Black Friday has> traditionally been shoppers big holiday shopping sprint. But Black Friday now lasts seven days and takes almost as much strategy and planning as the Thursday feast. But as retailers prepare a full week of sales and stampedes, dedicated bargain hunters can be certain some days will yield better bargains than others.
This trend is part one-upsmanship on the part of retailers pre-empting the competition s Friday sale with, say, a Wednesday one. It s also an attempt to reach the growing group of shoppers who aren t interested in 5 a.m. stampedes. A survey from Accenture found that this year, 53% of consumers don t plan to shop on Black Friday, up from 48% in 2009. Even last year, the day netted just 6.4% of retail sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to ShopperTrak. [Friday is] almost too late for many shoppers, says Sue Golden, the senior vice president of client services for MARS Advertising.
So this year, retailers are spreading out sales and making a more of a concerted effort to leak ads for Black Friday, and the week prior, says Brian Tanis, the founder of Offers.com, a sale-tracking site. They see this as an opportunity to build good PR and excitement, he says. The exposure, for the stores, is built-in, because regular and diligent ad browsing is the only way to stay on top of this week s sales, experts say. It also doesn t hurt that several days of different sales may encourage repeat visits.
To save you the trouble, SmartMoney put together a game plan for getting the best deals for the next seven days:
Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 22, 23)
Deals on technology are the big draw for Black Friday, so don t expect that flat-screen television to be on super-sale early in the week. Instead, look for good clothing sales early, says Kathryn Finney, the founder of trend-tracking site The Budget Fashionista. Through Nov. 22, Levi s has a 40% off discount (use code EXTRA40) on all purchases, for example, while Victoria s Secret offers free slippers (worth $25, use code VS10SLEEP) when you buy sleepwear (which is already 20% off).
Some of the first big deals of the season at online sites like Amazon.com will show up today, including half-priced cashmere sweaters. There s going to be a lot of competition online, more so than before, says Manu Sachdeva, the director of ecommerce for electronics marketplace Retrevo. Check your favorite retailers directly, and head to deal aggregators such as Savings.com or DealNews.com to see what other shoppers are buzzing about.
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Wednesday-plus (Nov. 24 into early Nov. 24)
Target Pre-Black Friday Sale and other similar promotions on a host of items wrap up Wednesday. But the best deals will require staying up late, Sachdeva says. Many retailers will make their first Thanksgiving sales available online at midnight based on the company s corporate headquarters local time. For East Coasters, that could mean staying up until 1 a.m. to get a Flip Ultra HD 8GB camcorder for $130 from Radio Shack, which has its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
If staying up to grab online door-busters hasn t exhausted you, put the turkey in the oven and head to the mall. Not long ago, convenience stores were the only stores open on Thanksgiving. This year, a surprising number of retailers nervous about low sales season say they ll open their doors this year in a bid to grab more customers, Tanis says.
Who s open? A number of Old Navy stores, some from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with deals including half-priced outerwear and a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase. Sears will be open from 7 a.m. to noon. And if you re not sleeping off the turkey, Toys 'R' Us opens at 10 p.m. for promotions like a free $50 gift card with purchase of a regularly-priced 8GB iPod touch ($230) or an Xbox 360 4GB system ($200).
Friday (Nov. 26)
The deals start rolling in at midnight, when many outlet malls and other stores, including Wal-Mart (WMT)
Or stay home. Stores like Sears are making many of their items, including some of their deepest discounts, available online for in-store pickup later in the day, Tanis says. Some will even post the same door-busters online as early as midnight, or when their brick-and-mortar locations open. Most retailers also offer a second set of sales after the opening round ends at 10 or 11 a.m. Bring those newspaper ads with you -- although many retailers won t match competitors prices, Wal-Mart and a few others did last year and may do so again.
Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 27, 28)
A handful of retailers, including Kmart and BJ s (BJ),
Monday (Nov. 29)
You go back to work, and retailers follow you, cramming your inbox with offers. Early hints at Amazon.com (AMZN)