holiday shopping on or before December 16. One reason may be the increasing number of in-store and online pre-holiday sales.

The survey also found that toys and games are likely to be the most sought-after gift items this year, followed by consumer electronics. Gifts receiving the most specific mentions include smartphones, tablets, game consoles, digital cameras and televisions.

When it comes to selecting gifts, the survey found that it's mainly bargains that attract buyers. Of the women who were surveyed, 37% mentioned “seasonal discounts” as the main reason for a purchase, followed by 20% who cited “gift practicality.” The survey found men slightly less interested in saving money and slightly more concerned about the practicality of a particular gift.

Men, particularly young men, are most likely to buy consumer electronics this year. Approximately one-third of respondents from households with a combined annual income of $100,000 or more are expected to shop on Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday. The opposite is true for respondents from households with a combined annual income of less than $35,000.

More online shopping

In fact, online sales have increasingly become a bigger part of the holiday shopping season, which may explain the early appearance of online bargains. Consumers can shop at anytime and even brick and mortar stores can benefit when consumers buy from them online. Some stores encourage consumers to make their purchases through the store's website, then pick up the merchandise at the brick and mortar location, thus avoiding shipping charges.

Despite the growing emphasis on pre-Black Friday holiday sales, the day after Thanksgiving remains a huge day for retailers. This week Toys R Us announced its Black Friday plans, opening at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

The company has announced it plans more than 300 doorbuster values, while supplies last, during the Black Friday weekend. Among the deals Toys R Us has announced in advance are:

  • A free $50 Toys R Us gift card with the purchase of a 5th generation Apple 16GB iPod Touch
  • Monster High School Play set – regularly $74.99 – for $29.99
  • LEGO Legends of Chima Eagles' Castle – regularly $44.99 – for $22.49
  • Disney Infinity Starter Pack – regularly $74.99 – for $37.49
  • Skylanders SWAP Force – regularly $74.99 – for $37.49

Like most retail chains Toys R Us will publish its deals in a newspaper circular but it, like most others, is expected to leak on numerous Black Friday ad sites. The company itself will provide a preview on its Facebook page Sunday November 24.

Since 2008, the holiday shopping season has been more competitive and, it seems, increasingly hyped. Black Friday has become an unofficial holiday like the...

Can Coupons Make For a Better Black Friday Experience?

Coupon Website touts savings on even big-ticket items

How can you make sure you get a good deal on Black Friday? Use a coupon, say the people who run coupon Websites. They point out that more retailers are using coupons this year and that consumers are missing the price-savings boat if they don't pay attention.

A poll cited by Offers.com shows only 24 percent of online shoppers say they look for coupons or deals always or most of the time when making online purchases -- a decrease from 40 percent last year. Thirty-six percent say that they never do so, an increase from 23 percent in 2011.

"With more savings available by all major retailers, there's tremendous opportunity for shoppers to save," said Steve Schaffer, CEO of Offers.com. "In fact, we've found that consumers save an average of $25 on the most wanted holiday gifts when they shop through Offers.com."

Still a big shopping day

The survey also found that this year 32 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Among those Black Friday shoppers, 57 percent plan to shop primarily in stores, 31 percent to do so both online and in stores, and 11 percent to do so primarily online.

Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that the best deals of the year are not found on Black Friday. While a limited number of big screen TVs might be generously marked down, the kinds of things you routinely buy as gifts aren't. If you want a wristwatch or Barbie doll for example,you'll save more money by watching sale circulars throughout the year and sleeping in on Black Friday.

According to a new study by ShopAdvisor, a shopping service, Black Friday was among the worst sales days of the 2011 shopping season. While that may be true, Schaffer maintains to doesn't take into account the power of coupons.

Making the deals better

"There is a lot of talk right now that the savings opportunities on Black Friday are not all that great," said Schaffer. "However, we think those who are savvy Black Friday shoppers can find fantastic deals this year.

Coupons, he says, can make even big-ticket items like digital cameras, Blu-ray players and HDTVs more affordable.

Another trend to watch for this year is the merging of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when online retailers roll out their bargains. Increasingly online retailers aren't waiting for the Monday after Thanksgiving but are offering their savings on Black Friday as well.

Just another reason to avoid the crowds and shop from the comfort of your home.

How can you make sure you get a good deal on Black Friday? Use a coupon, say the people who run coupon websites. They point out that more retailers are usi...

Black (and blue) Friday takes physical toll on shoppers

Shoppers battle for bargains amid gunfire and tasers

Who knew holiday shopping was such a contact sport? This year, overexuberance at the mall led to cuts, bruises and at least two gunshot wounds. How much savings it produced has yet to be tallied up.

On Thanksgiving evening a suspected shoplifter was driving away from a Kohl's department store in suburban Chicago when a police officer gave chase. According to the Chicago Tribune the officer was dragged through the parking lot before shots were fired. The suspected shoplifter was wounded and two others were reportedly arrested. 

Walmart melee

Things got tense at a Walmart in Rialto, Calif., when an argument among customers waiting to get inside turned into a full-blown melee. According to local media reports at least one police officer who tried to break up the fight was injured severely enough to be taken to a hospital for treatment. 

Once the doors opened the hostilities continued inside. Police reported at least two additional fights inside the store as customers battled for merchandise. At a Walmart in Garfield, N.J., police used pepper spray on a shopper who was reportedly fighting with another shopper over the television set.

A shocking display

A fight among female shoppers at a Philadelphia area shopping mall was captured on amateur video. The clip below appears to show one of the combatants using a taser on her opponent. No arrests were made. Security escorted both shoppers from the mall.

In Las Vegas, a shopper was able to purchase a big screen TV at Target without incident, but getting home with his purchase was another matter. Police say the man was shot in the leg as he walked the short distance to his apartment complex. 

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday shopping promises to be a lot safer, at least physically. Cyber security experts have warned consumers to be extra careful to avoid the surge in expected phishing scams. Avoid clicking on any links you find in emails, even if you think the email has come from a legitimate source.

Retailers that have been offering online deals throughout November are expected to pull out all the stops for Cyber Monday specials. Over the weekend, Amazon.com provided a sneak peak at its offerings, saying it will roll out a new deal every 10 minutes during the next week.

The deals include a Samsung 46-Inch 1080p 60Hz LED HDTV for $477.99, a Nikon COOLPIX P520 with bag and memory card for under $300 and a Marcato pasta machine for $59.99.

Results

Meanwhile, retailers report Black Friday sales appear to have been better than expected. Both Walmart and Target reported heavy traffic both Thanksgiving night and all day Friday. The Wall Street Journal reports many retailers are reporting a similar story. 

Target released no numbers but said it was pleased with the results of the offcial start to the holiday shopping season.

“Whether online, on their mobile devices, or in our stores, guests shopped Target in unprecedented numbers,” said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Target.

The company said Target.com, where nearly all doorbusters were available on Thanksgiving Day, racked up traffic and sales among the highest Target has seen in a single day. It said that in the early morning hours after the doorbusters first became available, Target.com saw two times more orders versus last year at that time.

The National Retail Federation estimates as many as 140 million people shopped over the Thanksgiving weekend. It had predicted 97 million would turn out on Black Friday itself.

Who knew holiday shopping was such a contact sport? This year, over exuberance at the mall led to cuts, bruises and at least two gunshot wounds. How much s...

Forget Black Friday -- Walmart's Open Thanksgiving

Retailer is also guaranteeing availability of some popular items

If you show up at Walmart early on Black Friday, you may have missed it. The largest retailer in the U.S. says it will open its doors at 8:00 p.m. Thanksgiving night, Nov. 22.

The store will open for three limited-time sales events Thanksgiving night offering a number of special sales and promotions. The first sales event is at 8:00 p.m. The second is at 10:00 p.m. The last is at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 23.

"We know it's frustrating for customers to shop on Black Friday and not get the items they want," said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer, Walmart U.S. "This year, for the first time ever, customers that shop during Walmart's one-hour event will be guaranteed to have three of the most popular items under their tree at a great low price."

More wish list items

And the company says it's taking steps to make sure popular "wish list" items, like the iPad 2, are available during the one-hour event on Thanksgiving.

A common Black Friday complaint is that the low-priced item that draws the crowd is not available in large quantities. It sells out before the consumer can get one. Walmart has responded with what it calls its one-hour guarantee.

"Due to the large quantity of product already secured, Walmart guarantees that customers who are inside the store and in the queue line between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time on November 22 can purchase the following electronics at special low prices," Walmart announced in a press release.

Those guaranteed items are:

  • Apple iPad 2 16GB with Wi-Fi – $399 plus get a $75 Walmart Gift Card
  • Emerson 32" 720p LCD TV – $148
  • LG Blu-ray Player – $38

If any of these items happen to sell out before 11 p.m. local time, Walmart says it will offer a Guarantee Card for the item which must be paid for by midnight and registered online. The product will then be shipped to the store where it was purchased for the customer to pick up before Christmas.

The 8:00 p.m. Thanksgiving opening is the earliest ever for Walmart.

If you show up at Walmart early on Black Friday, you may have missed it. The largest retailer in the U.S. says it will open its doors at 8:00 p.m. Thanksgi...

Growing consumer confidence may fuel bigger Black Friday

One expert sees double digit sales over last year

Perhaps for the first time since the Great Recession consumers are heading into the holiday shopping season with increased optimism and fewer “bah, humbugs!”

The Accenture annual holiday shopping survey shows 25% of U.S. consumers plan to spend more during the holidays than last year. According to the survey, the average consumer will spend an estimated $718 on gifts.

The survey also suggests Black Friday will be an even bigger event this year. Two-thirds of respondents say they plan to shop on the official kick-off to the shopping season, up from 55% last year.

A bigger Black Friday

Eric Jones, of Jones-Dengler Marketing, agrees. His company is tracking retailers' planning and from what he's seen so far, Black Friday 2014 will be more intense and generate more sales. It will also last a lot longer.

“Stores such as Target have already announced their 'Main Event' will run from Thursday to Saturday,”Jones told ConsumerAffairs. “Since this is just their 'Main Event' they will have deals throughout the week before and the week after for Cyber Monday as well. I would expect other major retailers to have the same strategy this year.”

Jones says you can also expect to see longer Black Friday hours and multiple rounds of “door-buster” bargains, designed to reward shoppers who choose to show up at different times.

“If there were a round of doorbusters on Saturday, that wouldn't shock us,” Jones said. “Also, expect the quantity of doorbuster items to be at an all time high this year.”

A frequent Black Friday complaint is that stores don't have an advertised special – or enough of them – to satisfy demand. Jones says retailers have heard that complaint and are reacting.

More online bargains

He also says an increasing number of consumers will choose to do their Black Friday shopping online and that stores will accommodate them.

“With the increase in mobile shopping and with people constantly glued to their phones, retailers know online deals is one surefire way to generate sales,” Jones said. “With that in mind, retailers are offering more sales online which in turn will lead to more total sales.”

Jones predicts a 20% increase in online Black Friday sales over last year but says the increase will not come completely at the expense of brick-and-mortar sales.

“From 2012 to 2013, I know comScore did a study that showed online Thanksgiving sales increased 21% and online Black Friday sales increased 15%,” he said. “Expect the same increase or more this year. I'm thinking we may even see the first Thanksgiving day with $1 Billion in sales.”

Very few retailers have announced what they plan to do but rumors are flying. Jones says one report – yet to be verified – is that Kmart and Walmart plan to open as early as 8 am on Thanksgiving Day and remain open though Friday night.

Tablets

Consumers in search of bargain electronics should find them. Jones said consumers should find especially attractive deals on tablets. Tablet manufacturers, he says, are losing ground to smartphones. Companies that make tablets, he predicts, will try to reestablish the tablet as a unique, must-have device – and drastically cut the price in the process.

“In addition to tablets, I'd expect to see some discounts on very popular video game consoles like the Xbox One and the Playstation 4,” Jones said. “Last year there were absolute no discounts on these consoles. So any discount, even as little as $20 or $50 or a gift card thrown in with a bundle, will be a real bargain for a shopper who's been waiting the entire year to get their hands on these devices.”

But the pleasant surprise for consumers, he says, will be unusually steep discounts on popular toys.

In a typical holiday shopping season the best toy deals are found the middle of December, when retailers are looking to move their overstock inventory before the new year. But Jones says he's talked to a few advertisers who to want to emphasize toys for Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

“I'm thinking this year they put their deals where their mouth is and offer us a few unbeatable toy sales this year,” Jones said.

Perhaps for the first time since the Great Recession consumers are heading into the holiday shopping season with increased optimism and fewer “bah, humbugs...

Two More Retailers to Open Thanksgiving Night

Toys R Us and Target join Walmart and Sears

Thanksgiving, until now perhaps the least-commercialized holiday in the U.S., appears to be sliding toward a major holiday shopping day.

Target and Toys R Us have announced they will open their stores to shoppers Thanksgiving night in a prelude to Black Friday. Toys R Us will open at 8:00 p.m. while Target will open an hour later. They join Walmart and Sears, which made similar announcements last week.

Macy's and Kohl's said they will open their doors for Black Friday shoppers at midnight, as planned.

Previously, stores didn't open for Black Friday any earlier than midnight, lest they encroach on the family-centered holiday. Apparently that is now considered a quaint tradition.

Target says it believes the Thanksgiving night opening will provide an enjoyable after-dinner activity for the whole family. But increasingly retailers have begun to increase competition for Black Friday shoppers, who have declined in number over the last couple of years.

Research has shown that Black Friday might not be the best day to shop for the best bargains, beyond a few “door-buster” specials. And online retailers, such as Amazon.com, have already started offering their Black Friday specials.

Increasingly, the people who shop on Black Friday are those who just enjoy the hustle and bustle of the experience. They may or may not spend money on purchases on that particular day.

While shopping after dinner on Thanksgiving might seem like fun, consumers should remember store employees might not see it the same way. Most will be pulled away from their family festivities early.

Thanksgiving, until now perhaps the least-commercialized holiday in the U.S., appears to be sliding toward a major holiday shopping day.Target and Toys R...

The 10 Best Holiday Shopping Days

Guess what? Black Friday isn't one of them

Last month a shopping service raised the hackles of major retailers when it released an analysis showing Black Friday was one of the absolute worst days for consumers to shop. The prices for most gift items were not marked down.

So what is the best day? If you aren't necessarily interested in the best deals but rather a more relaxed, pleasant holiday shopping experience, you need to find the days when stores are the least crowded.

ShopperTrak, a company that analyzes retail foot traffic, says some days are, in fact, quieter than others. The weekdays after the busy Thanksgiving weekend top the list.

No shortage of bargains

"This holiday shopping season -- November and December -- will be busier than in 2011,” predicts Bill Martin, ShopperTrak's founder. “More shoppers will visit more stores. But even though consumer demand will increase, retailers still will offer plenty of specials and discounts.”

Martin has issued what he says are “the 10 best days for shopping. They're the days, he says, that present an opportunity for shoppers to secure the best customer service and potentially the best deals. They are:

  1. Nov. 27, Tuesday
  2. Nov. 26. Monday
  3. Nov. 28, Wednesday
  4. Dec. 4, Tuesday
  5. Nov. 29, Thursday
  6. Dec. 3, Monday
  7. Dec. 5, Wednesday
  8. Dec. 6, Thursday
  9. Dec. 10, Monday
  10. Dec. 11, Tuesday

Should you skip Black Friday?

During the Black Friday weekend last year, 684 million store visits resulted in $20.8 billion in retail purchases. ShopperTrak predicts this Black Friday will again be the holiday season's top-performing day for both retail foot traffic and sales. But that doesn't mean it will be best for shoppers.

However, Black Friday presents an opportunity for savvy shoppers. After Black Friday's burst of spending, most shoppers will temporarily reduce their shopping visits. Those who do return to stores Nov. 26-29, however, will be rewarded, as eager retailers will have more time to devote to individual customers as they inspect the sale merchandise.

"Black Friday is not for the faint of heart," said Martin. "Shoppers must brave the crowds to take advantage of good deals. If they can venture back out after just a few days, however, they'll have the full attention of store employees and plenty of remaining discounts."

Or just skip Black Friday altogether. Unless you like being part of the crush of a crowd, battling for limited-quantities of marked-down merchandise, it might be more rewarding to wait until that shopping spree is over. Just don't wait too long.

Martin says the "last-minute" crowds start to shop during the two weeks leading up to Christmas. That's when things will get hectic again.

Last month a shopping service raised the hackles of major retailers when it released an analysis showing Black Friday was one of the absolute worst days fo...

Target unveils Black Friday plans

Deals include iPads, game consoles and HDTVs

Target is the latest major retailer to lay its Black Friday cards on the table. After starting this week with some one-day specials, Target has announced its sale plans through the rest of November.

Target will begin Black Friday at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, with a special gift for the first several hundred customers waiting in line at each store. Once inside the store, shoppers will find sale items that include:

  • New iPad Air 2 16GB, $499.00, and a free $140 Target GiftCard
  • Beats by Dre Solo HD Headphones, $97.00, which regularly sells for $169.99
  • Element 40” 1080p LED HDTV, $119.00
  • Xbox One, $329.99, and a free $50 Target GiftCard and two free digital download games
  • Nikon L330 20.2MP High Zoom Camera, $99.00, which regularly sells for $229.99
  • Westinghouse 55” 1080p LED HDTV, $395.00
  • Fitbit Charge Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband, $99.99, a $129.99 value
  • GoPro HERO3+ Silver edition, $249.99, and a free $50 Target GiftCard
  • Sony PlayStation 4, $399.00 bundled with two free games
  • Buy one, get one 50 percent off toys from select top brands
  • 40 percent off select LEGO sets
  • 40 percent off apparel for women, men and kids
  • 50 percent off all picture frames
  • Dyson DC50 Allergy vacuum, $279.00, which regularly sells for $449.99
  • $300 gift cards

On Black Friday itself, doors will open at 6:00 a.m. From then until noon, customers can purchase up to $300 in Target GiftCards at 10 percent off at Target stores and at Target.com. It's the first time Target has ever offered a discount on Target GiftCard purchases.

Some Black Friday sales will spill over into Saturday, November 29. They include 40% off Philips string lights and BOGO free all single-roll wrapping paper.

Like many retailers, Target is offering Black Friday deals well in advance of the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season. Throughout the holiday season, Cartwheel – Target’s mobile app – is offering 50% off a different toy every day.

Pre-Black Friday

From November 23 through 29, Cartwheel will feature a number of exclusive deals, including at least 25% off more than 100 products. Deals include:

  • 60% off select movie titles
  • 40% off select multi-piece bakeware sets
  • 30% off board gamed like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders

On November 26 both Target stores and Target.com will offer limited yet-to-be-announced deals, all designed to draw in shoppers before some other retailer does.

“We know our guests are pulled in a million different directions as the holidays get underway, so we’re helping them save time and money by offering more access to Black Friday deals,” said Kathee Tesija, chief merchandising and supply chain officer, at Target.

Free shipping

As a final incentive, Tesija says all Target.com orders ship for free until December 20.

At the same time, Cyber Monday is being expanded to Cyber Week. Target says it plans to put more than 100,000 items on sale throughout the week.

The store promises steep discounts on apparel, toys, housewares and major brands such as LeapFrog, Dyson, LG, Kitchen-Aid, and Canon.

Target is the latest major retailer to lay its Black Friday cards on the table. After starting this week with some one-day specials, Target has announced i...

Consumers expect to spend more this holiday season

Increasing number say they'll turn out for Black Friday

Consumers plan to spend more money and shop more often this holiday season, according to the Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey. And Black Friday this year will be big – really big.

The day after Thanksgiving – the unofficial start of the holiday season – has now become a national holiday in its own right, almost like the Super Bowl. And the trend of consumers crowding into stores opening on Thanksgiving evening appears to be growing.

Forty-one percent told survey takers that they will be out shopping between 6 PM Thanksgiving Day and 5 AM on Black Friday, in hopes of getting one of the advertised door-busters. In fact, the Accenture survey suggests participation in Black Friday this year will be at a five-year high.

A waste of time?

Unless you are one of the few who actually gets one of those advertised specials, you might be better off enjoying Thanksgiving with your family and sleeping in the next day. A 2011 survey by ShopAdvisor found that Black Friday is among the worst days of the holiday shopping season, when it comes to bargains. 

The 2011 study tracked the prices of 252 toys from the first day of autumn and found that in the 54 days from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, the day with the lowest percentage -- 46 percent -- of products on sale below their initial holiday season price was Black Friday, Nov. 25. The day with the highest percentage -- 59 percent -- of products on sale was Sunday, Nov. 13. After Thanksgiving, Thursday, Dec. 1 was the day with the next largest percentage of products on sale.

That apparently hasn't deterred this year's consumers. Fifty-five percent of shoppers say they are likely to shop on this Black Friday, compared to 53 percent in 2012, and 44 percent in 2011. However, a larger proportion of shoppers – 30 percent -- said they will do most of their Black Friday shopping online, compared to 25 percent in 2012.

Showrooming and webrooming

If the survey is an accurate predictor of the future, consumers this year will be shopping across channels, with shoppers “webrooming” as well as “showrooming.” For example, consumers will be comparing prices on their mobile phones while in store and they’ll be making purchases online, but picking up in store to avoid shipping costs.

