SAN DIEGO – November 25, 2015 – You’ve seen those holiday shoppers waiting in line for their favorite stores to open on Black Friday, or perhaps Thanksgiving night. They consider it a badge of honor to set up their tents days, even weeks before Black Friday, the official start of the Christmas shopping season the day after Thanksgiving. These bargain hunters hope to be the first to get their hands on TVs, tablets and toys, to say nothing of Star Wars merchandise, at low low prices.
If you are one of those people, you’re fooling yourself. Don’t believe the Black Friday hype.
The National Retail Federation predicts 147 million Americans will shop over Thanksgiving weekend, and holiday sales will increase 4.1 per cent on last year. Rasmussen Reports polled Americans and found one in three adults surveyed between November 19 and 22 said they plan on braving the stores this Friday.
Black Friday is to smart bargain shoppers what New Year’s Eve is to cocktail connoisseurs: Amateur hour. You need to get over the hype, over the advertising, over the herd mentality of Black Friday. Just plain get over it.
Black Friday “doorbuster” bargains are the bait on the hook to get you into the store. Once you’ve waited for hours, are you really going to walk out with a single item that saved you $50 and go home? Not likely. The goal of Black Friday is to get as many gullible shoppers hyped up on bargains like kids hyped up on Christmas candy into the store with promises that don’t pay off.
Numerous studies of Black Friday deals show they aren’t big deals at all. Most of the “discounts” are smaller compared to price cuts and discounts throughout the rest of the year, or are calculated on the “MSRP” or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. When’s the last time you paid MSRP? Nearly never if you’re like me. So if MSRP is $100 but the generally available price is $79.99 and the “doorbuster” price is $50, you’re saving $29.99, not $50.
Frequently the goods available on Black Friday aren’t high-end models, and they are often models you can’t find at any other store. How can you do a price comparison? You can’t and stores are counting on it.
The gear and gadgets website The Wirecutter is by its own description “obssessive” about analyzing product deals. According to a statement on its homepage, “Since November 1, we have scanned more than 44,168 deals and have only posted a total of 247 deals (including future Black Friday deals). That means only 0.56 percent of the deals we actively look at every day pass our standards for what makes a truly great bargain.”
For standard items where comparisons are possible, following The Wirecutter for tech items, or using one of the many new apps or online price tracking tools can let you know the best time to buy. It isn’t likely to be Black Friday.
Try Nifti, available for all iOS devices, or Shop Savvy, available for iOS, Android, or Windows Phones and online at http://shopsavvy.com/ Both apps are free. Both allow you to scan barcodes of products, and let the app tell you whether the price is cheaper at another store. Genius. Nifti will also monitor the product’s pricing and alert you when it drops. Both apps also offer a curated list of popular gift items which you can purchase directly on your phone.
CamelCamelCamel is a free online system tracking prices at just one online retailer, but it’s a big one: Amazon.com Use the app to view different products and then tell it which ones you want the app to monitor. The app will alert you when the price drops. You can set it to alert you only when the price drops a certain amount, 20 percent for example.
You can also use Pinterest. Pinterest is connected to a long list of online retailers who display their products on the website with buying information. Set up boards organized any way you like (Toys, Cosmetics, Electronics, etc) to monitor products and you can request alerts when the prices drop on items you have pinned to your wish list.
Once you have made a purchase, enter the purchase information into the app Slice. Slice will monitor the price of the item and let you know if the price drops below your original purchase price.
Whatever money you’re able to save, you can wipe the savings out quickly if you’re having to use a credit card to buy it and don’t pay off the balance. Interest charges will soak up those savings fast. If you end up making a late payment, get ready to cough up as much as $39.
Another cost many people fail to factor in: your time investment. My time is worth a lot to me. Consider the time you’re giving up staying in line three, five, or ten hours. Is your time worth $10 an hour? $20? $50? Do the math. Now think about what your time is worth being applied to something else you need to do, or a service you might pay for because you don’t have time.
Let’s say you are just getting started and missed out on all these discounts. You have to shop Black Friday, right? Nah. Another lie is that Black Friday is just one day. Those cheap cameras and flat screens in the Black Friday ads will be replaced by other models with discounts just as good next weekend, and the next.
Black Friday isn’t the busiest shopping day of the year overall. According to Snopes.com this is a myth. The Saturday before Christmas, this year December 19, is the single busiest shopping day of the year, followed by December 24, and then the previous Saturday, December 12. Stores competing for foot traffic late in the season will have great deals, especially if they are nervous about moving inventory.
The exception: electronics stores and cellphone retailers are busier on Black Friday than on the other peak shopping days of the holiday season. Shopping malls, superstores and discount stores are busiest the Saturday before Christmas. Dollar stores are busiest on Christmas Eve.
On Black Friday itself, according to foot traffic forecasts from Google, store traffic will peak in the afternoon between 2 and 4 p.m. Shoppers often sleep in and then go to the stores with family and friends to entertain themselves in the afternoon.
We highly recommend shopping late at night when stores extend their hours. If you’re normally awake anyway at 10 or 11 p.m., it’s a quiet time, shelves are being restocked, clerks start to relax and they have time to be helpful.
If you simply love the excitement and buzz of Black Friday, use it as a day to plan your shopping. Set a budget. Pick gifts according to your recipients’ real interests and needs, not what email offers tell you. Scan those barcodes, load them in your Nifti or SavvyShopper app, and watch for prices to drop to a point that makes sense for you.
Consider shopping with a local small business on “Small Business Saturday,” now in its sixth year on Saturday, November 28. Sixty-eight percent of your money stays local, compared to 43 percent when you shop at a big box store. In 2014, 88 million people participated. Learn more and find participating stores in your zip code area on the Small Business Saturday website. If you shop on Small Business Saturday with an American Express card, you’ll get a $25 gift card for spending $25 at a qualifying small retailer.
If you ask most people, what they remember fondly about their holidays isn’t about gifts, but a tradition they enjoy. In the end people don’t much remember a bargain camera or sweater they received years ago. But they certainly do remember what they shared with someone close to them.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is president/owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego. In addition to writing about business and media, she is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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