An old tradition on Thanksgiving morning in my extended family has been to gather around a fat newspaper loaded with Black Friday ads and plot and conspire about where and when to go to get the bargains. It is only relatively recent history that stores started Black Friday at a minute after midnight or at four in the morning; prior to these insane opening times, most major stores opened at seven or eight a.m., a more civilized time to commence the fray. Now, some stores eager to catch the early shoppers, dangle the bait of starting Black Friday on Wednesday, or even on the sacrosanct Thanksgiving day.
Typically I chose to stay home as my wife and daughters joined the crowds, noise and excitement of reeling in the bargain priced goods. Now, due to the ubiquity of the Internet, on Thanksgiving day much of my family no longer gathers on the living room floor to peruse the Black Friday ads as we have already seen the ads for our favorite stores; almost all have already been “leaked” (surreptitiously or intentionally) and are available to view online.
In marketing circles, there is often a need to create a “buzz” or interest in an upcoming sales event. While some retailers have been known to take legal action against websites that have posted their Black Friday ads prior to their authorized release on Thanksgiving morning (many big city “early edition” Thursday newspapers are actually on the newsstands on Wednesday afternoon), others have found great benefit in the increased viewing of their ads. Some retailers have intentionally leaked sham ads to mislead competitors, but the majority of the leaked Black Friday ads posted online appear to be reasonably accurate. With these online ads being available long in advance of Black Friday, it is much easier to plan our shopping tactics. In my family it is now tactically decided in advance who will go to which store and attempt to buy what.
In my experience, I have found several of the reputable shopping information websites that have always seemed to have comprehensive and reliable directories of Black Friday ads, sometimes sorted by product genre or type, as well as by retailer. My first choice site to find Black Friday ads and bargains online from local retailers is Dealnews (dealnews.com/black-friday). Dealnews offers a comprehensive list of local retailers along with any Black Friday ads that are already available, and the projected availability dates for those not yet available. For those seeking particular products that might be available at bargain prices on Black Friday, Dealnews also offers a directory of Black Friday deals sorted by category. Some examples of the categories of merchandise that can be displayed include automotive, clothing, computers of all types, electronics, toys and games, health and beauty items, home and garden, entertainment and educational merchandise, office supplies, phones of all types, sporting goods, tools and hardware, and televisions. By selecting a category and then a particular item, the user will see the retailers who have those desired items on sale for bargain prices.
As an experiment, I clicked on the “rumored” Black Friday ad for Gander Mountain, with Dealnews indicating that there will (possibly) be 258 items on Black Friday sale at Gander Mountain. Dealnews displays the “supposed” Gander Mountain Black Friday ad as a 13 page long display of thumbnail images and descriptions or as an organized directory by category or type of merchandise. As an example of a Dealnews listing, Gander Mountain items are viewable by categories with the number of items in each category, including Men’s Apparel (65), Guns & Ammo (62) and others.
Other local brick and mortar stores that currently have their Black Friday ads posted on Dealnews, or an expected date of release of the ads, include Academy, Ace Hardware, Best Buy, Burlington Coat Factory, CVS, Dollar General, GameStop, Harbor Freight Tools, JC Penney, Jo-Ann, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Office Depot, PetSmart, Radio Shack, Sam’s, Sprint, Stein Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Tractor Supply, True Value, Victoria’s Secret, Walgreens, Walmart, and Zale’s. Many other stores are listed that are not local here including AAFES, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Costco, K Mart, Fry’s Electronics, Office Max, Staples, Tanger Outlets and others.
For those with an Android or iOS (Apple) smart phone or tablets, Dealnews is offering a free “Black Friday App (that) lets you browse “leaked” ads from over 60 major retailers.” (dealnews.com/apps/#bf). In addition to simply displaying the ads from the listed retailers, these apps allow the user to conduct price comparisons on similar items from a variety of sources. For those away from home on Black Friday, the Dealnews apps can quickly display a map showing the nearby locations of selected retailers, as well as a direct link to their websites for additional information on items of interest. These apps have a search feature that allows the user to search for desired items that might be available at bargain prices as well as saved shopping lists. Stores and items of interest found in these apps can instantly be shared with others via Twitter, Facebook or by e-mail.
For those who prefer to avoid the crowds and traffic of Black Friday, many of these same local brick and mortar retailers also offer their advertised specials online, often with free shipping or free pickup (after the rush is over) at the local stores. From a marketing viewpoint, getting an online purchaser into the retail store to pick up an item ordered online may invoke “supermarket psychology” whereby once in the store, it is likely that the shopper will purchase additional merchandise, thus generating additional local revenues.
Many of us might miss the opportunity to join the throngs of people in the stores and malls on Black Friday, thus possibly missing many of the most wanted bargains that sold out quickly early Friday morning. Well, the Monday following Black Friday is known in the industry as Cyber Monday. On Cyber Monday, many of the brick and mortar stores, as well as the online sellers, offer a second chance opportunity to bargain hunters by offering online many of the same deals, as well as additional offers. Traditionally Black Friday may be the busiest shopping day of the year, followed by the “after Christmas clearance sales” on December 26 as the second largest shopping day, but Cyber Monday is often the busiest online shopping day of the year.
Have fun shopping for the holidays, but shop wisely.
Listen to Ira Wilsker’s weekly radio show on Mondays from 6-7 p.m. on KLVI 560AM.