While retailers hate showrooming, the survey suggests they will benefit from webrooming – when consumers shop for the best deal online before going to a store to buy it. Sixty-three percent said they plan to showroom while 65% plan to webroom.

Gift cards are still number one on consumer’s shopping list. The survey predicts 40% of the gift cards will be for discount retailers and 34% for restaurants. Shoppers will be spending more too.

“The average dollar spend is trending up, and we are seeing a consumer mindset shifting from ‘cautious’ to ‘sensible,’ which is good news for retailers,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “However, retailers are mindful that during the 2013 Thanksgiving-Christmas shopping period, they will have six days less in which to tempt shoppers through their doors, so many will go big and go early.”

The Accenture survey projects total holiday spending will rise 11% compared to last year, with the average consumer spending $646. Shoppers will be focused on discounts and sales, with 94% of those questioned saying discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions this holiday season. That's up from 84% last year.

Best time to shop

Meanwhile, online coupon site Savings.com has analyzed deals from 25,000 retailers and predicts the best deals on electronics will come during the first two weeks of November, in advance of Black Friday. The site predicts Cyber Monday – the Monday after Thanksgiving – will be the best time to purchase apparel and accessories.

Those who wait until the last minute to stock up on holiday feasting supplies will be rewarded, the site says. In the three days before Christmas, the best discounts will be on food and wine.

"Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great days to score a deal this holiday season, we encourage consumers to think outside the Black Friday box and to use this calendar as a reliable shopping guide," said Loren Bendele, co-founder and President of Savings.com. "There are six fewer shopping days this calendar year, meaning the retail environment will be competitive with leading brands fighting for your dollars. While this is great news for the consumer, it will be important to sift through everything that's out there and to be confident that you're getting the best deals possible."

Consumers plan to spend more money and shop more often this holiday season, according to the Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey. And Black Friday this year ...

More retailers plan early Black Friday start

Macy's is the latest to announce a Thanksgiving evening opening

The concept of holiday shopping on Thanksgiving – instead of waiting for Black Friday – is apparently here to stay. Despite some grumbling last year from traditionalists who thought Thanksgiving was for family time, it appears the shoppers are winning out.

Macy's is the latest major retailer to announce it will open at least some of its stores Thanksgiving evening. The press release announcing the early opening is careful to point out the shopping will begin at 8:00 p.m., after holiday celebrations across America.

In announcing its Black Friday hours, Macy's also announced it will have Black Friday special prices on fragrances, clothing and kitchen gadgets. Macy's said it will donate $2 from every One Direction Out Moment fragrance purchase to Make-a-Wish, up to $100,000.

Fun and excitement

“Black Friday is the biggest shopping event of the year and brings with it a level of fun and excitement to our customers around the nation,” said Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief stores officer. “For Macy’s, it's important to make this day enjoyable and convenient for everyone, as our customers search for great deals on favorite wish-list items. Shopping at Macy’s on Black Friday means having the opportunity to purchase the most sought-after products at unbelievable savings.”

Where did Black Friday come from and how did it become Black Thursday? Black Friday gets its name from the fact that most retailers don't break into the black each year until the holiday shopping season, which officially starts the Friday after Thanksgiving.

How did it morph into Black Thursday? Like many recent developments, it has everything to do with money. Those of a certain age can remember when the World Series was played on weekday afternoons, while millions of fans were at work and school. The Super Bowl, until about 30 years ago, was played on a Sunday afternoon, like any other football game.

Follow the money

But at some point the marketers pointed out that a lot of money was being left on the table. Now these classic sporting events are played – and broadcast – in prime time when the audience is at its maximum and advertisers can be charged the highest rates.

A few years ago Walmart and several other retailers began opening at 5:00 a.m. on Black Friday. Then someone said, “why not open at midnight?” So they did.

Last year many retailers thought, “hey, there's nothing to do after Thanksgiving dinner. Let's open on Thanksgiving night.” Walmart set the pace but Target and other competitors quickly joined in.

Despite predictions that consumers would recoil at the intrusion on a sacred American holiday, consumers seemed to like the idea. Stores that opened early reported a brisk business during their pre-Black Friday hours.

National holiday

To many consumers Black Friday has, itself, become a national holiday and cramming into stores, scrambling for the few available advertised specials, is sort of a communal experience – maybe better than sitting around the table while Aunt Gladys recounts, for the umpteenth time, the details of her gall bladder operation.

Last Christmas a neighborhood pub in Richmond, Va., announced it would be open Christmas night with the slogan, “come be with your real family.” The communal experience just may be the big attraction.

It isn't the prices. Sure, there are incredible prices on popular items but it always turns out there are only a few available at that price. Most go home disappointed.

In 2012 a study by ShopAdvisor tracked the prices of 252 toys from the first day of autumn and found that in the 54 days from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, the day with the lowest percentage -- 46 percent -- of products on sale below their initial holiday season price was Black Friday, Nov. 25. The best deals turned out to be on Nov. 13.

The Internet has also done a lot to make Black Friday obsolete. A lot of Black Friday deals will be available at retailers' websites – with more deals on the following Cyber Monday.

Even so, that won't deter millions from getting up from the dinner table on Thanksgiving and heading for the mall. Then again, maybe they aren't really going for the deals, but to spend time with their real families.

The concept of holiday shopping on Thanksgiving – instead of waiting for Black Friday – is apparently here to stay. Despite some grumbling last...

Black Friday may last longer, offer better deals this year

Retailers hint at more aggressive promotions

Now that Congress has avoided default and gasoline prices have dipped from their summer highs, the nation's retailers are feeling more optimistic about the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Walmart said it is planning a blockbuster Black Friday event this year, its largest ever. At an investor conference, executives promised aggressive price rollbacks designed to spur sales after after a lackluster third quarter.

Mike Duke, president of Walmart Stores, said the company will rely on a mix of e-commerce and in-store sales to bolster sales this season. Industry analysts say of the two channels, e-commerce may prove to be the most potent.

In-store sales flatlining

Eric Jones, a principal at Jones Dengler Marketing and operator of BestBlackFriday.com, says he expects in-store sales will remain static or dip slightly while online sales lift profits. In other words, more people may shop this year, but they'll do it online.

“We can expect the online total sales for Black Friday to once again top $1 billion,” Jones said. “The reason I think the actual offline sales totals on Black Friday are going to drop again is because shoppers are becoming smarter and smarter about how and when they purchase.”

In previous years Jones said he saw almost instant consumer reaction when his company emailed lists of deals to consumers on its list. Now, he says, consumers are taking a more deliberate approach, searching for just the right deal.

Week-long event?

“Retailers previously offered some of the biggest deals on days such as Thanksgiving and the weekend following Thanksgiving,” he said. “However, these weren't advertised as much as Black Friday. Now, the savvy shopper will wait around searching for these deals and sometimes forego Black Friday altogether.”

So instead of a super shopping day on Black Friday, consumers can expect the kick-off to the holiday shopping season to last more than one day – it's already crept into Thanksgiving night – and maybe last an entire week, including Cyber Monday.

“We have several emails from retailers asking, not how we can promote their deals on Black Friday, but how can we promote their offers the entire week of Black Friday and through the weekend into Cyber Monday. In fact, the entire day of Black Friday will be stretched even further this year as more and more retailers are going to open on Thanksgiving night or earlier.”

What's this mean for shoppers, both those who brave the crowds and those who prefer to shop online? Jones thinks it will translate into more and better deals than in the past.

Better deals

“We expect retailers to spread them out over a few days in order to lure shoppers into their stores several times during the Black Friday Week, Jones said. “Each day should have a couple of really aggressive deals that will lure shoppers in with hopes that they will also take advantage of other moderate offers.”

Amazon a leader

Where will consumers find the best deals? Despite Walmarts boast that it will blow consumers' socks off, Amazon.com – at this point, at least – appears to be the most aggressive, with deals that have been running for months on big ticket items like flatscreen TVs and tablets.

“We expect this trend to continue into the holiday season as they will likely start their deals an entire week before the big day,” Jones predicts.

Stores that start promoting holiday sales early may end up offering the best deals. Jones notes that Kmart started airing holiday commercials Sept.11, so consumers can expect to see some attractive deals there before the end of the shopping season.

“Also, Walmart has announced plans to market heavily during NFL games on Thanksgiving which is something they never do,” Jones said. “So they have to be planning something big for Black Friday, right? We just hope it's not a ploy to ward off some of the bad press garnered by the looming Black Friday strikes.”

New strategy from Macy's

Jones also expects big things from Macy's, after the retailer last year forced Jones' website to remove its Black Friday ad after it was leaked online. This year, Macy's has already revealed some of the highlights of its Black Friday specials on Pinterest.

Manufacturers are also getting aggressive for the holiday shopping season. One of the most aggressive so far, Jones says, has been Hewlett-Packard (HP).

“We've had several email and phone conversations with their representatives and I expect them to really surprise everyone this year,” he said. “They currently have some 20% off coupons on printers as well as discounted monitors and laptops. I'd expect these offers to ramp up as we head into November for HP online and trickle down into other retailers' deals that offer HP products.”

Now that Congress has reached a debt compromise and gasoline prices have dipped from their summer highs, the nation's retailers are feeling more optimistic...

Some things to know before Black Friday arrives

Over the years misinformation has accumulated around this shopping season kick-off

Every year Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – seems to become an even bigger event, with people camping out in front of big box stores, waiting for them to open. And in recent years Black Friday has even spilled over into Thanksgiving night.

But if you hit the stores in search of Black Friday deals, be sure to hold most of your holiday shopping budget in reserve. According to Kiplinger's, you're better off spreading your spending out over a period of several weeks. Not all of the best deals are on Black Friday.

In fact, if you take the time to do a little research, you can find great deals on many items before and after the long Thanksgiving weekend. If you are a serious bargain hunter, sign up to receive email alerts from major retailers when they have a major sale. You can often save the same amount of money without having to get up early and fight the crowds.

Hype and excitement

If you do go shopping on Black Friday, don't get caught up in the hype and excitement. That often results in buying things just because they appear to be a good deal, not because they are on your list.

Remember that advertised door-buster deals are usually in limited quantities. If you show up at a store solely to buy one of these bargain-priced items, you may go home disappointed. But the deal site DealNews points out that increasingly, Black Friday deals are available online as well as in-store. The site points to data from previous years showing up to 70% of in-store Black Friday deals were also available online for the same price — in some cases even less.

If you sleep in on Black Friday, don't worry. You still have opportunities for great deal. In fact, many retail analysts suggest holding off on buying toys, brand-name TV sets and winter clothing on Black Friday. You'll likely see lower prices as the holidays approach.

Black Friday TV curse

For what it's worth, ConsumerAffairs has noted a pattern of consumer complaints about TV sets purchased on Black Friday. Many need repair within a year of purchase. Chances are, it's because TVs marked down for Black Friday specials tend to be the cheapest to begin with. It's worth remembering, you get what you pay for. 

Here's something else to remember. Just because some items are marked down on Black Friday, it doesn't mean all are marked down. In fact, most aren't. And for good reason. The stores lure you in with the advertised specials but hope you'll buy a lot of regularly-priced merchandise while you're there.

Even the Black Friday prices might not be the lowest of the year. DealNews notes that items with deep discounts on Black Friday might be cheaper in the days just before Christmas.

Search online for hidden deals

If you do decide to brave the crowds, due your research ahead of time. And you need to do more than just study the store's circular ad. Go the the store's website and look up the items you are considering. Major retailers have been known to slip in a few un-advertised specials, available only to the savvy shoppers who took the time to carefully review the website.

Finally, make sure you understand the store's return policies; they might differ for Black Friday purchases. Some stores tighten their return policies – not just on Black Friday but throughout the holiday shopping period. Some retailers only offer store credit and, if you don't have a receipt, you might only get a partial credit for the purchase.

Every year Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – seems to become an even bigger event, with people camping out in front of big box stores...

When should you start holiday shopping?

There's no one answer but chances are, it isn't Black Friday

Some people – superior beings who are extremely organized – do their holiday shopping throughout the year. As the holidays approach, they are blissfully free of the stress that plagues the rest of us.

There is something to be said for that but shopping in April not only lacks the holiday spirit, the deals might not be as attractive. So it raises the question, when exactly should you start your holiday shopping?

“It's a good idea to start saving now rather than start buying now,” said Cameron Huddleston, a contributing editor at Kiplinger's. “The deals aren't that good right now on most of the things people really want for Christmas. The deals get better the closer you get to the holidays.”

That's because retailers start to feel the pressure the closer the holiday's get. Black Friday gets its name from the fact that, for most retailers, they only become profitable for the year – “getting in the black” – during the holiday shopping season.

Some research suggests that shopping on Black Friday, itself, doesn't always yield the best results. The $199 laptop draws people in but the store may only have six of them at that price. Much of the rest of the store's merchandise is likely to be at the regular price. 

A week after Black Friday

Hitting the stores a week after Black Friday might yield better results. Stores will have had the chance to assess what sold and what didn't the week before and price merchandise accordingly. Some stores are even staging holiday sales events before Black Friday.

Remember, you don't always have to show up at the store to get a good deal. Increasingly stores are offering special prices online – and not just on Cyber Monday. These special deals might be offered at any time.

Rather than spending your shopping dollars all at once, take time to review advertising circulars and online specials, tracking prices on the items you want. After having their advertising plans leak online, many retailers are now taking the initiative, releasing their Black Friday ads well ahead of time.

Get a sneak peak at the ads

There's an entire category of websites now that offer sneak-peaks at advertising slicks. They include TheBlackFriday.com, BlackFriday.com, and GottaDeal.com , among others. These sites can alert you to what things will be selling for on Black Friday, allowing you to comparison shop now. It's not unheard of finding an item advertised as a Black Friday special on sale at the same price weeks before the big event. last weekend, Best Buy held a two day pre-holiday sale, marking down TVs, Macbooks, smartphones, tablets, and cameras.

While you can save money by doing your shopping after Black Friday, you don't want to wait too late. A RetailMeNot.com survey found that more than 90% of respondents reported overspending by waiting until the last minute to do their holiday shopping. This group said it plans to spend an average of $167 per person on gifts.

Avoiding deal envy

The survey authors say the high cost spent per person on gifts is worrisome when you consider that more than a quarter of shoppers surveyed this year indicated last year that they set a budget and went over it. According to the report, exceeding a holiday budget sparks symptoms of Deal Envy, including guilt for more than a quarter of gift givers and anxiety for one in five.

Though there are plenty of bargains late in the game, it may be that late shoppers don't take the time to seek them out. As the holidays get closer, the priority for consumers becomes crossing items off their shopping list and not getting the best price. So whether you shop on Black Friday or not, doing most of your shopping early rather than late will probably end up saving you money in the long run.

Some people – superior beings who are extremely organized – do their holiday shopping throughout the year. As the holidays approach, they are b...

Surveys suggest the holidays could deliver a rude shock to retailers

Are consumers really going to curtail spending this year?

America's retailers are counting on consumers to deliver robust profit margins for the holidays. But instead, retailers may find a lump of coal in their stockings.

Recent surveys have found consumers in a Grinch-like mood as the holiday shopping season approaches. In a poll by GoBankingRates.com, more than 63% of respondents said they have put no money into savings for the holidays this year.

That doesn't mean consumers won't go into debt to finance gifts but a follow-up question asked how much consumers planned to spend this holiday season. More than 40% said they would buy no holiday gifts this year.

Sobering numbers

It's easy to say that now but as the holidays approach, many may somehow find the money and the desire. Still, the numbers have to be sobering to retailers who depend on the last two months of the year to post a profit for the year.

"While it's unfortunate so many shoppers are putting themselves at risk of starting off the new year in debt, what's really surprising is how many people said they're not buying gifts at all; it's not just the young and broke – it's people with children and grandkids, too," said Casey Bond, GoBankingRates.com managing editor. "Recent fiscal turmoil in Washington may have suppressed optimism for holiday consumerism this year. However, I would argue that consumers are being overly optimistic about their ability to resist holiday shopping."

You could dismiss the survey as overly gloomy, but it comes on the heels of a similar one. A poll conducted on behalf of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) shows the overwhelming majority of consumers intend to either spend less than the previous year or nothing at all on holiday purchases.

Grain of salt

But here's the grain of salt – polls the previous four years returned similar findings. Data from 2010 and 2011 reveal the most extreme periods of hardship, with identical results of 91% of respondents indicating they would spend less or zero on holiday purchases. There was no statistical difference between 2012 and 2013 data, with the most recent year revealing that 86 percent of more than 1,400 respondents selecting these categories as most representative of their holiday spending plans.

The poll found that 11% intend to spend as they did last year, saying that their financial situation is stable, while three percent will spend more, feeling as though they are in a better financial position this year. These numbers are identical to 2012 results.

While the holidays can be make or break for retailers, NFCC says the same is true for consumers. In that light, the group sees the poll results as encouraging.

Avoiding costly mistakes

“The statistics speak loudly, and underscore that consumers are not willing to repeat the mistakes of Christmases past by spending irresponsibly this year,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “The persistently high rate of unemployment coupled with the long duration of unemployment are still very real challenges many people are facing.”

Another poll – this one from financial services firm Edward Jones – also suggests consumers will spend less during the holiday. In fact, 37% said they plan to spend less than they did last year.

"While we expect some sales growth in the retail market this holiday season, those polled expressed a conservative view on holiday spending," said Brian Yarbrough, consumer discretionary analyst for Edward Jones. "This differs from our retail forecasts for the remainder of the year. We anticipate solid numbers from most retailers with luxury players leading the charge."

A fourth survey – Deloitte’s 28th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends – is a bit more encouraging for retailers. The survey, conducted in mid October, found the average shopper planned to spend $421 on gifts this year, up from $386 last year. They also plan to purchase more gifts this year, ending a five-year decline.

“Consumers are feeling more generous about gift spending, and we are encouraged by their plans to spend more on going out for celebrations, decorating their homes and treating themselves and their families to ‘early gifts’ while holiday shopping this year,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP.

Despite concerns that October's government shutdown and debt crisis would dampen consumer sentiment, Paul says the survey found little evidence of that.

America's retailers are counting on consumers to deliver robust profit margins for the holidays. But instead, retailers may find a lump of coal in their st...

Parents group picks toys for its Seal of Approval

Toys and games tested by both parents and children

With the holiday shopping season well underway it's a safe bet that millions of parents are browsing online and visiting stores, snapping up the latest and “hottest” toys and games. To provide some helpful advice, the National Parenting Center has released its 23rd annual Holiday Seal of Approval report.

The report makes recommendations for gifts after two months of consumer testing by parents and children at The National Parenting Center's test centers. the report includes reviews of the recommended toys and games.

The program is an independent testing system to judge a variety of products introduced and marketed to the parent andchild consumer market. The reviews and recommendations are based on observations over the eight week period as testers play with, build, read about, and judge the products.

More than a dozen categories

The products are broken down into more than a dozen categories, includings kits and crafts, audio, outdoor play, educational toys, video games and toys, puzzles and dolls.

This season only two video games make the list. Skylanders SWAP Force by Activision, is recommended for kids age 6 and older and lists for $74.99. The National Parenting Center review calls the game a mega-hit of mega-proportions.

“The frenzy to play with this newest version of the wildly popular game in our testing centers was intense,” the review says. “The popularity is clearly off the charts but more importantly, after spending time with the game, parents say that it is all for good reason.”

The game is also versatile. It contains a portal that plugs into your XBox, Playstation or Wii. The other video game winning the Seal of Approval is Sesame Street: Solve it with Elmo, Abby & Super Grover 2.0, by LeapFrog. It's suggested for ages three to five and sells for $24.99.

Promotes science learning

As you might expect with the Sesame Street tie-in, this game is educational. It focuses on the currently trendy STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

“While playing with their favorite Sesame Street characters, kids are learning problem solving, levers and weights, weight and balance, engineering, magnetic forces, and more,” the review notes.

Some other toys making the list this year are:

  • Switch & Go Dinos Blister the Velociraptor, by VTech Electronics, recommended for age three to eight and selling for $24.99. Being able to transform a vehicle into an animal and then back again was described again and again by young testers as “awesome.”
  • PopStars! Stage, by Playmobil USA, recommended for ages four to 10 and selling for $39.99. The set comes with 4 pop star figures, each in different poses. Children are given the opportunity to play tour manager arranging the stage, positioning the musicians, placing equipment, setting the lights, which are real flickering LED’s, and even playing sound mixer adjusting the volume on the speaker. (See video below)
  • Glow Pets, by Ontel Products Corp, recommended for ages three and up and sells for $29.99. Glow Pets are oversized stuffed animals with a magical light hidden inside the body that makes them glow in the dark.
  • 90' Eagle Series Zipline Kit by Brand 44, recommended for ages eight and older and sells for $169.99. You’ll need 90 feet of space between two sturdy trees to start. Testers found the quality to be superb, featuring stainless steel cable along with galvanized clamps and hardware.
  • Marker Maker by Crayola, recommended for ages eight and up and sells for $24.99. The pre-craft kit helps kids make their own markers that they can then use in other activities. This product is a mix of science project and art project. Reviewers found kids loved mixing their own colors and making their own markers.

The Seal of Approval compiles its list of potential gifts by gauging consumer reaction to products currently being marketed to both parents and their children such as toys, games, books, videos, websites and educational products. Each is reviewed on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, price, packaging, design, stimulation, desirability, age appropriateness and instructions, among other criteria.

