Black Friday is Election Day for retailers. There are winners and losers. Strategies that work and ones that don't. Retailers spend months planning for the weekend, offering unbelievable deals to shoppers in the hopes of increasing turnout.
Customers, too, have a lot to win or lose. According to the National Retail Federation, we spent $52 billion on Black Friday weekend in 2011. And like with elections, you'll take a shellacking if your strategy doesn't hold up against the competition.
We've said previously that it's not always best to shop Black Friday sales. Holiday sales are starting earlier and extending through the season, so Black Friday savings aren't as jaw-dropping as they once were.
But like it or not, Black Friday is an American tradition; retailers will deliver door busters to those who don't mind standing outside in the cold Thanksgiving night.
If you're up for the frenzy, have a game plan. Here's what retail and shopping insiders think you should know about that other big day in November.
Q: Should I do my holiday shopping on Black Friday?
A: Many shopping experts are saying no. Jody Rohlena of ShopSmart Magazine said holiday savings began on Columbus Day. But ritual drives the Black Friday frenzy: "It's the kickoff for the holiday season," said Craig LaRosa, a retail consultant at Continuum. "It's social currency for a lot of people. Getting the best deal is something to brag about." Walmart, Kmart, Target and Best Buy are all opening Thanksgiving night before midnight. Many stores, including Kohl's and the Disney Store, are starting their sales a few days before Thanksgiving. Because retailers have started the holiday sales, we don't recommend limiting yourself to Black Friday.
Q: Well, I'm going to shop on Black Friday anyway. How do I prepare?