This week in America marks the traditional shopping bonanza known as "Black Friday" or the Friday after the US Thanksgiving holiday, when stores traditionally offer special incentives, discounts, and promotions in order to lure and entice customers to shop en masse and boost their annual profits finally from the red (or negative) to the black (or positive). This year's Black Friday is going to be closely watched be market analysts and economists for spending trends, or the lack thereof, and an indicator to the holiday sales forecasts.
Another important day to watch is Cyber Monday - the Monday after the American Thanksgiving - when a surge in online shopping (and lack of productivity by office workers as they discretely shop online instead of work on their actual jobs) occurs.
For those with liquid income, or who want to get a head start on shopping for Christmas while getting the most bang for your buck, Black Friday and Cyber Monday provide lots of shopping incentives.
Here is just a sampling of offers I've heard thus far:
-- Guess will be offering a generous discount off the entire store. I'm not sure how long the special will run, so shop early for the best selection.
-- Banana Republic is offering a "buy one get one free" special on all cashmere sweaters. Buy one for yourself - give one as a gift. Or knock out two people from your shopping list for the price of one.
-- Express for Men and Women typically offer a gift with purchase. This year they'll be opening at 5 AM nationwide. Macy's department stores will also be opening at 5.
-- Electronic superstore Best Buy also opens at 5 AM, and will feature low priced electronic while supplies last, including a 42" HD LCD Samsung Television for US$999 (a savings of US$700), as well as many other discounts on movies, games, and other electronic equipment.
-- For the real bargain hunter, many outlet centres nationwide are opening at midnight (0:01 AM) on Friday morning for those shoppers who just can't wait to get their credit cards swiping.
You can always beat the crowds and shop "early" online at sites on Thanksgiving Day as well. Many retailers put advanced sales, deals, and promotions online. This is also a great alternative for those stores that aren't featured in your area, or for hard to get products.
As always, remember the following tips:
-- Shop early. Many deals and promotions are for a limited time, or while quantities last. So for best selection, shop early.
-- Unless something is clearly marked as "final sale", everything is returnable. If you think you might like something, and the price is only good for a few hours - go ahead and buy it. Later, when you're not caught up in the hustle and bustle of hunting sales and shopping early, you can think clearly at home about what you really want to keep or give as gifts, and what you don't really need. So be sure to save all of your receipts.
-- Just because something is a great deal doesn't mean that you must buy it. Do you really need it? Is there someone on your gift list that actually would enjoy or benefit from owning said bargain?
-- Make a list before you head out. Who do you have to buy for? What items are you looking for. Have a budget and stick to it. If your budget for Johnny Q. Neighbour is US$25, and you get a DVD box set of his favourite movies for US$15, you don't need to spend an additional US$10. Budget not only in currency, but in value.
-- Shop with friends. Some bargains and deals are limited to one per customer. So if you just have to have that second deal - give your friend the cash and have them buy the deal as well. Your friends can also split up and grab items from other departments (which can be handy when stores' quantities are limited). Also remember to trust your friend's judgement. If you're not sure if you need to buy something, or if you're deciding whether or not a gift is appropriate, ask your friend. They're always on your side.
-- Be kind to the associates. Remember - they've been awake for a lot longer than you have, and ate just as much food on Thanksgiving as you did. So be nice. Trust that employees are doing the best they can to help you, in the shortest amount of time. The more they're helpful, the more they sell - the more money the stores make and the more secure their jobs become. So don't be mad when the discounted, discontinued items you thought you wanted to buy a few months ago are no longer available.