With the holiday shopping season well underway it's a safe bet that millions of parents are browsing online and visiting stores, snapping up the latest and...

Black Friday deals you can get right now

Retailers continue their push to sell ahead of the official opening day of shopping

There has been no let-up in retailers' push to launch their Black Friday deals ahead of the big day itself. Yes, these stores hope you still line up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving to fight over door-buster specials, but you really don't have to.

Walmart has been among the most aggressive, vowing to match any Black Friday price from its competitors. In the meantime, it continues to offer some pretty compelling online deals right now.

For example, Walmart.com is selling a seven-inch Nextbook tablet with 8GB of memory with Google Mobile Services for $59. An RCA seven-inch tablet with 4GB of memory is $49.

Laptop bundle

The site is also currently offering a laptop bundle package, including your choice of an Asus, HP or Gateway computer, a carrying case, a printer and a USB flash drive for $299.

Flatscreen TVs are always a big Black Friday draw but you can get a deal right now, online. Walmart is offering a Sceptre 40" Class LCD 1080p 60Hz HDTV for $259. A 32” RCA 1080p 60Hz Class LED (3.1" ultra-slim) HDTV is $229.

Sears has a 100-piece Craftsman drill accessory kit for $14.99 when you order online. You can pick it up free at a nearby Sears store.

Tells time and calories burned

Best Buy is currently offering a Timex Unisex Health and Fitness Personal Trainer analog watch for $19.99 when ordered online. it comes with free shipping and spits out a variety of health-related data, including calories burned.

For the gamer on your list, Green Man Gaming is selling Call of Duty: Ghosts for $42.99. That's down from $59.99 and requires a free steam account to play.

In the toy department, Kohls is currently offering the Monster High Draculaura Doll & Jewelry Box Coffin Set by Mattel for $36.99. The regular price is $49.99. It also has the VTech KidiJamz Studio for $49.99.

Mobile advertising

While retailers this year are using the web like never before to spur pre-holiday sales, they haven't given up on trying to draw you into their brick and mortar space. But instead of relying on traditional advertising, more merchants are going mobile.

A survey conducted by fashion shopping app Snapette found that women, especially, are responsive to mobile alerts detailing discounts and more likely than men to shop in-store to save on shipping costs.

"Women tend to be more regularly engaged in shopping related activities, such as searching out deals, subscribing to promotional newsletters, following specific designers on social media, thus may rely less on targeted research immediately prior to making a purchase," said Sarah Paiji, co-founder and President of Snapette.

Mobile ad spending is up a reported 81 percent this year.

There has been no let up in retailers' push to launch their Black Friday deals ahead of the big day itself. Yes, these stores hope you still line up at the...

Some last-minute Black Friday tips

If you are going to shop, here are some suggestions

Thanksgiving week has arrived and dedicated Black Friday shoppers are gearing up for the big shopping day, that for the most part begins the night before. There's no data to back this up but it's very likely that holiday meal plans have been changed this year so as not to interfere with early store openings.

What's left is to make final preparations to hit the stores and search for bargains. Here are some suggestions for making your outing more successful and less stressful:

Four suggestions

  • Make a list and check it twice – Write down the names of everyone you are shopping for and, if possible, potential gift ideas for each one. It will help you focus attention on spotting bargains and keep you from the frustration of forgetting someone as you fight the crowds.
  • Know where the deals are – More retailers are playing the game by announcing their Black Friday offers well in advance. If you haven't done so by now, check the multitude of sites that publish up-to-the minute Black Friday ads from major retailers. You'll find them simply by Googling “Black Friday.” Also, know when the stories are opening. There's no need to camp out but you don't want to be the last shopper through the door either.
  • Think local – Yes, big box retailers get all the attention and most of the sales on Black Friday but local merchants also are offering deals, even if they don't have the big advertising budgets to promote them. But the Internet can clue you in. Web sites like LivingSocial and Groupon can connect you with deals from your nearby merchants.
  • Boost your savings – Loyalty programs and gift cards can help you get more value from your Black Friday shopping -- sometimes in surprising ways. A regional convenience store operator, for example, is offering fuel rebates of up to $1 a gallon on gasoline for customers using its loyalty card.

If someone on your list wants a PlayStation 4, Thankshopping.com is promising to report this week on the best place to buy the game console. The site says it will post prices and retailers for the game on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The Playstation 4 is Sony's latest generation game console released just in time for the holidays. It starts at around $579 with reviewers praising its improved graphics, interface and controller.

Find deals without leaving home

As we have pointed out previously, it isn't necessary to trek to the mall and fight the crowds in order to get a great Black Friday deal. Many retailers have been promoting “door-buster” deals all month on their websites. And there will be plenty more deals online on Black Friday for shoppers who prefer to stay home and shop from their computer.

The Craft Star, a QVC-TV style website that sells craft and homemade items, is promising a number of deals on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The owners of the site say anyone can enter to win free holiday gift products, with the giveaways beginning at 4 am Eastern time on Black Friday. On Cyber Monday, December 2, a giveaway valued at $20 will be featured every hour on the hour from 6 a.m. EST until 6 p.m. EST.

In addition, most major retailers plan online promotions throughout the day on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Thanksgiving week has arrived and dedicated Black Friday shoppers are gearing up for the big shopping day, that for the most part begins the night before. ...

Is Black Friday over? Poll finds 56% plan to skip it this year

It's like the restaurant no one goes to anymore because it's gotten too crowded

Hype something long enough and people get tired of it. Example: Black Friday. There's increasing evidence everybody's sick of hearing about it, most significantly a new poll conducted for Consumer Reports that found 56 percent of Americans plan to do no shopping at all this weekend.

On the other hand, 44 percent say they will do some shopping, which is up from the 30 percent who shopped for gifts during last year's Black Friday weekend. While on the surface, this might indicate more shoppers heading for the stores, it's worth noting that intention doesn't equal performance -- the actual turnout may well be lower than last year given the strong negative feelings the poll found. 

Among the top reasons Americans gave for wanting no part of shopping during Black Friday weekend were:

  • Too many crowds (70 percent)

  • The deals are too overhyped (34 percent)

  • I'd rather do something else (33 percent)

  • I don't want to get up early (30 percent)

Of those who do intend to shop this weekend, 69 percent will be venturing out to stores, while 58 percent will do so online, and 29 percent will shop both in-stores and online. Among the top reasons people gave for why they’ll be shopping on Black Friday weekend were:

  • Black Friday specials are the best deals of the year (55 percent)

  • The door-buster deals (43 percent)

  • It’s tradition (23 percent)

  • I enjoy the energy of  the holiday shopping season (19 percent)

“Those who intend to go out shopping on Black Friday probably know what to expect, and to them that’s part of the allure,” said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. “However, it's easy to get caught up in the shopping frenzy and spend more than you really want to. That’s why it’s important to do your homework beforehand, have a plan and stick to it.”

Additional results of the Consumer Reports Poll are available at ConsumerReports.org.

Hype something long enough and people get tired of it. Example: Black Friday. There's increasing evidence everybody's sick of hearing about it, most signif...

It's Black Friday: do you know where your deals are?

If you haven't done your homework you could end up overpaying

Millions of Americans are in the midst of the annual Black Friday shopping frenzy and those who have done their homework, mapped out a strategy and carefully prepared their budget will likely have the most success.

From now until Christmas – perhaps even a few days after – you're going to get hit with advertising deals, special offers and bargains “too good to pass up.” A word of advice – keep your wits about you and make sure that deal is really a deal.

“Shoppers are watching their budgets closely this year, which means retailers are as well,” said Jennifer Calonia, consumer savings specialist for GoBankingRates.com. “With heightened competition for consumer cash, stores are resorting to sneaky tactics. Essentially, true Black Friday deals are dead.”

But what about all those “door-buster specials?” GoBankingRates.com points to a Walmart Black Friday ad promoting a 16GB Apple iPad Mini at $299 with a bonus $100 gift card thrown in. But read through the fine print. This offer isn't on Black Friday but was a one-hour guaranteed supply on Thanksgiving Day, from 6 to 7 p.m., meaning shoppers had to spend that much more time standing in line without their turkey and fixings.

Where are the deals?

GoBankingRates said it compared listed prices against their Black Friday ad prices for a number of items in the most popular shopping categories, including laptops, HDTVs, and toys and gaming. It said it found that some mid-to-high priced items received lower discounts, compared to products that were already marked at a low MSRP.

If you're looking for a name brand HDTV, the website says Black Friday is not the time to buy. In fact, it said it found that discounts on knock off model TVs weren't that great either.

There's a good chance that more shoppers than last year are doing their Black Friday shopping online. The deals are just as good, if not better, and you have to admit it's a lot more convenient. Online retailers are particularly motivated because they are looking beyond just the holiday season.

Critical opportunity

“With online holiday sales growth set to eclipse brick and mortar stores this year, the 2013 holiday shopping season is a critical opportunity for online retailers to attract frequent shoppers and create loyal, long term customers for the other 11 months of the year,” said Fiona Dias, Chief Strategy Officer at ShopRunner.com, an online buying portal. “Smart retailers realize the holidays are the time to capture customer loyalty for the rest of year. With around 40% of online shopping transactions happening during the holidays, now is the time for retailers to hook new customers with a great shopping experience from browsing to purchasing to fast and free shipping.”

Dias says shoppers are not just looking for great prices and great service from online merchants. They want free shipping too. It's something shoppers should be able to take for granted this year, she said.

EBay Enterprise, formerly GSI Commerce, is tracking shopping data this holiday season and notes consumers now have an arsenal of digital devices with which to shop. Even so, it has found that so far 79% of online purchases have been made using the traditional laptop and desktop devices. But Dias says the trend suggests a move toward mobility.

“With tablets, holiday shopping moves to the couch, train and bed,” she said. “Tablets will be a big winner for this year’s online holiday shopping sales, while consumers will mostly just browse on mobile phones unless retailers offer an expedited checkout process that takes no more than a few clicks.”

However you're shopping – online or in a store – make sure you know what you're buying. It may be a tablet for $99 but how much storage capacity does it have? What kind of warranty? This is the reason you should check out ads and investigate the products before you decide to buy.

Look out for identity theft

Since more consumers are doing their Black Friday shopping online, it's worth repeating that identity theft dangers are escalating, along with the online deals. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is warning consumers to only shop with online retailers they know and trust.

“When entering credit card information, be sure that an 'https' precedes the website address in your browser’s address bar,” Koster said. “Many browsers will display a padlock icon when you navigate to a secure site.”

Bob Bunge, a cyber security specialist and engineering professor at DeVry University, told ConsumerAffairs.com earlier this month he expects a big increase in phishing attacks as scammers try to take advantage of the huge increase in consumers making online purchases. Beware of emails offering deals “too good to be true,” he warns. 

Millions of Americans are in the midst of the annual Black Friday shopping frenzy and those who have done their homework, mapped out a strategy and careful...

Retailers not waiting for Black Friday to offer deals

Shoppers can already find significant savings ahead of the official kick-off

The official start to the holiday shopping season is still a month away but U.S. retailers are already in the giving spirit. Just like last year shoppers might not have to wait for Black Friday to get great deals.

Target has announced a package of holiday promotions that include free shipping starting now through December 20. That constitutes automatic savings for the growing number of consumers who prefer to do their shopping online. The retailer also rolled out a package of new shopping apps and other digital tools.

“We’ve been building capabilities that put us in a strong starting position, including the right digital tools and a broad assortment of unique, on-trend merchandise,” said Brian Cornell, Target's chairman and CEO.

Exclusive deals

Cornell also promises bigger values and promotions than anyone else. He says Target stores will have weekly sales, weekend promotions and exclusive deals on Target.com and Cartwheel, the Target app. For example, Cartwheel will offer daily 50% off toy deals to its users from November 2 to December 24.

For a third year, Target will extend the time frame of its price match policy for the holiday season beyond the typical 7 day window. If customers buy a qualifying item at Target between November 1 and December 24, and then find it at a lower price at Target.com, a local competitor’s printed ad or at select online retailers, Target will match that price.

In a note to investors, retail analyst Adrienne Tih-Tennant of Janney Capital Markets said this past weekend was an especially heavily promoted sales event as stores are eager to get to consumers' wallets first.

October deals

"While October should typically be sequentially deeper, as it is a clearance month, we are more concerned with an increase in 'deeper' promos year-over-year, especially given that inventory levels entering the quarter were in quite good shape for the softlines sector," she wrote.

A case in point is Gap, which is currently running a promotion offering up to 75% off on select apparel. Old Navy is running its 20th Birthday Sale, with discounts up to 50%.

In part these sales are getting a jump on Black Friday action but part are normal seasonal clearance activity. For the consumer, however, savings are savings.

Tablet prices dropping

The website BestBlackFriday.com predicts the steepest discounts on popular gifts this year will be for tablets. Apple has just introduced its latest iPad and the rest of the manufacturers are fighting for market share as smartphones now offer many of the features of a tablet.

While tablets are strong candidates for Black Friday “doorbuster” promotions many retailers are already discounting the devices, especially lesser-known models.

At Amazon.com the Chromo 7-inch tablet featuring touchscreen, camera and 1024 x 600 screen resolution has been marked down from $169.99 to $48.95. The Microsoft Surface 7ZR-00001 RT Tablet 64GB – not its most recent model – is on sale for $235.13, down from $499. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 is marked down from $349 to $259.

Walmart has also started putting popular gift items on sale ahead of the Black Friday official kick-off. They include a refurbished Google Nexus 7 tablet for $99, marked down from $159, and Beats by Dr. Dre Drenched Solo On-Ear Headphones for $169.95.

The official start to the holiday shopping season is still a month away but U.S. retailers are already in the giving spirit. Just like last year shoppers m...

Signs still point to early Black Friday

More retailers announcing their plans early

 

As Black Friday ads leak onto the Internet, some retailers are getting a jump on the leakers – and the competition – by making early announcements of their Black Friday plans.

 

One of the latest to do so is Bon-Ton, a regional department store chain with 270 stores in 27 states. The company has announced it will open its stores at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, dangling 600 door busters, special coupons and deals to draw in customers.

For example, the first 200 customers in line when the doors open Thanksgiving night will receive gift cards, with values ranging from $5 to $250. Those who download the Bon-Ton app will receive special Black Friday deals.

The company will begin previewing all of its After Thanksgiving Sale and door buster items on its Website beginning November 16.

"After Thanksgiving is the traditional kick-off for the holiday shopping season," said Steve Byers, a Bon-Ton vice president. "Customers will find exceptional deals and unique gifts for the entire family at Bon-Ton.”

In a sneak peak at its Black Friday specials, Bon-Ton said it will sell its entire stock of Keurig and Cuisinart coffee makers and accessories at 40% to 60% off. Its entire stock of Mattel and Fischer Price toys and games, including Disney Frozen toys and décor, will be marked down 50%.

Best Buy

Best Buy has already started pre-Black Friday promotions, with a 4 Day Kick Off sale running through Monday, Nov. 3. Without getting into specifics, the retailer says it's Black Friday deals and door busters will include select laptops, HDTVs, Blu-ray players, appliances, digital cameras and video games.

Xbox One

Some Black Friday preview websites have posted a scan of a Black Friday Kmart ad for the Xbox One without Kinect console on sale for $349.99, beginning November 9, 2014.

If it turns out to be legitimate, that would be about a $50 discount and might be matched by other retailers – something to keep in mind if the popular game console is on your list.

Toys R Us

BlackFriday.com, a website that publishes leaked ads, has posted what it says is the Toys R Us Great Big Christmas Book, an 80-page catalog with discounts on toys. But you'll have to wait until November 2 to find how deep the discounts are. That's when actual prices will be posted, the site says.

As they did last year retailers are slowly marking down items in advance of Black Friday, hoping to snag more of the early shoppers. And shopping early usually pays off.

A 2012 survey by Shop Advisor famously found that the two best days to holiday shop – where deals were greatest – came before and after Black Friday. It found the best day was November 13. Second best was December 1.

For shoppers who want to save money, it would be wise to stay alert for deals now. Retailers are offering plenty of them.

As Black Friday ads leak onto the Internet, some retailers are getting a jump on the leakers – and the competition – by making early announcements of their...

Office Depot starting Black Friday deals Sunday

Amazon.com starting its Black Friday promotions this weekend as well

© Marek - Fotolia.jpg

Office Depot and OfficeMax, which merged last year, are the latest retailers to jump on the early Black Friday bandwagon.

The company has announced a campaign it calls "Your Holiday Workshop," offering Early Black Friday and "Every Monday is Cyber Monday" deals, starting on November 2. The deals will be available both in-store and online.

Early Black Friday deals will be available November 2-15 while "Every Monday is Cyber Monday" online deals will be posted on November 3, 10, 17, and 24.

In recent years office and business supply retailers have competed with electronics retailers, selling not just pens and notebooks but all manner of gadgets, from desktop computers and printers to smartphones.

Laptop deals

For the Early Black Friday specials November 2 - 8 Office Depot and OfficeMax will feature an HP laptop computer that normally sells for $299.99 for $229.99. They've also marked down a Dell Inspiron 15 series 3000 touchscreen laptop from $549.99 to $369.99.

From November 9 - 15 the deals include a Dell laptop that normally sells for $479.99 on sale for $279.99 and a Toshiba Satellite L55t touchscreen laptop with 6GB of memory for $399.99. The computer normally sells for $659.99.

A company spokeswoman says other Black Friday deals, along with store hours, will be announced closer to Thanksgiving Day. She says consumers may sign up online to receive alerts about deals and events.

Office Depot and OfficeMax have a 90-day return policy but it is being extended during the holidays. The company says anything purchased between now and December 24, 2014 can be returned until Jan. 14, 2015 or as the policy allows, whichever is later. Items purchased online can be returned in store.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com is also getting a jump on Black Friday starting this weekend. Its Countdown to Black Friday event starts Saturday, with deals throughout November.

“Starting in November, millions of holiday shoppers come to Amazon hunting for the best deals and that one perfect gift,” said Steve Shure, Amazon Vice President Worldwide Marketing. “This year, we will have more than 15,000 hand-selected, limited time promotions on hot products, including new early access deals for Prime members on many Lightning Deals from Amazon.com and daily sales events on MyHabit.”

In the weeks ahead Amazon says it will be offering savings of 40% or more on select Star Wars toys, Mickey and Minnie, Crayola and Disney Princess toys and discounts up to 70% on Cuisinart cookware sets.

Other deals will include 50% off the SodaStream Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker Starter Kit and $150 off on the Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR.

Office Depot and OfficeMax, which merged last year, are the latest retailers to jump on the early Black Friday bandwagon....

Five tablets you can get on sale right now

But the latest tablets are not among them

If a tablet is on your shopping list this year you might not have to wait until Black Friday to pick one up. Then again, it might pay to do so.

As retailers have begun to roll out their pre-Black Friday bargains, there haven't been that many tablets among them. Retail analysts have predicted attractive mark downs on tablets this holiday season as manufacturers make a strong push to reignite interest in these devices.

But judging by the offerings so far, sale-priced tablets may be older versions of popular brands, as well as off-brands that retailers would like to clear from their shelves.

New or old?

For example, the latest iPad is the iPad Air 2. The 16GB version retails for around $489. But if you can be satisfied with the model it replaces, you're likely to find it on sale.

BestBlackFriday.com has posted a scan of what it says is a Sam's Club ad promoting a one-day holiday sale Saturday, November 15. The ad features the older version, the iPad Air 16GB, at $100 off.

It's very possible that before all is said and done hyper competitive retailers will slash prices on the latest tablets, but if they do they are likely to save them for Black Friday itself, to create as much impact as possible.

In the meantime, shoppers can find tablets on sale that, while not the latest technology, could make a nice gift and help stretch your budget.

HKC 8" Tablet 8GB Memory Dual Core

The HKC 8-inch tablet is one of the lowest priced Android tablets around. Walmart has marked it down to $60. The 8-inch screen is ample surface for watching movies, reading books or surfing the web.

With Google Play users can access more than 700,000 apps and games, as well as a large collection of ebooks, music and movies.

Microsoft Surface 2 32GB

Microsoft's latest tablet, the Surface Pro 3, starts at about $1,000. You'll find this older version, the Surface 2 with 32GB of storage at a much lower price. Best Buy is selling it for $450.

The 10-inch Surface 2 tablet has a 1080p display and comes with Office. It's also lightweight, at just under 1.5lbs. 

Apple iPad mini 16GB Wi-Fi

The iPad mini 16GB with Wi-Fi provides the features of an iPad but in a smaller package. The screen is 7.9-inches and powered by an A5 chip. Walmart has marked it down to $239.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite Tablet With 7" Screen, 8GB

The Galaxy Tab 3 is another smaller tablet, featuring a 7-inch screen. It offers touch-screen functionality and runs Android Jelly Bean 4.2.

In addition to its Wi-Fi connectivity the device also connect via Bluetooth. It permits short range data transfers up to 30 feet. Office Depot has it on sale for $140.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4

Samsung'sGalaxy Tab 4, an updated version, also sports a 7-inch screen and runs Android's Kit Kat operating system. Amazon.com has marked it down to $163. It features a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 7-inch 1280x800 touchscreen LCD, 8GB internal memory, 802.11n wireless, 3-megapixel rear camera, 1.3-megapixel front camera, microSD card slot, and Bluetooth 4.0.

