An Action Plan for Black Friday

While the holiday shopping season is in full swing, the “official” kick off is nigh: Nov. 27 to be exact, a.k.a. Black Friday. But with the economy in a slump and unemployment at record numbers, how do we shop smarter for the holidays–if we’re even shopping at all?

“Job losses and uncertainty about the future are making for a very frugal shopper,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Retailers will need to be quite creative to entice consumers to spend, both in stores and online this holiday season, as consumers most certainly will expect major markdowns and bargains.”

U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $390 on Christmas gifts this holiday season, down from last year’s $418, according to the Conference Board.

From now until Christmas I’ll be observing, critiquing, analyzing, recommending, and opinionating on the silly season, er the holiday shopping season. Without further adieu, let’s dig in.

Black Friday

Black Friday used to be the day that merchants–and us in the media–refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (posting a loss) to being in the black (turning a profit). Now it is all about getting the best deal on the hottest electronic item.

Type “Black Friday” into Google and you’ll get more than 100 million results. Flat-screen TVs, books, outerwear, toys, and video games are the usual suspects of specials available to consumers the day after Thanksgiving. You can go to your favorite retailers’ Website to find out about their Black Friday deals, or swing over to some of the aggregators that post multiple store fliers on their site, making it easier for you to compare deals. Check out,, and to name just a few. There are even free iPhone apps to help keep track of the deals.

The best deals are the early-a.m. doorbusters, or loss leaders, that retailers will use to entice shoppers into their stores. Sadly, the term doorbuster is becoming all too accurate and has led to numerous injuries and at least one death year. The problem with doorbusters is people line up for hours and hours and by the time doors open at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., they are antsy, cold, and will do just about anything for their bargain.

But be wary of those doorbusters. There are usually very few items available, rainchecks aren’t usually provided, and the electronics items might be models that have “less features than a standard model in that product line,” says CNN.

According to the National Retail Federation, 10.3% of shoppers will get to the store between midnight and 3 a.m, 28.8% will check out the early-bird specials and head out between 4 a.m. — 6 a.m., and 28.2% will go between 7 a.m. — 9 a.m.