At this point, Black Friday feels as American a tradition as Thanksgiving. Thursday brings turkey and Detroit Lions football, and Friday brings doorbusters.
But in recent years, at least in part because of the pandemic, Black Friday has expanded from a single day to an entire season of sales. And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s already started.
“It actually started in October,” said Louis Ramirez, associate editor at Tom’s Guide.
This year, Amazon added a second Prime Day in October to coincide with its annual sale in July. “The way they planned it was, ‘This is for all you people who want to shop early for the holidays,'” Ramirez said. “That opened the floodgates for other retailers to do the same.”
Don’t worry, it’s not too late to find great deals. Here’s what deal experts say the rules have changed for Black Friday shoppers, and how you can take advantage.
Different times for different deals
Getting the deal you want can mean hitting a moving target. “Some of the agreements that started in October have expired. Others have come back,” said Ramirez. “There will be new deals at the end of the year.”
So how do you know when to act? Depending on where you shop, the sooner you shop, the better.
Several stores, including Target, have holiday price guarantees, said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at DealNews. “If you buy now and the price drops before December 24, you can get a price adjustment,” he said.
While he expects the new deals to launch on Friday, it may be wise to get yourself some discounts if they’re currently being advertised as part of Black Friday sales, Ramhold said. Best Buy’s current discount, for example, is unlikely to change on Friday, he says.
“If they sell, there’s no guarantee they’ll get back in stock,” Ramhold said. “You don’t want to sit on those labeled Black Friday deals for too long. If you have the skills, go ahead and jump on them.”
No need to wait in line: ‘All deals available online’
Some retailers will still call their doors open for Black Friday sales, but there’s no need to raid the area, experts say.
“There will always be people who finish Thanksgiving dinner and walk in line, but things have changed. All the deals are available online,” Ramirez said.
That has been the state of affairs for several years now, Ramhold said. “We only saw deals in stores when they came out before the pandemic, and then the pandemic destroyed that,” he said.
There may be a few “reasonable” exceptions, Ramhold said. “Warehouse clubs can have in-store deals on perishables that they won’t ship to you.”
If not, you may find similar deals online and in store.
Cyber Monday isn’t really a thing anymore
While Black Friday is home to big retailers, the online shopping holiday Cyber Monday has given smaller, online retailers a chance to get in on the action.
But these days, with the likes of Target and Walmart offering online deals all weekend, you’re unlikely to find anything special or unique on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Some retailers will have a separate sign for Cyber Monday, while others may coin a phrase that covers the entire weekend.
“Some stores will have a different sale each day. Some will change the name. It depends on where you shop, but if you dig around, the deals can be very different,” said Ramhold.
In short, everyone and their mother will be selling things all weekend, and probably already have. To get the best deals, sales experts offer two main strategies:
- Use a price tracker: Whether you’re shopping early or right on Black Friday, giving yourself an idea of where an item usually goes can help you know when you’re getting the best discount. If a site like CamelCamelCamel shows you that the item you’re looking at is priced near the lower end of its range, you can rest assured that you’re getting a good discount.
- Narrow down your options: “Make a list of what you want to buy – what you give to others and what you want to buy for yourself,” says Ramirez. “That way you can stick to the list, and it makes it easier to track and compare prices.”
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