If a tablet is on your shopping list this year you might not have to wait until Black Friday to pick one up. Then again, it might pay to do so....

Sears, Kmart and JC Penney announce Black Friday hours

Kmart will be open 42 hours straight

Three more retailers have announced their Black Friday store hours, in all three cases cutting deeper into Thanksgiving from last year's official holiday shopping kick-off.

In a Tweet, JC Penney announced it would open its doors on Thanksgiving day at 5:00 p.m. That's 3 hours earlier than it opened last year.

Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and Kmart stores, says both retailers will be opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Earlier start

Sears will be offering its Black Friday deals starting at 6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day through close of business on Black Friday. Kmart will open its doors at 6:00 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and remain open 42 straight hours – until midnight on Black Friday. The stores will also provide perks for members of their rewards programs.

"This holiday season is all about giving more to our members and because many like to start shopping well before Black Friday, we're excited to open our doors early on Thanksgiving and offer other early access opportunities for them to shop and save,” said Leena Munjal, senior vice president, Sears Holdings.

Pre-Black Friday event

Sears also announced a special pre-Black Friday sales event for Sunday, November 9. Select items, including apparel, appliances, tools and footwear, will go on sale at Black Friday pricing. In addition, Sears will tack on a 5% to 15% discount. Additional Black Friday and Sears Family & Friends discount items will be available online at Sears.com from Saturday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. CT until Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 9 a.m. CT.

Kmart, meanwhile, is bringing back its No Money Down Layaway service. It's available now through Nov. 15, both in stores and online. The company says shoppers will be able to put almost anything on layaway with no minimum purchase required. Plus, members who put toys, sporting goods, jewelry and home items on layaway will get 5% off.

Shorter shopping season

Retailers' early start to Black Friday competition is happening for some of the same reasons as last year. Like last year, Black Friday falls near the end of November, making for a shorter holiday shopping season.

But there may be another reason as well. Unlike recent holiday shopping seasons, consumers may be in a mood to spend a little more and, with steep declines in gasoline prices putting more money in their pockets, may start spending a little earlier.

The competition for these early shoppers is intense and winning could make a difference in a retailer's bottom line. The National Retail Federation has projected a 4.1% increase in holiday spending over last year.

That said, the federation's president Matthew Shay believes most shoppers will still be in search of bargains, another reason for putting things on sale well ahead of Black Friday.

“Recognizing the need to keep household budgets in line, we expect shoppers will be extremely price sensitive as they have been for quite some time,” Shay said. “Retailers will respond by differentiating themselves and touting price, value and exclusivity.”  

Three more retailers have announced their Black Friday store hours, in all three cases cutting deeper into Thanksgiving from last year's official holiday s...

Manufacturers increasingly getting in on Black Friday

Companies that make the products are competing with the companies that sell them

You can be sure that Samsung, as well as every other manufacturer, hopes you'll pick up one of their products when you go shopping on Black Friday. The more units sold, the better.

But in the case of Samsung, what the company would really like consumers to do is buy the product directly from Samsung. It means a higher profit margin for the manufacturer.

Samsung has sent out emails to past customers providing a sneak peak at its Black Friday deals. Consumers are urged to register so that they can reserve the products they want at the Black Friday sale price.

Deals

Deals include a NX300 Smart Camera with 18-55mm lens for $650, $100 off the regular price. Or a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 with Wi-Fi connection for $330, a savings of $70.

Cellular phones, cellular connected tablets, cell phone accessories and home appliances are not part of the Black Friday reserve program. Consumers are limited to 2 units of any sale product and orders are subject to available inventory.

If you reserve a product using Samsung's promotion, then decide you want to cancel, you can but must do so by November 22.

Gadgets and appliances

Image source: LGPromotions.com

LG Electronics is also promoting Black Friday dealson its website, encouraging customers to register so they can be notified by email as soon as the deals are posted. The manufacturer will offer savings on both appliances and home entertainment products.

Sony is another electronics manufacturers that also sells its products directly to consumers. Sony has not yet rolled out any specific Black Friday promotion but has already put items on sale as it touts the benefits of buying direct. They include free shipping on orders over $25, a 30-day price-match policy and the ability to pre-order a product before it is available in stores.

Apple pioneered direct electronics sales to consumers and operates both brick-and-mortar stores in shopping malls as well as an online marketplace. Apple is currently offering free 2-day shipping on all in-stock items.

Advantages?

Is there an advantage from buying directly from the manufacturer? Probably not so much when it comes to price. Yes, you'll likely find some good sale prices, but probably not any better than you might find in a retail store. The manufacturer, after all, has to protect its relationship with its retailers.

The advantage might be when it comes to availability of a popular item. The manufacturer is a lot less likely to run out of supply than a retail store.

Active retailers

Retailers, for their part, are out in front with pre-Black Friday specials. Home Depot is one of the latest to launch Black Friday specials well in advance of the big day. The retailer is pushing deals on its appliances through December 3.

You can be sure that Samsung, as well as every other manufacturer, hopes you'll pick up one of their products when you go shopping on Black Friday. The mor...

Black Friday no longer just a day

Walmart is the latest retailer to stretch it out

As retailers in recent years have jockeyed for Black Friday dollars, the lines between the traditional kick-off to holiday shopping and any other day have become blurred. So blurred that perhaps Black Friday, the day, has become almost meaningless in the whole scheme of things.

Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, states the obvious when it says Black Friday is not just one day, but a lot of days.

“Black Friday is no longer about waking up at the crack of dawn to stand in long lines and hope for the best. At Walmart, it has become a family shopping tradition where everyone shops at some point throughout the weekend,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S.

The day itself is still important

Make no mistake, Mac Naughton and everyone else at Walmart is hoping you show up when the doors open Thanksgiving night. They know that Black Friday has become an event in which many consumers want to participate.

But increasingly retailers like Walmart have been spreading out their deals in the days before and after the day itself in an effort to grab market share. Target this week announced a number of deals that will be available through its mobile app from November 23 through 29. Walmart's “new Black Friday” concept is now a nearly week-long promotion, extending through Cyber Monday.

“This year, we’re blowing it out with five days of deals in store and online,” Mac Naughton said. “We’ll have crazy low prices on the gifts our customers want.”

Fight for customers intensifying

Eric Jones of Jones-Dengler Marketing and operator of the BestBlackFriday.com web site, sees Walmart's move asjust another attempt to further increase sales in a market that may be becoming diluted.

“When retailers used to all open up early Friday morning, they had to fight for shoppers,” Jones told ConsumerAffairs. “Now, they're simply opening for longer times, so if a shopper happens to be at a different store at the beginning of the sale, they can still make that same sale later in the night, or even a completely different day.”

Compared to last year Walmart says it has lowered prices on popular Black Friday items. Last year a Vizio 60” Smart TV sold for $688. This year a 65” Vizio Smart TV will be available for $648 as part of Walmart’s 1-Hour Guarantee, meaning consumers in a certain area of the store at a certain hour are guaranteed the purchase at the sale price.

The Xbox One, available last year for $499, is going this year as a bundle for $329 with a $30 Walmart Gift Card. It too, is a 1-Hour Guarantee item.

The retailer has also beefed up its inventory, promising three times the number of PlayStation 4 and other gaming consoles available to shoppers. It says it will have 30% more smartphones, mobile accessories and other wireless offerings than last year.

New trend

Walmart is also joining other retailers not waiting for Black Friday, for fear of losing consumer dollars to a rival. Jones says it has been an accelerating trend in 2014.

“This year especially retailers seem to be offering Black Friday prices for special pre-Black Friday events that last one day,” Jones said. “We've already seen this with a number of retailers such as Sam's Club, Best Buy, Target and now Walmart.”

In fact, Jones says Sam's Club has released a Holiday Savings sale ad for this Saturday, November 15,, for a one day event with prices that are matching or beating many Black Friday ads that have already leaked.

As retailers in recent years have jockeyed for Black Friday dollars, the lines between the traditional kick-off to holiday shopping and any other day have ...

Are stores making a mistake opening on Thanksgiving?

Some suggest "Black Friday Creep" has gone too far

In the last couple of years major retailers have begun opening their doors on Thanksgiving in an effort to get a jump on Black Friday sales. It's worked well enough that more of them are doing it, and opening earlier in the day.

But is there a growing consumer backlash? The New York Times has called it “the war on Thanksgiving” and a recent poll suggests that many consumers have decided “Black Friday creep” has gone too far.

According to new research conducted for Eventbrite, 62% of Americans think Black Friday sales that start on Thanksgiving Day will detract from the family Thanksgiving experience. The takeaway, say company officials, is Americans aren’t happy with retailers’ decision to open on a day meant to be spent with friends and family.

Bad policy

A retail expert agrees. Arun Jain, a marketing professor at the University at Buffalo (UB), says retailers who keep pushing the Black Friday start time deeper into Thanksgiving Day are making a strategic error.

“It’s a pity that in the richest country in the world, we cannot reserve even a single day for family, and there is a good chance it could backfire with consumer boycotts,” he said.

A better strategy, says Jain, would be opening early Black Friday morning – the way retailers did in the not-too-distant past – and offer spectacular doorbuster bargains. He believes consumers would still show up and still spend money but have a better shopping experience.

“Shoppers will be greeted by happy employees who were able to celebrate the holiday with their loved ones instead of being forced to work,” Jain said. “Happier sales people are more helpful sales people, which leads to higher sales and a more positive evaluation of the store by consumers.”

Make being closed a virtue

Instead of pressuring their tenants to open on Thanksgiving, Jain says shopping malls should make a virtue of preserving the holiday. He recommends making it part of a marketing campaign, advertising the fact stores will be closed so employees can spend time with their families.

“This is an opportunity for retailers to say what they stand for and that they respect workers, their families and this uniquely American tradition,” Jain said.

Walmart pioneered the open-on-Thanksgiving approach but Sears, Best Buy, Macy's, Target, J.C. Penney and others have joined the party in the last few years. This year Kmart is opening at 6:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and plans to remain open for 41 consecutive hours.

Empathy for employees

As the Times points out, customers will show up on Thanksgiving if a store is open. That, after all, is why stores are doing it.

The issue is the people who work at the stores. They are the ones who have to work on a holiday when everyone else is eating turkey, watching football, and now, shopping.

As Jain points out, these employees usually have families – who are also consumers – and they would like to have everyone around the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Jain says stores that allow that to happen just might benefit in the long run.

In the last couple of years major retailers have begun opening their doors on Thanksgiving in an effort to get a jump on Black Friday sales. It's worked we...

Pressure building on retailers as Black Friday looms

Walmart gets burned on its price match policy

Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, is coming up next week. But observant consumers have already seen plenty of deals from major retailers, who are outdoing one another in rolling out early bargains.

This week Walmartannounced it is lowering prices of the season's hottest gifts to beat the Black Friday offers its competitors have revealed so far. The announcement coiincides with Walmart's Pre-Black Friday Event that starts today, a week ahead of the big day.

“The retail environment is incredibly competitive and we know that our customers are looking to us for the lowest prices and great deals all season long,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. “That’s why we’ve more than doubled the amount of items included in our Pre-Black Friday Event.

Motivation

Retailers like Walmart are pushing up holiday sales promotions for two main reasons. Just like last year, Black Friday falls very late in November, reducing the number of shopping days before Christmas.

But beyond the calendar concerns, retailers are trying to get as many consumer dollars as possible and win over consumers before Black Friday itself. For its part, Walmart said it will match competitors' Black Friday prices on these items:

  • 40-inch LED HDTV
  • 60-inch TVs from LG and Sony
  • A PlayStation 4 offer
  • Canon Wireless Printer
  • Keurig K-40
  • KitchenAid Stand Mixer
  • Select Lego sets

On sale now

As part of its pre-Black Friday event, Walmart said it will sell a Samsung 58-inch Class Smart LED HDTV for $698; an iPad Air 2 16 GB WiFi for $489 and throw in a $100 Walmart gift card; an iPhone 6 for $179 with a 2-year service plan on Sprint, AT&T or Verizon; and a Black & Decker 18v 2-Battery NiCad Drill for $69.88 and among other things.

Walmart this week had to confront the downside of a price match offer when it discovered people were making up fake ads for Playstation game consoles at ridiculously low prices. It's amended its policy to exclude matching ads from Amazon.com.

CNBC.com reported that Amazon members with a registered selling account can create a product sale listing. Pulling off the the fraud only required a screen capture of the listing that could be printed out and used to request a Walmart price match.

Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, is coming up next week. But observant consumers have already seen plenty of deals from ...

Spirit of Black Friday extending well into December

Survey shows consumers are still in search of bargains, and finding them

Maybe one reason Black Friday sales were a bit disappointing to retailers is consumers appear to be in no rush to wrap up their holiday shopping. American Express predicts the vast majority of shoppers plan to be in stores right up until Christmas, and even the day after.

With sales starting in early November savvy consumers are betting the deals will only get better as the big day draws closer. American Express says it's a definite shift from previous years.

“This year’s holiday shopping season does not seem to have a clear-cut beginning, middle or end,” said David Rabkin, Senior Vice President of Consumer Lending Products at American Express. “Americans are spending steadily over a longer period of time, willing to hold out for better deals, even planning to hit the stores even after Christmas to get the gifts they want at the right price.”

More last-minute shoppers

In American Express' survey, 79% of consumers said they plan to do last minute shopping, up from 75% last year. Average projected spending on the day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day in the UK, is $192, up from $188 in 2013.

Regifting is also becoming more common. About 75% now say giving an unwanted gift to someone else is socially acceptable, with kitchenware the most likely gift to be repurposed. So if you give someone on your list a set of steak knives, it's likely to end up as someone else's birthday present.

Electronics are the least likely items to be regifted. After all, who doesn't like a new gadget?

Returns

While re-gifting is getting more popular, plenty of people will be lining up at customer service to return or exchange a gift. Among shoppers who plan to return and/or exchange gifts the day after Christmas, 95% say they plan to spend the same or more at the store that day.

And returning a gift is not nearly the social faux pas it once was. Nearly half of consumers say they have no qualms about telling the person who gave them the gift that they returned it.

Despite lower gasoline prices and an improving economy, this holiday season is not shaping up as one of over-indulgence. In fact, more shoppers – 70% – insist they are sticking to their budgets this year.

Higher holiday costs

Tempering the urge to splurge are some unexpected higher holiday season costs. Shipping costs are up this year, as are holiday decorations and wrapping paper. And even though oil prices have plunged, holiday air travel hasn't gotten any cheaper.

While consumers have done a good job of trimming their gift lists this year, more consumers have shopped for an additional person – themselves. American Express projects 74% of consumers will have bought themselves a gift this year, up from 53% last year. Not surprisingly, more than half those purchases will be impulse buys.

Feeding the trend

Retailers are feeding the trend for ongoing bargain hunting by continuing promotions that typically end with Cyber Monday. Walmart.com this week launched Cyber Monday 2.0, offering deals on electronics, toys and games, appliances and jewelry. There's free shipping on orders over $50.

Other retailers are slashing prices with more than a week to go before Christmas. According to BlackFriday.com, Amazon.com this week marked down the popular video game Assassin's Creed for Playstation 4 from $59.99 to $29.99.

Maybe one reason Black Friday sales were a bit disappointing to retailers is consumers appear to be in no rush to wrap up their holiday shopping. American ...

Holiday shopping site predicts 2015 deals

BestBlackFriday.com sees deep discounts on TVs and laptops

What's ahead for the holiday shopping season? BestBlackFriday.com, a website property of Jones-Dengler Marketing, is predicting Black Friday will be less of a one-day, in-store event as shopping spreads to surrounding days and online shopping sites.

For consumers making an early shopping list, the company has compiled data to predict where the bargains will be this year in a wide variety of categories.

“In order to come up with our figures, we went through over 150 ads from last year and thousands of products,” Phillip Dengler, principal at Jones-Dengler Marketing, told ConsumerAffairs.

Shoppers looking for an HDTV should be able to find a 32-inch model for just $70 this year, and a 50-inch model for as little as $175. BestBlackFriday.com predicts the iPad Air 2 will go for $375, a $125 discount. The new iPad Mini 4 is expected to be offered as low as $325.

The Amazon Fire HD 6 will approach stocking-stuffer prices at around $60. The Samsung Galaxy Tabs should start at $90, with an average price of $250.

Ridiculous prices on laptops

Staying with an electronics theme, BestBlackFriday.com predicts ridiculously low prices on laptops. You might be able to pick up a PC under $100, with an average price of $300.

Name brands will be pricier but still attractive. Look for the MacBook Air starting at $769 and the MacBook Pro line starting at $849.

“The Apple Store will once again offer no direct discounts,” Dengler said. “They will, however, bundle gift cards worth $25 to $100 when paying full price.”

Meanwhile, he says sales on Apple items including the watch, iPads, Macs, Apple TV, iPhones, and other devices will be readily available at most stores.

Even though mobile carriers are phasing out subsidies for two-year contracts, Dengler says some people will still be eligible. They could find the new iPhone 6s for $99 with a two-year contract.

Where to find the deals

Where will consumers find the most aggressive deals? The company predicts JCPenney will once again have the highest average discount for their sale at around 60%. Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon will once again be toward the bottom, with average store discounts of around 30%.

The overall average discount on Black Friday for every store will be around 39.55%, the company predicts. For many, the deals may prove hard to resist.

The website predicts total Black Friday sales of $8.8 billion, declining 3.29% from 2014. But it expects Thanksgiving sales to more than make up for the decline, rising 18.8%.

Meanwhile, more of those shoppers will be purchasing online instead of going to the store. Combined online sales Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday are predicted to surge by 33%.

After that, however, the deals could get even better. Dengler's advice? Do the bulk of your shopping in December.

What's ahead for the holiday shopping season? BestBlackFriday.com, a website property of Jones-Dengler Marketing, is predicting Black Friday will be less o...

Five things shoppers should know before Black Friday

It may not be necessary to fight the crowds at the mall

This week is a make-or-break time for the nation's retailers. All are hoping to draw consumers to their Black Friday deals, at a time when consumers appear to be in the diver's seat, with an increasing array of options.

The deals started weeks ago, both in stores and online, though retailers will likely save their best doorbusters for the big day itself.

The National Retail Federation's (NRF) Thanksgiving Weekend Survey estimates as many as 135.8 million consumers may shop on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and/or Sunday. That's in line with last year's results.

“The importance of Thanksgiving weekend to both retailers and consumers will never change,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “However, retailers have already given consumers several good reasons to start their holiday shopping earlier.

Before getting out your credit card, here are five things weekend shoppers should know.

The deals will be staggered

Shoppers looking for the best bargains this week will need to stay alert all the way to Cyber Monday. The NRF says it expects retailers will offer exclusive savings each day of the promotional weekend.

In years past, Black Friday was largely confined to one day, and at big box retailers it was over very quickly. That produced a lot of complaints from consumers who lined up in the middle of the night, only to find the item that drew them to the store was sold out in the first few minutes.

Retailers responded by staggering their promotions, giving more consumers a chance. And as important as Black Friday weekend is to retailers, that's not the only weekend in which you'll find bargains.

“It’s important to remember, there will be several important weekends to keep an eye on before we wrap up the holiday season,” Shay said.

Not everything is marked down on Black Friday

There's no question that many items will be marked down to bargain levels on Black Friday, but remember that not everything will be. In fact, a study conducted in 2012 found that some non-sale items were downright expensive on Black Friday.

The study, by Shop Advisor, tracked the prices of 252 toys from the first day of Autumn and found that in the 54 days from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, the day with the lowest percentage -- 46 percent -- of products on sale below their initial holiday season price was Black Friday.

As a matter of fact, Black Friday turned out to be the day on which shoppers begin to see prices spike on select items. On Black Friday itself, 24% of the toys on Shop Advisor's list were priced above their initial holiday season price. The company's survey last year pretty much confirmed that trend remains intact.

More doorbusters are available online

Each year more consumers do more of their holiday shopping online, and retailers have taken notice. As a result, it might not be necessary to get up at dawn or brave the mob at the mall to get a bargain.

This year Amazon.com has been particularly aggressive rolling out its Black Friday deals. It's rolling out new Black Friday deals each day throughout the week.

Brick and mortar retailers are also making some of their best bargains available on their websites. Sam's Club has most of its top doorbuster electronics available online with free shipping, including the PS4 Uncharted Bundle, Xbox Gears of War Bundle, a Vizio 58-inch HDTV, the iPad Air 2, and many other popular items.

Dell has all of its deals online, and the prices are the same as, if not better, than stores that are selling their products in traditional brick and mortar locations.

Free shipping is really important

Buying online is extremely convenient, but if you have to pay for shipping, that can erode any savings you might have realized. So when shopping at an online retailer, check out the shipping charge policy.

An increasing number of retailers now provide free shipping, at least during the holiday period. But make sure you read the fine print. It's likely there is a minimum purchase amount required in order to get that perk.

For the best savings, find online stores with no minimum purchase requirement and, as a bonus, will pay for shipping on any returns.

Patience pays off

If none of this weekend's bargains catch your eye, you shouldn't settle. There will be more bargains to come.

With a less-than-robust economy, retailers will be under pressure to move merchandise. By the middle of December, we could see an all-out price war.

Last year, Shop Advisor found the best day to snag a bargain was not Black Friday, but December 18.

