Black Friday cheat sheet: Your guide to a big weekend of holiday shopping

Lately, your brain has probably been a fog of factoids about the electoral college, exit polls and cabinet appointments. And so it may not have sunken in yet that the holiday season is practically upon us.

But, alas, here we are, just hours from the annual smorgasbord of Black Friday deals that lure many of us to get in the gift-buying spirit. Here, we’ve rounded up some information to help you decide when and where to open your wallet.

When do the sales start?

If the last several years have taught us anything, it’s that Black Friday deals start raining down well before Black Friday actually arrives on the calendar. Amazon.com began touting “More than 35 days of Black Friday” on Nov. 16, and Target’s “10 days of deals” started on Nov. 19.

Still, many retailers will be offering a fresh menu of discounts and promotions for Thanksgiving weekend. Online, many of those promotions will go live before they do in physical stores: Toys R Us for example, will start its online Black Friday sale at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, while Walmart will offer most of its deals online at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday.

If you’re planning to hit up physical stores, here’s a rundown of when the mega-chains will get things started. If you’re a Black Friday regular, you’ll notice this schedule looks much the same as it did in 2015, a stabilization after several years in which start times seemed to be creeping earlier and earlier.

Thursday:

6 a.m.  With this early-morning kickoff time, Kmart has long been the first of the major chains to get its in-store deals blitz started.

3 p.m.  JCPenney opens.

5 p.m.  Best Buy and Toys R Us open. So does Macy’s, one of few retailers that is opening its doors earlier this year.

6 p.m.  TargetWalmart and Kohl’s get into the “doorbusters” fray.

10 p.m. to midnight. Many malls and specialty stores will open. Before you venture out, you might want to check with your local shopping center and see what the exact hours are.

Friday:

The retailers who stayed closed on Thanksgiving will rev into action. HHGregg opens its physical stores at 7 a.m., for example, and the likes of Home Depot, T.J.Maxx and Barnes & Noble will also begin welcoming in-store Black Friday shoppers. Also, Walmart is getting an early jump on Cyber Monday by launching that slate of digital deals on Friday.

What items are people going to be scrambling to buy?

From Hatchimals to Shopkins to Paw Patrol, stores and analysts are expecting robust sales in the toy business this holiday season. Several big-name retailers are touting Star Wars gear in their Black Friday circulars, ready to capitalize on the Dec. 16 release of the latest movie in the franchise.

Gadgets are also typically a big draw during the Thanksgiving weekend shopping bonanza. Prices have fallen dramatically on 4K televisions, so those could prove alluring to shoppers. Drones, too, are being highlighted by retailers from JCPenney to Toys R Us.  And this holiday season also marks the first glimpse that many shoppers will get of of virtual reality gaming gear such as the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.

Isn’t Black Friday just hype at this point? I’ve been hearing for years now that it is dying out.

Yes and no.

It is certainly true that Black Friday is no longer the seasonal center of gravity it once was. Many retailers run their Black Friday discounts for several days, and they offer similar promotions all throughout November and December. And now that stores largely sync up their online and in-store deals, there’s not a particular reason why you need to camp out in a long line in the cold to get those savings. In most cases, you can just fire up your tablet and do it from your couch.

Plus, Black Friday is not necessarily the day to reap the lowest prices of the season. As Get There has already reported, Adobe has found that prices on apparel might be lowest on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, while you might find the best toy prices on Cyber Monday.

But it’s an overstatement to say that Black Friday is dead. According to the National Retail Federation, 137.4 million Americans plan to shop online or in stores over Thanksgiving weekend. Some 74 percent of that group will be shopping on Black Friday. RetailNext, an analytics company, predicts that Black Friday will be the second-busiest shopping day of the year, with only the second-to-last Saturday before Christmas drawing more store visits. Adobe, meanwhile, predicts retailers will ring up a record $3.05 billion in online sales on Black Friday, representing an 11 percent increase over last year. 

What else might help me make my shopping game plan?

Here’s some additional reading:

Hatchimals might turn out to be the Tickle Me Elmo of 2016.

Shopkins, an explosively growing line of grocery-themed toys, might also appear on lots of kiddie wishlists this year.

Trying ‘buy online, pick up in store?’ Here’s how Kohl’s is trying to make it vastly better this time around.

These are the best times to buy toys and other gifts.

Shopping for the tech nerd in your life? We’ve got a gadget gift guide to help you zero in on the right item, and a primer on the new world of virtual reality technology.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2016/11/23/black-friday-cheat-sheet-your-guide-to-a-big-weekend-of-holiday-shopping/

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