This week is a make-or-break time for the nation's retailers. All are hoping to draw consumers to their Black Friday deals, at a time when consumers appear...

Staples bucks trend of opening stores Thanksgiving Day

Instead, the retailer will emphasize online deals

There's been a growing consumer backlash against Black Friday spilling over into Thanksgiving Day, intruding on the traditional holiday celebration.

Perhaps with that in mind, Staples says its stores will be closed on Thanksgiving, even though its website, Staples.com, will be happy to accept orders between the turkey and pumpkin pie.

As it rolled out its Black Friday plans this week, the office and electronics retailer said its strategy spreads across three platforms – in-store, online, and mobile.

Even though its stores will remain closed on Thanksgiving, Staples says it will offer plenty of bargains that day on its website with more being offered through Cyber Monday.

Stores open 6 a.m. on Black Friday

Stores, meanwhile, will open bright and early on Black Friday.

“We want our customers and associates to enjoy Thanksgiving their own way,” said Demos Parneros, president, North American stores and online, Staples. “On Thanksgiving Day, customers can shop from home on Staples.com and then continue their shopping in stores starting at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. Whether our customers like the convenience of shopping online, in our stores or a combination of both, Staples will have amazing products at great prices throughout the holiday season.”

In the last couple of years retailers haven't waited until Thanksgiving weekend to start marking down items. Staples says it will begin offering deals in early November, cutting prices on “a huge assortment” of electronics and business-related products.

Free shipping and price match

“At Staples, our small business customers get more for less every day, including this holiday season,” said Alison Corcoran, senior vice president, North American stores and online marketing, Staples.

Corcoran says Staples Rewards members will get a few extra perks, including free shipping.

“And everyone can buy online and pick up in store for an easy same-day option,” she said.

As many retailers are doing these days, Staples offers a price match guarantee. The company says all that is required is to show a customer service associate the lower price and Staples will match it.

Staples' decision to close stores on Thankgiving while keeping its website taking orders fits nicely into two trends, First, larger shares of holiday shopping move to online each year.

Second, retail experts last year concluded that consumers are increasingly uncomfortable with"Black Friday Creep" intruding into the least-commercialized of American holidays.

There's been a growing consumer backlash against Black Friday spilling over into Thanksgiving Day, intruding on the traditional holiday celebration.Per...

Retailers using free shipping for a competitive edge this holiday season

Best Buy and Target are getting out in front early with their offers

If you sell products online, how do you set yourself apart from your competitors? Last holiday season it was free shipping.

This holiday season, free shipping might be the default mode. A retailer that isn't offering it may risk lowering their sales numbers. A consumer who doesn't demand it may be leaving money on the table.

Over the weekend BestBlackFriday.com reported that Target will repeat last year's offer of free shipping with no minimum purchase.

Returns free also

“While Target has not yet made an official announcement, it appears as though they will indeed offer free shipping and returns from November 1 through December 25 for every single order, regardless of the amount,” BestBlackFriday.com wrote in a post. “This includes standard shipping to 48 states and it may exclude oversized items.”

The website has published a screen shot from Target's leaked toy catalog, advertising the shipping offer.

Best Buy has already disclosed its plan to give customers free shipping with no minimum purchase amount. The move will surely increase competition this holiday season -- a move that was not made last year when customers had to spend at least $35 to get free shipping.

Walmart and Amazon

“This leaves Walmart and Amazon as the only two of the four largest Black Friday stores that have not offered free shipping with no minimum in the last two years,” Best Black Friday notes. “While they did not give into Target offering it last year, they could be pushed to offer it this year.”

Last year, Walmart provided free shipping on all orders $50 or more. Amazon provided free shipping for orders $35 or more, which is equal to what Best Buy offered last year.

But that was then and this is now. Consumers appear to be gaining leverage, holding out for free shipping and – so far – getting it from Target and Best Buy.

Amazon uses free shipping to sell Prime memberships and may be reluctant to go all in. But Phil Dengler, of Jones-Dengler Marketing – operator of BestBlackFriday.com – tells ConsumerAffairs he expects Walmart will be the next retailer to take up the free shipping challenge. The company may even look for a way to up the ante.

If you sell products online, how do you set yourself apart from your competitors? Last holiday season it was free shipping.This holiday season, free sh...

REI to close on Black Friday, will give employees a paid day off

Company tells consumers and employees to take a hike -- literally

As Black Friday has crept into Thanksgiving and encroached on Cyber Monday, there has been something of a consumer backlash.

Some consumers have found the unfettered commercialism a bit unsettling, empathizing with the sleep-deprived retail workforce that seemingly has to be on the clock throughout that weekend. Some retailers have noticed and are responding.

Earlier this month, Staples announced it would remain closed on Thanksgiving so its employees can enjoy the holiday. But REI, the specialty outdoor retailer, has upped the ante in the nice-guy competition.

Take a hike

While other retailers are talking about how early they will open on Black Friday, REI has announced it will be closed on the busiest shopping day of the holiday season. Not only that, the company is giving employees the day off with pay, encouraging them to spend it outdoors.

Crazy, right? Maybe, but crazy like a fox.

“Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside,” said Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI. “We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.”

Passing up the hoards of consumers eager to spend money on the day after Thanksgiving, and instead reveling in the beauty of nature, fits perfectly into REI's corporate vision. That, after all, is what it is selling.

Bonding with customers

At a time when consumers appear to choose products and brands that reflect their personal values, this is a perfect way to bond with the store's core customer.

REI operates 143 U.S. retail locations, a headquarters, and two distribution centers that employ a total of 12,000 people who will get both Thanksgiving and Black Friday off, something unheard of in the retail industry.

Is REI trying to make a point? You bet.

“As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money,” Stritzke said. “We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors. We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles.”

Stritzke said he hopes consumers take a break from shopping and enjoy the great outdoors. To do so would undoubtedly be good for the soul.

And if they need a backpack, it'll be pretty good for REI as well.

As Black Friday has crept into Thanksgiving and encroached on Cyber Monday, there has been something of a consumer backlash.Some consumers have found t...

Amazon launches Black Friday Deals Store

Online retailer predicts low-cost gadgets and wearables will be big this season

Amazon.com has taken additional steps to gear up for the holiday shopping season, launching a Black Friday Deals Store and unveiling its Electronics Holiday Gift Guide.

The company also says consumers can use its Gift Finder tool to help select gifts, based on the recipient's characteristics and interests.

The Black Friday store offers daily Black Friday deals on a wide range of products. The company says the deals will flow before and after Black Friday, with bargains on thousands of items between now and December 22.

Promoting Prime

Not surprisingly, Amazon is using the promotion to pump up its Prime membership.

“We’re giving Prime members early access to more than 30,000 Lightning Deals and for all customers, tens of thousands of great deals in the Black Friday Deals store,” said Steve Shure, Vice President Amazon Consumer Marketing. “With incredible deals, fast delivery options, curated lists like our Electronics Holiday Gift Guide, gift recommendations, customer reviews and more, we’re making it easier than ever for customers to save time and money on their holiday shopping.”

Some of the early Black Friday deals include:

  • 30% off Sony XBR55X900C 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD TV with a Blu-ray Player
  • $170 off the Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens
  • 47% off Jaybird X Sport Bluetooth Headphones
  • 40% off Frye, select shoes, handbags, accessories, and luggage/travel for men and women
  • $10 off select $50 Black & Decker product purchases

Electronics gift guide

The Electronics Holiday Gift Guide has more than 600 popular gift items, organized by category and gift recipient. The guide features camera gear from GoPro and Canon, as well as electronic gadgets and Bluesmart Smart Carry-On Luggage.

Something new this year – Amazon is using 3D imagery of popular gifts in its online displays.

Amazon also says it can predict a few trends for holiday gift-giving. It says consumers are looking for high-tech at low-budget prices. It says the new Amazon Fire tablet fits nicely into that category.

Also in demand this holiday season – wearables from brands like Jawbone, Fitbit, and Garmin, offering style and the ability to monitor personal health.

Online shopping will also be more hands-free, Amazon predicts. It says consumers are using more voice-activated devices to search for and order items on their shopping lists.

Amazon.com has taken additional steps to gear up for the holiday shopping season, launching a Black Friday Deals Store and unveiling its Electronics Holida...

Black Friday sales begin today for Walmart

Users of the company's app can take advantage of several deals

For an event whose name suggests a one-day connection, Black Friday seems to start earlier and last longer every year. Retailers are eager to move product and rake in consumer dollars, and now one company has officially kicked off its Black Friday sales.

Walmart shoppers who use the company’s app can start indulging in sales today on a variety of items, including electronic devices like an Acer laptop and a 65-inch Hitachi 4K Ultra HDTV. The deals will continue all the way through the actual Black Friday event on November 25, and may even last longer into the holiday shopping season.

Starting up its sales early could be viewed by some to be a risky move; recent reports indicate that consumers have become guarded when it comes to Black Friday, with many saying that they’ll be avoiding the hassle by doing more shopping online.

Consumers who do choose to shop in stores say that they’re often disappointed by hyped up deals that fall short of expectations because product inventory runs out so fast. However, Walmart says that won’t be a problem this year. The company says that it is stocking up on 1.5 million TV’s, 2 million tablets and computers, and 3 million video games that will be purchasable online and at stores.

“I don’t expect to see any kind of decline [on] Black Friday. . . traffic continues to grow in the stores while we continue to grow our online business,” said Walmart’s chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies.

For an event whose name suggests a one-day connection, Black Friday seems to start earlier and last longer every year. Retailers are eager to move product...

Target reveals more Black Friday plans

Retailer will open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day

Many retailers have decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, but Target is not one of them.

Target has announced more of its Black Friday plans, which include opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

“Black Friday continues to kick off the holiday shopping season for many guests,” said Tina Tyler, Chief Stores Officer, Target. “This year Target will open our doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving for the millions of families who make Black Friday in-store shopping part of their tradition.”

But like a growing number of retailers, Target seems to realize that consumers increasingly prefer to make their purchases online. The company said it is also making its Black Friday deals available on its website.

10 Days of Deals

“In addition, we’re introducing ‘10 Days of Deals’ to offer a wide variety of compelling deals before, during and after Black Friday,” Tyler said.

Target says it isn't waiting for Black Friday to start introducing deals. The retailer will begin its new “10 Days of Deals” promotion, offering daily discounts on electronics, kitchenware, toys, and more from Nov. 22 through Dec. 1. As part of the “10 Days of Deals,” guests will have access to a BlackFriday presale on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

New this year, guests who spend $75 or more on Friday, Nov. 27, will receive a 20% discount to use toward a future purchase on any day between Dec. 4 and Dec. 13.

Promotional deals include:

  • 55” Westinghouse LED TV, $249.99, Reg. $599.99
  • 43” Element LED TV, Special Purchase $169.99
  • Free $150 Target Gift Card when you buy an iPad Air 2
  • Parrot Bebop Drone, $394.99, Reg. $499.99
  • Xbox One Bundle, $299.99 with Gears of War digital game download ($39.99 Value) and a free $60 Target Gift Card, Reg. $349.99
  • Free $100 Target Gift Card with purchase of any Apple Watch
  • Beats Solo 2 Headphones, $96.99, Reg. $199.99
  • Nikon CoolPix L340 digital camera, $99.99, Reg. $229.99
  • GoPro Hero+LCD, $299.99 and a free $60 Target Gift Card and a free 64GB Lexar MicroSD card ($42.99 value)
  • Fitbit Charge HR, $119.00, Reg. $149.99
  • Dyson V6 Motorhead Cordless Vacuum, $249.99, Reg. $399.99
  • 40% off all apparel and accessories for women, men, kids and baby
  • Buy one, get one 50 percent off select toys, including Star Wars, Hot Wheels, Thomas & Friends
  • 50% off top holiday home décor, including all frames and jar candles

Employee preferences

In announcing its Black Friday weekend plans, Target took pains to disclose that it consults with employees to “understand scheduling preferences” for the holidays and compensates all hourly team members who work on a national holiday, including Thanksgiving, with pay equal to time-and-a-half of their hourly rate.

The company also says all hourly employees who work certain shifts on Thanksgiving and Black Friday will receive additional compensation on top of holiday premium pay.

Many retailers have decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, but Target is not one of them.Target has announced more of its Black Friday plans, wh...

Best Buy, Toys-R-Us announce Black Friday plans

Both retailers will open their doors Thanksgiving Day

Consumers are beginning to get a better idea of the holiday bargains that will be available, as two more major retailers have revealed Black Friday plans.

Both Best Buy and Toys-R-Us say they will open their doors at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

“Each year, we carefully evaluate customer feedback and consumer insights to determine how we can best help those customers eager to get a jumpstart on crossing off items on their gift lists,” said Joe Venezia, Senior Vice President, Store Operations, Toys“R”Us, U.S. “We are excited to welcome shoppers into our stores, providing big savings and expert services as the holiday shopping season officially begins.”

The toy retailer stopped short of announcing specific deals but said it will have in-store “specialists” throughout the holiday shopping season to answer questions and make specific gift suggestions.

Best Buy deals

Best Buy, meanwhile, has released its Black Friday ad on its website, detailing several deals it will offer when its doors open on Thanksgiving evening. The deals include:

  • Up to $125 off iPad Air 2
  • $250 Best Buy gift card with any Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge or S6 edge+ smartphone with installment billing purchase or lease and activation
  • Toshiba 55-inch LED TV for $349.99
  • Insignia 40-inch LED TV for $159.99
  • Insignia 2.1 soundbar for $99.99
  • $150 off  on the new 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display
  • $150 off on the new 12-inch MacBook with 256GB flash storage in Gold, Silver or Space Gray
  • $100 off on Netgear Arlo wire-free HD security cameras, set of four 

The company says nearly 1,000 Best Buy stores in 47 states will open on Thanksgiving, with most remaining open until 1 a.m. They will then reopen at 8 a.m. Black Friday.

Online deals

With more and more sales moving online, both Toys-R-Us and Best Buy are taking steps to beef up their e-commerce offerings, not waiting for the traditional Cyber Monday event.

Best Buy says almost every item in the Black Friday ad will be available at that price online Thanksgiving Day, with additional deals throughout the weekend. Best Buy is also offering free shipping with no minimum order requirement.

Toys-R-Us says shoppers on its website will get real-time gift guidance through live chats. They can also use the company's gift finder tool to search by child's age and interests.

Consumers are beginning to get a better idea of the holiday bargains that will be available, as two more major retailers have revealed Black Friday plans....

Holiday shoppers aren't waiting until Black Friday

Surveys show many consumers have already started on their shopping

Black Friday has always been considered the official launch of the holiday shopping season, but there are signs that it's changing.

The National Retail Federation’s Consumer Holiday Spending Survey shows 56.6% of those celebrating the holidays had already started shopping by early November, up from 54.4% last year and 16% from the 49% who had started by this time in 2008.

That's in line with a survey by BestBlackFriday.com, which found as many as 68% of shoppers predicted they would get started on their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving.

Sea change

“Thanksgiving weekend shopping has evolved tremendously over the past few years and can no longer be seen as the ‘start’ of the holiday season, though there’s no question it’s still important to millions of holiday shoppers and retailers of all shapes and sizes,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “There is a real sea change happening in retail when it comes to the how, when, where, and why of holiday shopping. Consumers today are looking for great prices and value-add promotions earlier than ever before, and retailers have answered these demands in several different ways already this holiday season.”

Phillip Dengler, a principal at BestBlackFriday.com, says retailers have begun to use the term “Black Friday sale” in pretty much every month of the year to describe even the most basic sales.

“While the term is not completely diluted yet, many shoppers feel as though they can get a great deal before Black Friday even begins,” Dengler told ConsumerAffairs. “For that reason, some people are now avoiding the day completely and finishing their shopping early in order to avoid the headaches that some associate with the Black Friday experience.”

Weak numbers

If consumers have already done some of their holiday shopping in October, that may not bode well for retailers this season. The Commerce Department reports October retail sales were up only slightly during the month, much less than expected. If those sales included some holiday shopping, it might say something about how much – or rather, how little – consumers plan to spend this year.

Despite the early spending on gifts, Dengler believes that the deals centered around Black Friday should draw out plenty of shoppers, both in stores and online.

“More doorbusters than ever will be available online this year, so more people will have the opportunity to shop online on Black Friday as opposed to camping out in front of their local Walmart or Best Buy,” he said. “While Thanksgiving is eating into Black Friday's total sales figures, we still consider it a part of Black Friday since many of the sales will overlap.”

Shay agrees, saying he believes many of the season’s best deals are yet to come, meaning there’s still plenty of shopping to be done over Thanksgiving weekend and in December, when shipping promotions begin to ramp up.  

Black Friday has always been considered the official launch of the holiday shopping season, but there are signs that it's changing.The National Retail ...

Amazon.com to start holiday deals this weekend

But consumers should be mindful of shipping costs when shopping online

Amazon.com is another retailer that isn't waiting for Black Friday to start its deals. The company says the deals start Friday, November 20 and will run for a solid eight days.

But Amazon isn't rolling out the deals all at once. It plans to add its specials every five minutes through Black Friday. There will be special deals Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, what Amazon calls Deals of the Day – 10 on Thanksgiving Day and 10 on Black Friday.

“Customers can truly sit back and relax with their family and friends this holiday season knowing that they will be notified as soon as the products they’ve had their eye on are about to go on sale. . . Year after year, more and more customers shop for deals on Amazon from the comfort of their own home, and we continue to make that process even more convenient for them,” said Steve Shure, Vice President, Amazon Consumer Marketing. “And with App Only Deals, customers will have plenty of options when it comes to scoring great deals from Amazon.”

Spending migrates online

It's likely that more holiday shopping will move online this year. According to Adobe's shopping forecast, online holiday sales could surge 11%, hitting $83 billion dollars.

With so many people shopping for deals online, Phil Dengler, principal at BestBlackFriday.com, says it's critical for consumers to be aware of shipping terminology, lest savings be eroded by the cost of getting the purchase delivered.

“Buying a cheaper item online from a store that has a free shipping minimum can literally kill all of the savings because of shipping costs,” Dengler told ConsumerAffairs. “In order to simplify that information, we have put together a guide that will make the life of any online Black Friday shopper considerably easier and less stressful.”

Shipping guide

The guide shows that free shipping for holiday sales is fast becoming the norm, but not all retailers will pick up the tab for a small purchase. However, a growing number will, and consumers should look for “no minimum purchase required,” while being aware of spending minimums some retailers may impose.

According to the guide, Amazon requires a $35 minimum purchase for free shipping for non-Prime members. Target and Best Buy, however, have no minimum purchase requirements this holiday season.

While it doesn't really matter for large electronic orders – since the purchase is likely to be $100 or more – free shipping is a huge factor for small orders, especially when the savings aren't particularly large to begin with. It won't pay to save $5 on a $10 item if you end up spending $6.95 to have it delivered.

Amazon.com is another retailer that isn't waiting for Black Friday to start its deals. The company says the deals start Friday, November 20 and will run fo...

How to get top Black Friday deals without the crowds

Some great deals are online if you know where to look

Each year it seems less necessary to battle the crowds in order to snag a deal on Black Friday. And data suggests consumers are growing a little weary of the annual in-store mayhem.

A survey by Ibotta, a retail cash-back app, found that 65% of consumers believe Black Friday is not as important as it once was. Nearly half said they expect the best deals to appear after Black Friday and others expect to do most of their shopping online.

It's a fact that more and more holiday shopping is done from a PC or smartphone. But will you miss any spectacular deals if you decided to do all of your Black Friday shopping online?

Where the deals are the same

Phil Dengler, principal at BestBlackFriday.com, spends a lot of time comparing and cataloging Black Friday deals. Each year he sees continued movement toward parity between online and brick-and-mortar bargains.

We asked him if there are places where we can get the same in-store deals without leaving the house.

Sam's Club has pretty much all of its top doorbuster electronics available online with free shipping, including the PS4 Uncharted Bundle, Xbox Gears of War Bundle, a Vizio 58-inch HDTV, the iPad Air 2 and many other popular items,” Dengler told ConsumerAffairs.

As you might expect, he says Dell has all of its deals online, and the prices are the same as, if not better, than stores that are selling their products in traditional brick and mortar locations.

“For example, Dell's Xbox One bundle is available online only and is actually the best overall Xbox One deal in our opinion,” Dengler said. “They also have a variety of laptops and HDTVs at comparable prices to most other stores.”

Amazon and eBay – two online only stores – also will compete with in-store deals. Dengler says Amazon has the best overall price for the highly popular 32-inch HDTV. eBay has a great deal on the 16GB iPad Air 2 that is comparable to any in-store offer.

Where you'll have to brave the crowds

Where, then, will you have to brave the crowds to get the best deals? Dengler says Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and Kohl's are still only selling some of their very top items in-stores.

“If you shop only online, you will miss out on those particular deals, but you should be able to make up the difference when it's all said and done,” he said.

And what you might lose in savings, you might gain in sanity. Research from SOASTA finds 73% of U.S. consumers who do any online holiday shopping credit online and mobile shopping with helping to keep their holiday spirit intact and prevent them from feeling jaded and frustrated this holiday season.

SOASTA CEO Tom Lounibos says the stakes couldn't be higher this year for online retailers, who he says need to be ready to deliver “flawless” web and mobile performance on Thanksgiving Day and beyond for the expected crush of shoppers who have decided to skip the mall this year.

Each year it seems less necessary to battle the crowds in order to snag a deal on Black Friday. And data suggests consumers are growing a little weary of t...

At Walmart, Cyber Monday will start Sunday night

Retailer says this will let consumers get their shopping done earlier so they can get a good night's sleep

In the huge hoopla over Black Friday, and which stores will and won't be open on Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday has sort of been overlooked. After all, it almost seems a relic of a bygone era.

In the old days – 10 or 12 years ago – Cyber Monday was a pretty big deal. After Black Friday was in the books, consumers would return to work on Monday and take advantage of the boss's broadband Internet to order gifts online.

Consumers waited until Monday because, by and large, they didn't have access to high-speed Internet at home. Now that just about everyone is on broadband, they aren't waiting until Monday to order things.

8 p.m. start time

Even so, Walmart is calling attention to Cyber Monday by doing to it what it did to Black Friday a few years back – start it early. The retailer says it will make all of its Cyber Monday deals available starting at 8 p.m. ET Sunday.

The company says it's moving up the schedule to provide a simpler and more convenient experience for customers who are searching the Web on Sunday night and often waiting up past midnight to do their shopping. Now, they say, everyone can get a good night's sleep. 

“It can be exhausting for working parents and millenials to stay up past midnight to shop online, only to wake up early the next day to get ready for work,” said Fernando Madeira, President and CEO, Walmart.com. “By starting Cyber Monday hours earlier on Sunday evening and quadrupling the number of Cyber Monday specials, we’re making it easier for customers to get ahead of the busiest online shopping day of the year and save on the best gifts.”

Cyber Monday bargains

Walmart says some of the deals include $500 off an LG 65-inch HDTV and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for $599, a savings of $200. Both items will be available with free shipping.

Other Cyber Monday deals include:

  • Air Hogs Star Wars Remote Control X-34 Landspeeder – $19, plus free shipping to store
  • 14-ft. Trampoline with Enclosure – $189, plus free shipping
  • Porter Cable 3-Tool Combo Kit – $79, plus free shipping
  • Air Hogs Video Drone – $75, plus free shipping
In the huge hoopla over Black Friday, and which stores will and won't be open on Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday has sort of been overlooked. After all, it almo...

Twenty hot Black Friday deals on electronics

Record savings this year on HDTV sets

Electronic gadgets make up a big chunk of the average Christmas shopping list. Whether it's a new smartphone or a big screen TV, consumers seem to like gifts that they plug in.

The editors at Best Black Friday, who have worked with us in the run-up to the holiday season to identify some of the best buys, have submitted their picks for the best deals on electronics.

If an HDTV happens to be on your list, you are likely to find record low prices for select models and sizes, as well as video game bundles.

“While stores such as Walmart have taken steps back in certain areas, their overall sale is strong once again,” the website reports. “After waiting every other retailer out, Amazon finally gave us a preview of their upcoming sale, and while it is vague, a few of their items have made our Top 20 list.”

The list breaks down into these categories:

HDTVs

  • Toshiba 49" 1080p LED HDTV for $149.99 at Best Buy
  • 50" 1080p LED TV for $149.99 at Amazon
  • 32" LED TV for $75 at Amazon
  • TCL Roku 32″ 720p LED Smart HDTV for $125 at Walmart and Amazon
  • TCL Roku 55″ 1080p Smart LED HDTV for $348 at Walmart and Amazon
  • Samsung 60″ 1080p LED Smart HDTV for $697.99 at Target and Best Buy
  • Samsung 40″ 1080p LED Smart HDTV + $90 Kohl’s Cash for $319.99 at Kohl’s
  • Samsung 40" inch HDTV + Xbox One Bundle for $499.98 at Best Buy

Tablets

  • iPad Air 2 (64GB and 128GB) for $150 Off at Sam’s Club
  • iPad Mini 4 64GB and 128GB (Best Buy) and 16GB (Staples) for $100 Off
  • iPad Air 2 16GB for $359.99 at eBay

Video Games

  • Xbox One Gears of War Bundle + Fallout 4 & Extra Controller for $299.99 at Dell
  • Xbox One and PS4 Bundles for $299.99 + $75 Kohl’s Cash at Kohl’s
  • Xbox One Bundle + Samsung 40-inch HDTV for $499.98 at Best Buy

Smartphones

  • iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus – $250 Gift Card for Unsubsidized Purchases and $50 Off for 2-Year Subsidized Plans at Target
  • $250 Savings on any Samsung smartphone ($150 savings + $100 Black Friday Gift Card) at Walmart

Computers

  • 13.3″ MacBook Pro or 21.5″ iMac for $899.99 at Best Buy
  • Toshiba Satellite CL45 14″ Laptop for $119.99 at Office Depot and OfficeMax
  • Bonus Deal! – ASUS 15″ Laptop for $129 at Amazon

Other Electronics

  • Save Up To $100 On Apple Watches at Best Buy
  • Beats Studio Headphones for $169 at Walmart
  • Canon EOS Rebel T5 digital SLR camera 18-55mm lens and 75-300mm lens with a bag for $399.99 at Kohl’s

While buying a non-sale item on Black Friday will cost you, the BestBlackFriday.com editors say missing a Black Friday doorbuster exacts a price as well.

Last year the site followed the prices for hundreds of the top Black Friday electronics for a few months into April to see how much their prices went up. It found the average doorbuster electronic price goes up by $48.43 after Black Friday. HDTVs increase by $63.79, and video game consoles increase by $50.85.

Electronic gadgets make up a big chunk of the average Christmas shopping list. Whether it's a new smartphone or a big screen TV, consumers seem to like gif...

Sharks more deadly than Black Friday, but it's close

And if the guy behind you in the check out line seems a little tipsy, he probably is

Anytime crowds head to stores in record number, anything can happen. Black Friday has its share of mayhem and mishaps.

The website SheBudgets.com has collected a number of interesting facts about the busiest shopping day of the year, and among them – you almost have as much chance of being killed at a Black Friday event as being fatally attacked by a shark.

In the last five years, the site says, Black Friday has been blamed for seven deaths and 98 injuries. Sharks, on the other hand, kill five and injure 100 people a year. While sharks kill more people, those attacks occur over 365 days – Black Friday is just one day.

Origin of the name

How did Black Friday get its name? It has always been accepted fact that the name derives from the fact that most retailers reach the breakeven point by Thanksgiving. After that, everything they make is profit.

Not so, says SheBudgets. The site claims Philadelphia Police came up with the name in the 1950s because of the horrendous traffic caused by all the shoppers flocking to stores.

A lot of celebration goes on around Thanksgiving, and it apparently continues into Black Friday. The shopping site RetailMeNot claims 12% of Black Friday shoppers show up drunk. Come to think of it, that could explain a lot of the mayhem and mishaps.

Quality issues

SheBudgets makes an interesting claim when it says stores tend to roll out low quality items to entice shoppers. That might have been the case in the past but may not be now.

Still, we reported several years ago that consumers who purchased flat screen TVs on Black Friday seemed to have a lot of problems with them.

Finally, Black Friday is not only the busiest day of the year for retailers, it's also the busiest day for plumbers. Most likely it has something to do with the clean-up from the Thanksgiving feast. Too many food scraps down the drain, maybe?

SheBudgets also notes that 79% of Americans will do at least some of their Black Friday weekend shopping online, certainly easier and safer. Still, millions will hit the mall.

So stay sober, and stay safe.

Anytime crowds head to stores in record number, anything can happen. Black Friday has its share of mayhem and mishaps.The website SheBudgets.com has co...

Emphasis already shifting to Cyber Monday

Amazon will join Walmart in offering deals early

Make no mistake, there will be plenty of consumers jamming stores to take advantage of Black Friday deals. But the emphasis has already shifted to Cyber Monday and beyond, as retailers jockey for position to sell gifts between now and Christmas Day.

Amazon.com has extended its holiday promotions with new deals that start on Saturday and run through Monday.

While Black Friday may be bigger for brick-and-mortar stores, an Internet-only retailer like Amazon makes the most of Cyber Monday. Last year, Amazon sold more than 43 million items worldwide, which was a record-breaking 500 items per second.

Some of last year's big sellers were the Samsung 40” Smart LED TV, GoPro HERO4, Disney Frozen Elsa Doll, Anki DRIVE Smart Robot Car Racing Game, LORAC PRO Palette, and Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler.

This year's deals

This year's Cyber Monday deals will include the Amazon Fire for $34.99; the LG Electronics 60” 1080p TV, less than $700; $10 off $50 orders of select Black & Decker and STANLEY tools; up to 45% off on select Wilton bakeware; up to 50% off on select Coleman gear; and 65% off select cashmere for women.

Amazon Prime members get unlimited free two-day shipping on more than 20 million items and unlimited free same-day delivery on more than a million items in 16 metro areas.

But if you aren't a Prime member, you'll need to read shipping details carefully. Amazon offers free shipping on eligible orders of $35 or more.

Early start for Walmart

Meanwhile, Walmart says it's moving up its Cyber Monday schedule to 8 p.m. Sunday night to provide a simpler and more convenient experience for customers. Walmart said it noticed in past years that consumers were searching online for bargains on Sunday evening, then waiting up until midnight to place their orders.

“It can be exhausting for working parents and millenials to stay up past midnight to shop online, only to wake up early the next day to get ready for work,” said Fernando Madeira, President and CEO, Walmart.com. “By starting Cyber Monday hours earlier on Sunday evening and quadrupling the number of Cyber Monday specials, we’re making it easier for customers to get ahead of the busiest online shopping day of the year and save on the best gifts.”

Cyber Monday bargains

Walmart says some of the deals include $500 off an LG 65-inch HDTV and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for $599, a savings of $200. Both items will be available with free shipping.

Other Cyber Monday deals include:

  • Air Hogs Star Wars Remote Control X-34 Landspeeder – $19, plus free shipping to store
  • 14-ft. Trampoline with Enclosure – $189, plus free shipping
  • Porter Cable 3-Tool Combo Kit – $79, plus free shipping
  • Air Hogs Video Drone – $75, plus free shipping
Make no mistake, there will be plenty of consumers jamming stores to take advantage of Black Friday deals. But the emphasis has already shifted to Cyber Mo...

Black Friday shoppers beware: thievery is pretty prominent on this retail "holiday"

Be sure that your items are safe before diving back into the shopping fray, or shop online to avoid the risk

Everyone is being swept up by the Black Friday craze this year; stores like Target and Walmart are boasting of strong sales numbers as we head into the weekend. While the huge discounts and masses of people are hallmarks of this retail “holiday”, thievery is something that it has become infamous for in recent years as well. Consumers should stay vigilant when it comes to keeping themselves and their newly acquired items safe.

In a report from Fortune.com, insurance company Travelers said that thefts are, on average, 2% higher on Black Friday than any other day of the year, and for good reason. Many consumers will be storing bought items in their vehicles and jumping back into the fray to see what other deals they can find; this is optimal for thieves who will be prowling parking lots in search of valuables.

Consumers are not safe when they leave the mall though. When Travelers broke down all claims made on Black Friday, they found that thefts were 28% higher than any other day of the year when they included ones made off-premise (not at the mall or retail store). “On Black Friday, thieves are just much more focused on the opportunity than on a regular basis,” said Patrick Gee, senior vice president at Travelers.

Take away the opportunity to steal

Thieves are not too picky about which items they can get their hands on, but statistics show that there are some trends associated with items stolen. On average, clothing and apparel are 40% more likely to be stolen than other items and toys are three times more likely to be stolen. Despite the huge surge in sales on Black Friday, electronic items are no more likely to be stolen on this day than any other day of the year.

Consumers can take several different steps to make sure that their goods are safe while they shop. If you insist on keeping items in your car while you go back to shop, make sure everything is covered or out of sight when they're in your car; thieves who see an item they want will be much more likely to take it if given the opportunity.

Taking away the opportunity to steal is probably your best bet, though. After checking out, bring your items straight home so that they're safe. You can also remove yourself from the equation altogether by hunting for deals online.

Everyone is being swept up by the Black Friday craze this year; stores like Target and Walmart are boasting of strong sales numbers as we head into the wee...

Consumers disappoint retailers on Black Friday

Two-day sales tally may be less than last year

Despite the hype and doorbuster bargains, consumers were less inclined to jam into malls on Black Friday, according to a preliminary sales tally. They were also less likely to shop online.

ShopperTrak, a consumer analytics firm, estimates consumers spent $12.1 billion on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. If those numbers hold up, it would be less than was spent over those two days last year.

Specifically, Thanksgiving Day accounted for an estimated $1.8 billion in sales, while Black Friday brought in an estimated $10.4 billion.

Early sales take a toll

Is this a sign of an impending recession, or simply a case of early sales? Kevin Kearns, ShopperTrak chief revenue officer, says it's probably the latter, with retailers cannibalizing the big shopping day with early sales.

“This year, we saw Black Friday ads emerge before Halloween, as retailers aimed to get at the shopper’s wallet early,” he said.

Kearns says evidence suggests these early promotions generated sales prior to the Black Friday weekend. Money that was spent on Black Friday last year may have been spent during the previous two weeks this year.

Reinforcing a trend

“Fewer visits on both days reinforce the trend we’ve seen throughout the year, in which shoppers are researching products ahead of time, targeting their store visits, and arriving in-store with the intention of making a purchase,” Kearns said. “The decrease in shopper visits on Thanksgiving Day also lends itself to the social backlash against store openings on the holiday.”

Meanwhile, BestBlackFriday.com projects Cyber Monday spending will be strong, approaching $2.25 billion. But Phil Dengler, a principal at the website, says it too is losing its ability to attract attention.

Declining importance of Cyber Monday

“Honestly, Black Friday and Thanksgiving had so many more doorbusters online this year than ever before, so Cyber Monday is really not necessary anymore,” Dengler told ConsumerAffairs. “Regardless, we will still continue to cover it as long as stores have sales. In the end though, we say retire it.”

Dengler says Best Buy stands out this year as the retailer with the best deals. He cites the company's extensive Cyber Monday ad, praising its diverse selection.

As an example, he cites a $300 Best Buy gift card when you trade in a working smartphone and lease or activate a Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ or a Note 5.  

Despite the hype and doorbuster bargains, consumers were less inclined to jam into malls on Black Friday, according to a preliminary sales tally. They were...

Here's what to expect for Black Friday shopping

There may be a lot more really good deals online this year

Black Friday 2016 is still a little more than two months away, but already there are predictions about what shoppers can expect.

BestBlackFriday.com has posted its predictions after analyzing 150 Black Friday ads from 2015, saying deals on electronics will be among the most appealing. For example, it predicts 50-inch HDTV sets will be available from multiple sources for as low as $175. A 50-inch 4K set, it predicts, could go for as little as $300.

Philip Dengler, a principal at Jones-Denger Marketing, which operates the site, says the biggest change this year may be the fact that more of the best deals will be available online.

“While it has been trending in that direction for the past few years, we saw more online doorbusters than ever last year,” Jones said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “This means many of the first page televisions, laptops, and tablets will be available for online shoppers. Previously, they were only available in-store at very limited quantities.”

Spending rapidly shifting online

Dengler also predicts Black Friday spending is rapidly shifting online and this year, he says the shift should be dramatic. Combined Thanksgiving and Black Friday spending is projected to be around $10.78 billion, down around 10% from last year.

But BestBlackFriday.com projects online sales on Black Friday will be up over 13% from last year and Thanksgiving online sales should rise nearly 20%. Combined, they are expected to account for around half of all sales.

“The Black Friday shopping period is also rapidly extending,” Dengler said. “We expect Amazon to open its Black Friday Store on November 1. Many other retailers will offer pre-Black Friday sales throughout the entire month of November. Actual Thanksgiving doorbusters should begin online on Wednesday night.”

Deals

He says laptops should start at $90, with the average doorbuster laptop price at around $150. The iPhone 7 should be available for $99 with a two-year contract. While two-year contracts are being phased out, Dengler says many people will still be eligible if they have Verizon or Sprint. People that aren't will have to pay unsubsidized prices.

As for individual retailers, Dengler predicts JCPenney and Kohl's will have the highest average discount for their promotions, at around around 65% off. Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon will once again be towards the bottom of the range, with average store discounts of around 30%.

If toys are on your holiday list, Denger suggests waiting until the second week of December for the best prices.

Black Friday 2016 is still a little more than two months away, but already there are predictions about what shoppers can expect.BestBlackFriday.com has...

Retailers already competing for your holiday dollars

That's because millions of consumers are already shopping

If you've been in a retail store in the last week or so, you might have noticed something odd. Retailers have completely skipped over Halloween displays and fast-forwarded to Christmas.

The numbers explain why. A survey conducted for BestBlackFriday.com shows a huge number of consumers have already started their holiday shopping, or plan to start very soon. Waiting until Black Friday to start marketing to consumers, the survey suggests, means being late to the party, or even missing it.

The survey found 17.3% of consumers started shopping soon after Labor Day. Nearly as many, 18.3%, say they plan to get started this month. Another 21.16% say they plan to start buying for the holidays in early November. That means 57.2% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping before Black Friday rolls around.

Only 18.16% plan to start on Black Friday while 25.15% are waiting until December to hit the stores.

Biggest take-away

“The biggest take-away from the survey is that 18.96% of the American public, or over 47 million people, plan to have completely finished their holiday shopping before the month of November even begins,” BestBlackFriday principal Phil Dengler told ConsumerAffairs.

“While many shoppers plan to wait until Black Friday and December for the traditional 'biggest shopping days of the year,' nearly 20% of the population is confident in concluding their shopping by the end of October. Many Americans are still frustrated with the 'Christmas creep,' but it appears as though more may be embracing it as time goes by."

Dengler says while Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday are still extremely important for retailers and shoppers, the majority of Americans are not waiting for them to make their first purchases. Labor Day sales, Columbus Day sales, and Pre-Black Friday sales starting in early November are luring shoppers to begin much earlier than ever before, he notes.

Just over 50% of consumers say they plan to wrap up their shopping by early to mid December while nearly 10% say they have already finished.

Lack confidence in Black Friday deals

One of the more interesting data points is that most shoppers do not believe Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best times to finish their shopping, meaning they want to see if December brings even steeper mark downs. Past experience suggests that it will. And while more consumers than ever are starting earlier than before, when Christmas week arrives about 50 million people will still be shopping.

Another interesting trend is growing concern about retailers' data security. More than half the consumers in the survey said they are not comfortable sharing personal information with the stores where they shop.

If you've been in a retail store in the last week or so, you might have noticed something odd. Retailers have completely skipped over Halloween displays an...

Mall of America acts to preserve the sanctity of Black Friday

Translation: the giant mall will close on Thanksgiving Day for the first time ever

Thanksgiving is perhaps the biggest American holiday. It originated on these shores and remains unique to the U.S. The Mall of America is America's biggest shopping mall and in recent years, the two have co-existed, with shoppers jumping up from the dinner table to start their holiday shopping.

But not this year. The giant Minnesota mall announced today that it will be closed on Thanksgiving Day for the first time ever. The mall's 520 stores can open if they want to but few are expected to do so.

Mall management says it simply wants to give employees a day off and get the holiday shopping emphasis where it belongs -- on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

“We’ve been talking about this for months, looking at the numbers, looking at the pros and the cons,” said Jill Renslow, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We’re excited to give this day back to our employees so they can celebrate with their families.”

"Special magic"

Renslow also hopes the move will "bring that special magic back to Black Friday" and noted that the mall will throw open its doors at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, welcoming shoppers perhaps still somewhat besotted with family, food, and friends.

Critics have warned that Thanksgiving has been in danger of becoming little more than an elaborate luncheon that kicks off Black Friday, as stores great and small began opening for at least part of the traditional holiday in recent years.

For their part, retailers have complained that the extra hours have not generated appreciably more revenue but have simply spread it out over a greater time period while increasing labor, utility, and advertising expense.

That apparently mirrors Renslow's thinking. 

“By closing on Thanksgiving, we’re confident we’ll still get those strong numbers throughout the Black Friday weekend.” she said, according to the Start-Tribune.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the biggest American holiday. It originated on these shores and remains unique to the U.S. The Mall of America is America's biggest...

Retailers firming up holiday shopping plans

Sam's Club and Macy's take opposite Thanksgiving paths

With Black Friday just over a month away, more retailers are revealing their plans, not only for the official shopping season kick-off, but for advance promotions as well.

Sam's Club has announced a series of pre-holiday sales events, along with its Scan & Go app that allows members to use their smartphones to bypass the checkout line.

To get a jump on Black Friday, the retailer is planning special sale prices starting at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 12. It says the same sale prices will be offered online five hours earlier, before the brick-and-mortar stores open.

The company says it will offer savings on electronics and other popular gift categories. Additional promotions are scheduled for the following two Saturdays.

Black Friday plans

Sam's Club says it will kick-off Black Friday online at 12:01 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, but brick-and-mortar stores will be closed. Stores, however, will open Friday, November 25, at 7:00 a.m. Special sale items will be available throughout the weekend, as long as supplies last.

Cyber Week deals start at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, November 27 and continue through Friday, December 2, with new sale items added daily.

Macy's bucks the trend

Macy's, meanwhile, reportedly will open its stores at 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, bucking the trend of more retailers giving their employees the holiday off. Though there has been no official announcement, the shopping site BestBlackFriday.com said it has been able to confirm Macy's plans unofficially.

“In 2015 and 2014, they opened at 6:00 p.m., so this is one hour earlier than last year,” BestBlackFriday's Phil Dengler told ConsumerAffairs. “Whether other major retailers decide to move up their opening time on Thanksgiving remains to be seen, but Macy's is the first one to make their decision.”

Dengler says the growing public backlash may be one reason fewer stores are choosing to open on Thanksgiving, but there is also a more practical reason.

Some rtailers fear the Thanksgiving Day sales detract from Black Friday the following day. Others know they can probably generate significant sales online, since increasingly, that's how consumers prefer to shop.

With Black Friday just over a month away, more retailers are revealing their plans, not only for the official shopping season kick-off, but for advance pro...

Target unveils holiday shopping strategy

Survey shows growing backlash against Thanksgiving Day openings

Retailers are trying to get a leg-up on competitors in the holiday shopping sweepstakes, especially as spending continues to migrate to the internet. Many retail analysts believe Amazon is poised to capture a bigger slice of the pie, which may motivate competitors to offer even more enticing deals.

Target has taken the wraps off its 2016 holiday strategy, saying it plans to offer new and exclusive inventory in every product category, as well as a wide range of bargains.

“Target is at our very best during the holidays, and we’re building on last year’s winning formula to make the 2016 holiday season even better,” said Target CEO and Chairman Brian Cornell.

Cornell said the strategy is built around helping consumers save both time and money, both in stores and online.

“Most importantly, guests will find truly exceptional value through broad and simple offers timed to maximize savings on the most-shopped merchandise at each point in the season,” he said.

Introducing the Wondershop

New this year is Wondershop, sort of shop within a shop that specializes in Christmas decorations. The company has also developed Wonderlist, which it says is a tool to find gifts for family and friends.

For children, Target says it will feature about 1,000 new items from the recently introduced Cat & Jack line, with price tags under $30. There will be more than 1,800 new or exclusive toys, an increase of about 15% over 2015.

Preparing for a burst in virtual reality popularity, Target says it will feature newly released VR products, including PlayStation VR and VR One Plus.

Frowning on Thanksgiving openings

Target is among the major retailers that have not yet announced plans for Thanksgiving Day. While a large number of stores plan to remain closed the day before Black Friday, Target is among the retailers expected to try to get a jump on holiday spending.

Shopping site BestBlackFriday.com is out with a survey of consumers that shows an overwhelming number prefer stores to close Thanksgiving Day and give employees the holiday off. Its survey shows only 8.18% of consumers “strongly favor” a store being open Thanksgiving Day, while 37.72% “strongly dislike” the idea.

“The vast majority of the population does not view the practice of stores dragging their employees and shoppers out of their homes on Turkey Day in a positive light,” the authors write.

Even so, the site suggests plenty of consumers will shop on Thanksgiving, most likely ordering things online rather than going to stores.

Retailers are trying to get a leg-up on competitors in the holiday shopping sweepstakes, especially as spending continues to migrate to the internet. Many...

Retailers already rolling out holiday shopping deals

Amazon opens a Black Friday Store with daily deals

As they did last year, retailers are getting an early start on Black Friday deals, rolling them out early to snag consumers' dollars before some other store does.

Amazon has opened up what it calls its Black Friday Store, with sale items every day in advance of the official start to the holiday shopping season. In fact, Amazon is promising to put up new deals periodically every day until December 22.

At the same time, the online retail giant has launched several curated Holiday Gift Guides. The company predicts OLED, HDR, and 4K TVs will be big draws in electronics, along with Alexa-enabled home security cameras, VR/360-degree cameras, instant film cameras, and drone photography.

Other predicted hot items include Twitch streaming and in-home music studio equipment, along with VR and AR gaming products.

Shopping with Alexa

"This holiday season, we're offering more deals than ever before and - for the first time ever - giving Prime members an opportunity to use Alexa voice shopping for purchasing their holiday gifts hands-free,” said Doug Herrington, Senior Vice President of North American Retail at Amazon. “They can make purchases simply by asking Alexa-enabled devices, like the new Echo Dot, while relaxing at home with family and friends."

Walmart is also getting an early start, offering up daily holiday gift deals on its website. There are featured deals each day from a number of different departments, including electronics, apparel, toys, and appliances.

Sam's Club, meanwhile, has introduced its “Instant Savings Book,” promising instant deals across all departments. The company says all the potential savings add up to $5,000.

Of course, Black Friday itself is coming up fast. BestBlackFriday.com has published what it says are leaked Black Friday ad slicks from Sam's Club, Dell, Walmart, and Toys R Us. Deals include a Dell laptop for $99.99.

As they did last year, retailers are getting an early start on Black Friday deals, rolling them out early to snag consumers' dollars before some other stor...

Are consumers suffering from Black Friday burnout?

Survey finds more consumers 'hate' it than 'love' it.

We've heard for years that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and that consumers eagerly look forward to participating. But really? Do people really enjoy standing in line outside a Walmart at 4:00 a.m.?

Our friends at BestBlackFriday.com have stumbled across the painful truth. A survey conducted for the site by SurveyMonkey found a sizable number of consumers actually claim to hate Black Friday.

According to the results, fewer than 15% of those questioned actually “love” the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season. A little over 35% profess to hate it. About half of those in the survey describe Black Friday as “just okay.”

A young person's game

Other takeaways from the survey – younger shoppers tend to “love” Black Friday more than older people. There is a huge drop in affection after Americans turn 30. Consumers who say they hate Thanksgiving openings also hate Black Friday.

Is it possible consumers are just burned out on Black Friday hype? Phil Dengle, a principal at BestBlackFriday, says that's a logical explanation. Also, he says consumers no longer have to get up early and fight the crowds in order to get a good buy.

“The numerous pre-Black Friday and early November sales are absolutely turning shoppers off to the actual day of Black Friday.,” Dengler said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.

As of November 7, Dengler notes that Amazon had already opened its "Black Friday Store," and retailers like Walmart have been showcasing Early Bird Online Specials.

“Actual Black Friday doorbusters will start on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year, so everything is much more spread out,” he said. “Overall, prices are still going to be better on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, but it is still more than possible to find great deals in the weeks leading up.”

More online shopping

And the week after too. Research has shown year after year that overall, the best deals aren't found on Black Friday but in early December. And more and more sales are being conducted online. The significant drop in the number of major retailers open this Thanksgiving probably has less to do with perceived public backlash than with the fact shoppers can still buy things from the comfort of their living rooms between dinner and football.

Plus, Dengler says there are now so many deals, before and after Black Friday, consumers are not obsessed with getting the absolute lowest price.

“Many shoppers just do not want to go through with the hassle and stress of shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, so they are sacrificing a few dollars to get it on their own terms,” he said.

Finally, the survey suggests this Black Friday might find the stores not so crowded. Forty percent said they didn't plan to shop at all the day after Thanksgiving and 28% said they would limit their shopping to online.

We've heard for years that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and that consumers eagerly look forward to participating. But really? Do pe...

Here's a sneak peek at Black Friday ad slicks

Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Kmart have all tipped their hands

For consumers planning to get up early and hit the stores on Black Friday, here's a way to plan your morning. A shopping website, BestBlackFriday.com has published leaked Black Friday ad slicks from five major retailers, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Kmart.

Best Buy

According to the ad for Best Buy, the electronics retailer will open at 5:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and offer a Samsung 55-inch 2160p 4K HD smart TV for $479.99, marked down by $320. A Toshiba 49-inch 2160p set will go for $199.99.

The Dell Inspiron 15.6-inch touchscreen laptop will have a sale price of $349.99, $150 lower than its regular price. The seven-inch, 8GB Kindle Fire has a sale price of $33.33. You can save $125 on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Walmart

Walmart will open at 6:00 p.m. Thursday. The Walmart ad shows the iPhone 5 on Straight Talk Wireless selling for $99. A Philips 55-inch 4K LED TV has been marked down to $298.

For gamers, the Playstation 4 Slim 500GB bundle is $249, and includes a $30 gift card. The Samsung 4K Blue-ray disc player is $39.

Target

The ad for Target's Black Friday Preview Sale, starting Thanksgiving Day, promotes a Fitbit Charge HR for $89.95, marked down from $129.95.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Target is offering the Jetson V6 hoverboard with Bluetooth speakers for $284.99. In the toy department, the Badgor Basket wooden doll house, with 15-piece furniture set, goes for $69.

Sears

Sears will open at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Its ad touts a Kenmore washer-dryer combo for $279.99 each and a 25.6 cubic inch, two-door stainless steel refrigerator for $999.

The Craftsman 41-inch, 12-drawer ball bearing tool chest is marked down to $349.98. A Serta Posturepedic queen sized mattress and box spring set has been marked down to $349.

Kmart

Kmart will open at 7:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving and its ad shows a Bell & Howell dashcam with 8 GB micro SD card for $15. It's 10-inch Frozen or Spiderman bike, regularly $49.99, has been marked down to $19.

For consumers planning to get up early and hit the stores on Black Friday, here's a way to plan your morning. A shopping website, BestBlackFriday.com has p...

Some Black Friday deals may look familiar

If you think you've seen these doorbusters before, maybe you have

With Black Friday just days away, shoppers may get a sense of deja vu as they scan the ad slicks for bargains. They may see some of the same deals they saw last year.

Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com analyzed every advertised deal from 25 stores, checking this year's ad against last year's. It found lots of re-runs.

“It is no big deal when stores are repeating a general 50% off all clothing deal, but it is concerning when stores are offering last year's electronics for more money,” said Best Black Friday principal Phil Dengler.

The analysis shows nearly all – 24 out of 25 stores – are repeating at least one deal from last year. Best Black Friday found three repeated deals at 22 stores and five repeated deals at 20 stores. More than half the stores had at least one repeated sales item they were charging more for this year.

Dengler says re-running a Black Friday deal from last year is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's something consumers should know about.

Imports are up

Meanwhile, retailers appear to be restocking their holiday shelves this year with more imported items. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports imports at the nation’s major retail container ports should rise 4.4% this month, with a slightly bigger increase expected next month.

“Most of the holiday merchandise is already here, but retailers are still restocking to be sure shoppers will have a broad and deep selection as they hit the stores over the next several weeks,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.

Economists often watch retail imports for clues about the direction of the economy. Gold says the rise in end of the year imports suggests retailers expect to sell more this year than last year.

Private label credit cards

Consumers may be paying for their holiday purchases with more private label credit cards. A report from TransUnion shows the number of these accounts usually surges during December.

Consumers are getting increased access to retail cards during the holidays, mainly because stores offer discounts and other incentives for opening account while making a purchase. As we recently reported, consumers should use caution and carefully weigh any benefits before accepting these offers.

With Black Friday just days away, shoppers may get a sense of deja vu as they scan the ad slicks for bargains. They may see some of the same deals they saw...

Amazon says its offering '35 days of deals'

Releases free app to help keep track of them

Increasingly, consumers are able to find attractive deals on holiday gift items without fighting the crowds on Black Friday

Then again, the way things are going, the stores might not be all that crowded on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

Amazon says it isn't waiting any longer. Starting Friday, and for the next 35 days, it says it will offer “Black Friday prices” as often as every five minutes, with deals heating up on Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Amazon is even launching a special app that can be downloaded for free to track the deals.

And customers with an iPhone can use something called Package X-Ray to see what is inside a box without opening it.

“Customers want to shop anywhere, any time, and any way, especially during the five super popular days for online shopping running from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday,” said Steve Shure, Vice President, Amazon.

Some of the deals

Among the daily deals, Amazon says it will mark down select Disney toys and apparel by 60%; Barbi, Hot Wheels, and Fisher-Price toys will be half off.

In Electronics, it will offer a Samsung 32 inch 720p HDTV for $69.99; Sennheiser HD 598 Cs Closed Back Headphones for $99.95; and a 60-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $599.

Among Amazon's own devices, the Amazon Echo will sell for a $40 discount; the Kindle For Kids bundle will go for $69.99; and the Amazon Fire TV will be on sale for $74.99.

In an email to ConsumerAffairs, a spokeswoman for Amazon says the company has observed that customers are shopping on mobile devices at record-levels. She says mobile use should easily exceed last season's 70% rate.

Meanwhile, a new report from Vivint Smart Home, which surveyed 2,000 consumers, found there is widespread concern about “porch pirates” swiping package deliveries, but most consumers have been slow to take action to improve security.

Millennials expressed the most concern and appear to be the most vigilant generation when it comes to package theft. The report found nearly 40% of Millennials have had success in recovering stolen packages.

Increasingly, consumers are able to find attractive deals on holiday gift items without fighting the crowds on Black FridayThen again, the way things a...

This year, Amazon introduces 'voice shopping'

With Black Friday a week away, Amazon looks for a new wrinkle

With Black Friday just a week away, retailers are beginning to add to the build-up. After rolling out a number of pre-Black Friday deals, Amazon is introducing bargains that are only available if you order on it's voice interactive technology, Alexa.

Today through Monday, consumers who ask “Alexa, what are your deals?” will get access to an exclusive set of discounts on popular gift items. Consumers may order with voice commands on Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire HD tablet, or Amazon Fire TV.

“This is the first holiday that Prime members will be able to use their voice to shop and we’re excited to offer exclusive deals they won’t find anywhere else,” said Assaf Ronen, Amazon's vice-president for Voice Shopping. “Voice shopping with Alexa takes the hassle out of the holidays, giving customers the ability to order from millions of items simply by saying the word.”

New deals each day

Ronen says the voice-only deals will be updated each day during the promotion.

Amazon says the Alexa-only deals will include $80 off a 32-inch Samsung 1080p LED TV; $30 off on a Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App controlled robot; $80 off on Beyerdynamic Limited Edition headphones; and $130 off on a 10-piece All-Clad stainless steel cookware set.

Similar to Apple's Siri, Alexa is the voice service that powers Echo, providing capabilities that allow users to interact with devices in a more intuitive way using voice commands.

While consumers no doubt will take part in Black Friday sales in great numbers this year, the numbers may continue to diminish as more sales move online and retailers spread their bargains over a wider timeframe.

Black Friday shopping tips

Whenever consumers do their shopping, Ash Exantus, Financial Empowerment Coach at BankMobile, suggests shoppers make a list and holiday budget to avoid overspending. He also suggests leaving your plastic at home and using cash instead. He says that will ensure you stick to your budget and avoid getting caught up in Black Friday's emotional appeal.

“Shopping, especially on Black Friday, is psychological warfare,” Exantus said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “You are literally in a battle between you and your pockets vs. retailers and marketers.”

It's called Black Friday for a reason, Exantus says. It's the day when retailers get into the black for the year, often at consumers' expense.

With Black Friday just a week away, retailers are beginning to add to the build-up. After rolling out a number of pre-Black Friday deals, Amazon is introdu...

Countdown to Black Friday is underway

Here are some last minute tips for finding bargains

Coming up at the end of the week is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season. But chances are consumers have already done some of their shopping. And even for those who plan to shop the day after Thanksgiving, there's less and less need to get up early and wait for a store to open.

Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer (CMO) at Eyeview, calls Black Friday “buy nothing day,” saying doorbuster deals are no longer grabbing consumers' attention. He suggests consumers should stay home Friday morning.

Phil Dengler, principal at shopping site BestBlackFriday.com, agrees that there are plenty of deals available right now, saying consumers need to stay alert. He notes that Amazon, Kohl's, Toys R Us, and other retailers have already started their online sales, so the deals are available right now.

But Dengler says consumers will have to wait until Wednesday night or Thanksgiving to find the biggest bargains.

“One thing we highly recommend is for everyone to download the apps for their favorite store,” Dengler told ConsumerAffairs. “While this was important last year, its value is growing even more for 2016. In addition to early access for some stores, the apps are a great way to get alerted when deals go live. Since online doorbusters are so competitive, time is of the essence for every online Black Friday deal. We recommend the apps from Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, and Target.”

For shoppers going the brick-and-mortar route, Dengler says Thanksgiving will be the biggest day for deals. He says Walmart and other retailers will hand out wristbands for some of their top doorbusters, which will encourage consumers to arrive at stores before the doors open. Here's the site's pick for the top 25 Black Friday deals.

Not everything's cheap on Black Friday

It's long been known that, while there are some pretty good deals on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is not the best day to shop for everything. For example, if the item isn't included in the advertised specials, it's probably selling at its regular retail price on Black Friday.

The Washington Post reports an analysis of price data shows the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is the best time to shop for clothes and the best deals on electronics will be found on Thanksgiving, either at stores that are open or online. Shopping for toys? You might be better off waiting until Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday, after all, is threatening to eclipse Black Friday as a shopping day. In the days of dial-up internet service, many consumers would wait until they returned to work on Monday to make purchases, using their employers' broadband connections. As more holiday spending has moved online, retailers have used Cyber Monday as a time to roll out some of their best promotions.

Not deterred by cyber threats

Even people who have had a bad experience with cyber thieves will not be deterred from shopping online, according to a survey by TransUnion. The survey found 76% of shoppers who were victims of a holiday season hack might be fearful of the risks, but 94% said they still plan to shop for Cyber Monday deals.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) projects more than 137 million consumers will shop in one way or the other during the long Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday weekend. No doubt more sales will come online this year than last, driven largely by young people.

“For many millennials, every Thanksgiving weekend they can remember has involved hopping online to find the best deals,” said Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “For this group, it’s more than just a weekend of good deals, it’s a holiday tradition.”

Coming up at the end of the week is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season. But chances are consumers have already done some of their sho...

What you should and shouldn't buy on Black Friday

Not everything is cheaper on the big day

The big day is almost here. Friday is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season.

But it's almost anti-climactic since retailers have been rolling out Black Friday bargains since Halloween. Still, millions of consumers will crowd stores and go online over the long holiday weekend because there will, in fact, be some pretty spectacular deals.

But be warned. Not everything you can buy on Black Friday is going to be the best price. Personal finance site WalletHub has studied retail prices and found that 78% of items will have a lower price on Black Friday. But 17.3% will actually be more expensive on that day.

If you know what categories are likely to have the most deals you will be less likely to make a costly error. According to WalletHub, you'll do best shopping for video games, appliances, furniture, and computers on Black Friday. You are less likely to save if you buy jewelry, clothing, and consumer electronics.

Retailers with the best deals

When it comes to retailers, Ace Hardware, Big Lots, BJ's, Harbor Freight, and True Value have the largest percentage of low prices, when compared to the same item priced on Amazon prior to Black Friday.

William Joyce, a marketing professor at the Stern School of Business, told WalletHub that consumers should be sure to read the fine print on Black Friday deals, to make sure they understand what they're buying.

Among the best Black Friday deals it's seen so far, WalletHub suggests these may be worth checking out:

  • Samsung refrigerator, 24.5 cubic feet, $899, marked down from $1,347, at AAFES
  • Denon Soundbar with wireless subwoofer; $350, marked down from $557, at Best Buy
  • 15 foot arena trampoline, with basketball hoop, football game, basketball, and football; $250, marked down from $500, at BJ's
  • Kirkland Signature 42-inch mobile 16 drawer tool chest; $499, marked down from $900, at Costco.

A survey by Deloitte shows 79% of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, but an increasing number plan to do their shopping online. In fact, shoppers this year said they plan to spend 51% of the holiday budget online.

Consumers estimate they will spend $400 during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, up from $369 last year.

The big day is almost here. Friday is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season.But it's almost anti-climactic since retailers have been...

Why this Black Friday will be different from all others

There are a lot more deals and more time to buy them

The year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.

At a Walmart store on Long Island, a huge, restive crowd had gathered outside in the chilly, early morning hours waiting for the doors to open. As an employee began to unlock the doors, the New York Daily News reported that the crowd wouldn't wait any longer, took the doors off their hinges, and trampled the 34-year old man to death while injuring four shoppers, including a pregnant woman.

The incident caused a lot of people to step back and reassess the absurd craziness that characterized the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season. While there will undoubtedly be isolated, and widely reported, cases of consumer incivility toward one another in pursuit of a bargain on Friday, hopefully there will be no fatalities.

Money and bargains were scarce

After all, there is no need for that. In 2008, not only was money scarce, so were the bargains. Retailers promoted doorbuster deals to draw a crowd but only had a limited number of items at that price. So if you showed up at 4:00 a.m. to get the latest video game console for $99, the people who got in line at 3:00 a.m. got the five units that were available at that price.

In recent years, retailers stocked a lot more of their Black Friday bargains and they began spreading out the times at which they were available. Stores started opening on Thanksgiving, though this year a large number have reversed that policy.

Stores have also made more of their Black Friday deals available online. Instead of spending time driving to the mall and going from store to store, shoppers can look for deals online from the comfort of their homes.

The deals have already started

It's no longer necessary to wait until Black Friday to find bargains, either online or in stores. In fact, Amazon is currently offering numerous sale prices during its Black Friday Deals Week. Walmart has also gotten started with its Pre-Black Friday Deals promotion.

Consumers also have a lot more information about deals than ever before. Retailers have leaked their Black Friday newspaper ads well in advance, which have been collected online at sites like BestBlackFriday.com, making it easier for consumers to find what they want, and at the price they are willing to pay, well ahead of time.

After Black Friday, consumers know they will still be able to find plenty of deals. There's Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, both with non-stop deals.

So in a way, Black Friday is becoming just another busy holiday shopping day. Consumers jamming the aisles are not quite as desperate to latch onto that doorbuster bargain because they know they can probably find it somewhere else.

And that's probably a good thing. Safer, at least.

The year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.At a Walmart store...

Consumers appear to give Black Friday a strong start

Stores are crowded and online sales surge

It appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, they took advantage of the stores that opened on Thanksgiving. Millions more shopped online.

Macy's said there were more than 16,000 shoppers lined up outside its New York flagship store in Harold Square as the doors opened Thanksgiving night. It reports that early sales receipts suggest a lot of people will be finding sweaters and other clothing under the tree this year.

Target also reports a strong start to the big shopping weekend. Not only were stores jammed with shoppers last night, the company says Target.com had it's biggest single sales day ever.

“Shopping at Target has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition for millions of our guests, and we’re thrilled at the response we’ve seen this year,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell. “Based on early results, it’s clear that our deals are cutting through. We expect this momentum to continue throughout the weekend and into next week.”

Target says TV sets were among the most popular items, with consumers buying more than 3,200 sets every minute during the first hour that stores were open. Early indications also point to strong sales of Apple products, including the Apple Watch Series 1.

Hoverboards sold out in minutes

Among toys, Target says LEGO, NERF, and Our Generation were popular items. The Jetson V6 Hoverboard sold out within minutes, the company said.

Amazon, meanwhile, has already jumped ahead to Cyber Monday. The company has unveiled 75,000 deals it plans to offer next week.

The deals include the Amazon Echo for $139.99, a 50 inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $249.99, and 30% off on select clothing, shoes, jewelry, and watches for women, men, kids, and infants.

Last Cyber Monday, Amazon says customers ordered more than 54 million items worldwide, which set a record. It says based on early sales data, it expects that record to be shattered next week.

Did the large number of retailers who took a stand against opening on Thanksgiving miss the boat? Maybe not. CNBC reports the Mall of America, which this year remained closed on the holidays, had even bigger crowds lining up for its Black Friday opening than it did last year.

It appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, th...

Online sales power Black Friday

Overall sales surged, while in-store sales declined

Early indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black Friday shopping weekend, with more purchases moving to online channels.

One of the first sales reports comes from Adobe, which tracked $5.2 billion in spending over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a 17.7% increase over last year. At the same time time, brick-and-mortar sales were down from last year.

Black Friday sales alone smashed the old record, logging $3.34 billion, beating last year's mark by 21.6%. Adobe reports Lego Creator Sets, electric scooters from Razor, Nerf Guns, DJI Phantom Drones, and Barbie Dreamhouses made up the five biggest sellers in the toy department on Black Friday. Apple iPads, Samsung 4k TVs, Apple MacBooks Air, LG TVs, and Microsoft Xboxes were the top sellers in the electronics department.

More mobile purchases

Adobe reported mobile platforms drove the majority of visits to retail websites on Black Friday and accounted for 35% of sales. It found large retailers experienced twice the growth in online sales as small retailers since the start of the holiday shopping season.

Rakuten Marketing reported similar findings. It said its data shows mobile sites got 56% of the traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Black Friday's online spending beat last year by 41%.

“Shoppers hit the buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director, Adobe Digital Insights. “With the full day total coming in at $3.34 billion, Black Friday may have just dethroned Cyber Monday's position as the largest online shopping day of the year.”

How big will Cyber Monday be?

Of course, that remains to be seen. Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com reported that many ecommerce sites started their Cyber Monday specials on Sunday evening, suggesting the sales total could surpass projections. It notes that Apple, Dell, Best Buy, and Target are offering free shipping with no minimum order size, which could spur sales.

Among the hottest Cyber Monday promotions, it has identified Target's 15% off nearly everything in-store and online during the day, as worthy of consumers' attention. It also calls attention to Walmart's over 50% discount on Samsung HDTVs.

Assuming Cyber Monday smashes estimates, the nation's retailers could be on pace for a record holiday sales period.

Early indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black F...

Stores Have Profitable Black Friday But Not All Shoppers Leave Happy

Post-Black Friday complaints becoming a tradition

If Black Friday has become an after-Thanksgiving tradition in the retail world, complaints about the Black Friday shopping experience appear to be something of a new tradition as well.

There were isolated reports of pushing andshoving at stores around the country, but no major incidents. And no one was killed, as was the case two years ago when a Wal-Mart employee was trampled by an early-morning crowd.

This year, many of the complaints received at ConsumerAffairs.com over the weekend were from disappointed Wal-Mart customers who were hoping to purchase one of the chain's advertised Black Friday specials.

$198 laptop

Bernadetti, of Los Banos, Calif., said she arrived at her local Wal-Mart at 6:00 pm on Thursday and was eighth in line when the doors opened at midnight. She had her sights set on a $198 laptop.

"My husband and I were number one in the $198 Laptop group," Bernadetti told ConsumerAffairs.com. "We asked for three laptops. At that time my husband asked how many laptops were available for sale and he was told 97."

After filing out the paperwork for the purchase, Bernadetti was told to return at 6:00 am to pick up the merchandise.

"When we got to the area and showed our wristband we were told that they were all gone,” she said.

Store personnel, she said, told them they had overestimated how many computers were available by two thirds.

Amy of Bainbridge, N.Y., had a similar, recounted a similar experience at Radio Shack.

"I was impressed with the Acer netbook sale price for Black Friday," Amy told ConsumerAffairs.com. "I was at the Norwich store as soon as they opened at 5:30am Friday morning to purchase this item."

Sold out?

But Amy said she didn't see any of the Acer Netbooks in the store and when she asked, she said she was told the store had already sold out.

"The sale started today and I was there when the doors opened," she said. "How could they already be sold out?"

Consumers who get up early and think they are playing by the rules are angry when they perceive the retailers aren't following their own rules.

"The sign on the pallet said limit one per customer," Mike, of Milwaukee, Wis., told ConsumerAffairs.com in a complaint about Target. "The pallet was empty. Numerous people in the checkout lanes had two or three of the items in their cart. I informed an employee and their response was 'it's not my problem'. Apparently the store cannot enforce their own rules."

'Mac of the masses'

Obviously, plenty of shoppers were more successful in their Black Friday purchases. In a note today, Piper Jaffrey analyst Gene Munster predicted Apple racked up huge sales of its iPad Friday, calling the tablet introduced earlier this year "the Mac of the masses.”

Nintendo said it had a very good week last week. During the seven day period that included Black Friday, the electronics company said it sold 900,000 DS systems and 600,000 Wii consoles.

ShopperTrak, a retail sales analyst, reports shoppers spent $10.69 billion on Black Friday, a small increase over the year before. One reason, the company said, is many retailers rolled out their holiday specials much earlier in the month.

"Retailers were very conscious of driving traffic early in November and in doing so some might have thinned Black Friday spending a bit," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.  "The reality is we have a deal driven consumer in 2010 and that consumer responded to some of the earliest deep discounts we've even seen for the holidays.  Additionally, a percentage of retailers concentrated on pushing folks to their Websites with various online-only sales."

By all accounts stores rang up profitable Black Friday sales, but there were plenty of consumers who felt they got a raw deal....

Reconsidering Black Friday: Is It Really Worth It?

As Black Friday gets longer, demands on consumers - and employees - increase

As you may have heard, some retailers are pushing the boundaries of “Black Friday,” the kick-off to the holiday shopping season, back into Thanksgiving Day itself.

Traditionally, stores opened their doors at 5 a.m. or so Friday morning to the crowds of consumers lined up for advertised “door buster” specials. But in recent years many big box retailers have opened their doors earlier than their advertised opening times, causing consumers to begin arriving even earlier, often spending the night in the parking lot.

Is all of this getting out of hand? Apparently some Target employees think so. Target, along with Best Buy, Macy's, and Kohls will be opening at midnight on Friday morning.

Target employees revolt

Anthony Hardwick, an Omaha, Neb. Target employee, has started an online petition against the early opening and has collected nearly 37,000 signatures, he says. Hardwick told reporters he is scheduled for a 10-hour shift that day.

Retail employees might be forgiven for dreading an early start to Black Friday, when it can be said they could literally be risking their lives. On Black Friday 2008, a 34-year old part-time clerk at a Long Island, N.Y., Walmart was trampeled to death by a crowd he was trying to contain as they ripped doors off their hinges and rushed into the store. Walmart was later fined $7,000 for the death.

While Black Friday shopping is a tradition for many consumers, are there really that many savings? While big box retailers routinely advertise low prices on laptop computers, flat screen TVs, and other expensive items, stores usually only have a few of these items in stock. They go to the customers willing to stand the longest outside the door and then fight their way to the counter in the opening minutes.

Consumer complaints

Last year, Vicki, of Gallup, N.M., said she and her husband went to Walmart at 6:30 a.m. on Black Friday to buy a new flat screen TV.

“Forty-eight hours earlier I called and talked to the electronics department and was told that we would be given a voucher,” Vicki reported last year. “When we got there the TVs were sold out and the vouchers were never given out.”

That elicited this response from another Black Friday shopper, Anthony, of Pembrook Pines, Fla.

“That is what the spectacle of Black Friday is about,” Anthony told ConsumerAffairs.com. “Everyone lines up for doorbusters, and the ads themselves say there are extremely limited quantities! I have been 'BF'ing' for over seven years, and everyone I've run into always knows the deal: first come, first served, and if you want to guarantee a purchase, be among the first five in line.”

Adrenaline rush

In Anthony's view, Black Friday is an adventurous adrenaline rush in which you may or may not capture the object of your desire. The thrill of the pursuit is as important as any bargain. Less adventurous consumers should probably take that into consideration.

After all, Black Friday is followed by “Cyber Monday,” when online retailers offer bargains to those who shop online. While consumers aren't guaranteed of getting every low-priced item they want, they can at least shop in the comfort of their home, and not risk life and limb in the aisles of a store in the middle of the night.

Is shopping on Black Friday really worthwhile...

Black Friday Becoming Black Midnight

Big retailers opening at midnight to get a jump on Black Friday

Holiday shopping madness is getting even madder -- and many retail employees are pretty mad about it.

It all has to do with time creep, the definition of "Friday" and retailers' desperation to move as much merchandise as they can during the holiday season.

Best Buy is the latest to join the list of retailers planning to open at midnight Thanksgiving night (or Friday morning, depending on your preference).  Others include Target, Macy's and Kohl's.

The advantage for shoppers?  They don't have to get up early Friday. They can just stay up late and hit the stores in the wee hours. 

The disadvantage for the poor souls who work in the stores?  Well, it's obvious.  It puts a big crimp in your family holiday if, instead of sleeping off the traditional feast, you have to stay up and work all night, dealing with unruly and often tipsy crowds.

This is basically the grueling ordeal that's routinely faced by police officers, firefighters, medical personnel and industrial workers.  Oh, and newspeople too, not that anyone wastes any sympathy on them.

Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn admits the decision won't be popular with his employees.

"I feel terrible," Mr. Dunn, who was once a store manager, said, according to The Wall Street Journal.  "It will change some Thanksgiving plans for our employees. It certainly changes mine."

So who has not yet joined the party?  The biggest retailer of all, that's who.  WalMart has not yet tipped its hand about iots plans for Black Friday.  Many Walmart stores are already open 24/7 but Black Friday sales don't usually start until 5 a.m. on Black Friday.  Whether that holds true this year is still unknown.

Who cares?

Shoppers like Black Friday -- real and virtual

More importantly, does any of this really matter?  With daily deals sites galore and giant retailer Amazon offering low prices, giant selections and fast delivery, who wants to stay up all night just to go shopping for the same stuff that's available 365 days a year.

It's not as though previously unknown magical products will magically appear at the stroke of midnight, after all.  It's the same stuff we see in ads and on stores shelves and Web sites all year 'round.

Nevertheless, it seems that -- like a little red-nosed reindeer -- Black Friday has wormed its way into consumers' hearts.  ConsumerAffairs.com conducted a computerized trend analysis of about 1.8 million consumer comments on Twitter, Facebook and other social media over the last year.

Who likes Black Friday? Shoppers!

We found consumers strongly positive, although many were directing their comments towards online Black Friday sales.

The message for retail workers, then, must be something along the lines of, get used to it.   

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Sentiment analysis powered by NetBase

Holiday shopping madness is getting even madder -- and many retailer employees are pretty mad about it.It all has to do with time creep, the definition o...

Walmart Moves Black Friday Up a Few Hours

Selected items will go on sale at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night

Not willing to be outdone by Target, Macy's, Kohl's and Best Buy, who are kicking off their Black Friday sales at midnight Thanksgiving night, Walmart says it will open its stores at 10 p.m.

"Everything from the hottest TVs to gaming consoles and top toys will be available at great savings during three special-shopping events, while supplies last," Walmart said in a statement today.  It released this timetable for the just-can't-wait crowd:

  • 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24) – Top Toys, Home and Apparel
  • Midnight on Black Friday (Nov. 25) – Electronics! Electronics! Electronics!
  • 8 a.m. Nov. 25 through the weekend – Gifts for the entire family; electronics and more.

"Our customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early, so we’re going to hold special events on Thanksgiving and Black Friday,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. “[B]y sharing our Black Friday specials earlier than ever, we hope to make buying decisions easier for parents working hard to give their families the Christmas they deserve.”

Best Buy announced earlier this week that it would open at midnight Thursday night, joining Kohl's Macy's and Target.  

In this Walmart-supplied video, the retailer explains its reasoning:

 

Not willing to be outdone by Target, Macy's, Kohl's and Best Buy, who are kicking off their Black Friday sales at midnight Thanksgiving night, Walmart says...

hhgregg Sets Thanksgiving Midnight Opening

Retailers moving Black Friday up to Thursday night

hhgregg is the latest retailer to move up the Black Friday clock, opening its stores at midnight Thanksgiving night.

"We are grateful to our dedicated employees for supporting the decision to open early on Black Friday,” Dennis May, president and chief executive officer at hhgregg, said in a statement.

“We are a very family-focused company, and we understand that our extended store hours place a burden on employees. However, we are staffing our stores strategically on Black Friday, and throughout the holiday season, to ensure that all of our employees have adequate time with their families.”

hhgregg stores will be open from midnight to 9 p.m. Nov. 25 and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. the following day. 

Target, Macy's, Kohl's and Best Buy are all kicking off their Black Friday sales at midnight Thanksgiving night, Walmart says it will open its stores at 10 p.m.

hhgregg is the latest retailer to move up the Black Friday clock, opening its stores at midnight Thanksgiving night."We are grateful to our dedicated emp...

Black Friday Flat Screen TVs Draw Complaints

You might want to take a pass on these bargains

When you are elbowing your way through the big box stores on Black Friday, you might want to take a pass on the deals offered on flat screen TVs.

When we reviewed the ConsumerAffairs.com database of consumer reviews and complaints, using the search term "Black Friday," we found lots of complaints about TV sets. In fact, of the 40 most recent complaints that mention Black Friday, 32 - 80 percent - were complaints about flat screen TVs.

"I purchased an Emerson 32" TV from Walmart on Black Friday 2010," Hugh, of Dacono, Colo., told ConsumerAffairs.com. "Now, almost a year later, the TV stopped working."

"My Polaroid HDTV was purchased on Black Friday as well," said Corey, of Romeo, Mich. "It was a gift, but TVs should last more than three years. Yesterday I noticed the TV was left on for a few hours while we were gone. I turned if off then back on again only to watch the screen fade to black. So now there is no picture, but there is sound. It appears I have the same problem as most I've read here."

No conspiracy

No one is suggesting that chain stores load up on defective TV sets and dump them on unsuspecting consumers who crowd into stores on the day after Thanksgiving. But it is interesting there are few reports of defective toaster ovens and coffee makers that were Black Friday purchases.

It may be that consumers more often mention they bought their problem TVs on Black Friday because, at the time, they thought they were getting a great deal.

Most of these Black Friday TV complaints are for low-end models that have produced many other complaints from consumers, who didn't necessarily purchase them on Black Friday. The fact that they were purchased on Black Friday is probably less relevant than the fact they were among the least expensive TVs to start with.

So the take-home lesson may be to shop wisely when it comes to buying a TV and not be swayed by the lowest Black Friday sale price.

Flat Screen TVs purchased on Black Friday draw complaints...

Electronics Drive Early Holiday Sales

It seems everyone wants a gadget this year

Consumers headed to the electronics aisle in big numbers on Black Friday and the days that followed, according to a report by NPD Research.

The firm's numbers show more than 23 percent of Black Friday shoppers purchased some type of electronics product, up 15 percent from 2010 and 50 percent above toys, the third most popular post-Thanksgiving shopping category.

Half of all consumer electronics buyers shopped the midnight Doorbusters between 12am and 3am, a significant increase from the 13 percent who bought last year during that time period, the report says. More than 28 percent of the shopping trips by consumer electronics buyers occurred between Thanksgiving night and 3AM on Friday, a significant increase over the 5 percent in 2010.

If the holiday shopping season is off to a successful start for most retailers, NPD says they can thank consumer's desire for games and gadgets. Smartphones, tablets and video game consoles were among the big sellers.

TV buyers were out in full force as nearly six percent of all Black Friday shoppers walked out with a new TV, a 36 percent increase from 2010. Smartphones, video game systems and software, and tablets were also extremely popular as buyers increased by 85 percent, 35 percent, and 34 percent respectively.

Top of mind

“A confluence of factors have kept consumer electronics top of mind during Black Friday”, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “A combination of the Black Friday promotional period expanding, the continuing focus on electronics in advertising and sales messaging, and the popularity of the category in general have helped to make Black Friday the consumer electronics shopping holiday.”

The buying continued through the weekend and into Cyber Monday. This year almost 28 percent of consumers reported shopping online Cyber Monday compared to 21 percent last year.

Of those shoppers, 16 percent reported making a purchase this year compared to 12 percent last year. The study’s results also indicate that brick & mortar stores got a Cyber Monday bounce. More consumers reported shopping in a store on Cyber Monday this year (20 percent) than last year (14 percent) and of those shoppers this year 16 percent report making a purchase compared to last year’s 11 percent.

“Cyber Monday turned into ‘Hyper Monday’ as both online and brick & mortar got healthy increases due to more shoppers even though they spent less,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD.

More people may have been shopping but they were spending less money. This year's average expenditure on Cyber Monday was $187.83, compared to $276.71. However, it doesn't mean they bought less. Cohen said there were more bargains this year, which may have affected the spending total.

Holiday sales off to strong start...

Does It Really Pay To Go Shopping On Black Friday?

Many 'bargains' turn out not to be such bargains


There are two types of holiday shoppers; those for whom a Black Friday outing is part of their holiday tradition, and those who wouldn't go near a shopping mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Like Lt. Col. Kilgore, in Apocalypse Now, who loved "the smell of napalm in the morning," dedicated Black Friday shoppers live for the pre-dawn mall arrival, the crush of humanity as the doors open, and the swinging elbows at the bargain bin.

While it may be invigorating, retail experts say very few Black Friday shoppers actually end up saving money. And some of the "bargains" aren't available or turn out not to be bargains at all.

For starters, most stores don't have that much marked-down inventory. The ad in the paper may scream "door-buster sales" and have a ridiculously low price, but the fine print says things like "while supplies last" or "limited quantities."

Looking Behind The Ads

This week PC World dug deeper into Best Buy's advertised Black Friday loss-leader, an HP laptop for $197. Could the computer be any good, the magazine wondered, or a piece of junk.

It turns out the HP G60-507DX regularly lists for $550, has a DVD drive, 2GB of RAM and Windows 7, not Vista. So, is it worth braving the mob?

"Yes, if you need a laptop, or know someone who does," the magazine says. "This system has 'student notebook' written all over it."

But what are your chances of getting one? That's an entirely different question. Best Buy says it will have at least five of these models available per store. So if you're among the first shoppers through the door and don't take more than 30 seconds to make up your mind, you might be in luck.

But five might turn out to be a plentiful number, compared to other products in other stores. In years past some chains have had as few as two of their advertised specials on hand. And they're not handing out rain checks, either. Even if they do offer a rain check, there's no guarantee they'll every restock that particular item, especially if it's a closeout.

Shop Carefully For Electronics

Consumers should look closely at electronics equipment like computers and big screen TVs that are being offered at fire sale prices. Technology changes very quickly and last years model may be slightly different than this year's.

It might be perfectly acceptable for many consumers, especially at a bargain prices, but consumers should understand what it is exactly they're getting. However, a mad rush for limited quantities of merchandise doesn't exactly lend itself to careful comparison shopping.

Also, don't be tempted by what seems to be an extremely low price, especially if it still happens to be available at 3:00 pm. Steven Vaughn-Nichols, who write the Cyber Cynic blog at ComputerWorld, says you have to read the fine print.

"I've seen several netbooks deals that sound great, until I looked closer and saw that they require pricey, two-year mobile phone contracts on top of the up-front price," he writes.

Retailers are under more scrutiny this year to be more truthful about their offers, to prevent the kind if shopper hysteria witnessed in recent years. The trampling death of a Long Island Wal-Mart employee on the last Black Friday should have served as a wake-up call for retailers - and maybe for consumers too.

After all, Cyber Monday is still ahead. There will still be plenty of bargains and, best of all, you can shop in the safety of your own home or office.



Does It Really Pay To Go Shopping On Black Friday?...