The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Nov 25, 2009

Black Friday deals: You'll need to dig

Shoppers might have to work a little harder this year to scoop up the best bargains on Black Friday, the traditional post-Turkey Day shopping kickoff.

Retailers aren't slashing 75% off everything in the store, as they did last year when the deteriorating economy caught them with too much inventory. Rather, they are offering truly hot deals on only a handful of items, such as a $149 laptop computer (OfficeMax), a 32-inch LCD TV for $246 (Target) and a $579 washer-dryer combo (Sears).

Other sale items will require coupons or rebates to make them worth your while, retail observers say.

"This year retailers aren't in dramatic panic mode," says Marshal Cohen, the chief industry analyst with research company NPD Group. "There are going to be sales, but the (discounts) aren't going to be as deep and plentiful."

With unemployment high and shoppers expected to spend 3.2% less than last year, according to the National Retail Federation, most retailers can't afford not to discount at least a handful of their items heavily, just to get people into their stores.

But for shoppers, the smaller selection of bargains might necessitate a few more stops on the shopping route.

Here is MSN Money's guide to snagging the best deals on this big shopping day.

Do your research

Most Black Friday circulars have already been leaked to deal sites such as, Dealnews, BFAds and Slickdeals. On most of these sites, you'll find a list of the items in the circular, as well as discussions about how the prices compare and, in some cases, how the products perform.

We've also rounded up some of the best deals in these ads for you on our Smart Spending blog:

Best Buy
Toys R Us

When you're ready to make a list, sites such as Black Friday @ will let you select sale items and compile them online. Ditto for Dealnews' Black Friday app for the iPhone (an iTunes download is required).

But don't let the hype blind you to so-so sales. Once you've narrowed your list, use a price-comparison engine such as or Bizrate to make sure you've found the lowest prices available. PriceGrabber also lets you set price alerts that notify you when the price drops on the item you're interested in.

Then search for online coupons and rebates to sweeten these deals. For example, department store Kohl's has posted a 15%-off coupon code that makes some of its deals a home run.

And don't forget to look for secret sales. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy are known to flag unadvertised deals on their Web sites on Thanksgiving Day, giving in-the-know shoppers a chance to score some bigger bargains.

Don't camp out unless you have to

You don't have to wait in the freezing cold at 3 a.m. to score great deals this year. Many "door-buster" specials will be available online Friday morning and in many cases on Thanksgiving, says Dan de Grandpre, the CEO of Dealnews.

"It's as good as Black Friday, and the competition to get (the deals) is far less," he says. There's no grabbing, pushing or trampling involved.

If you're really worried about an item running out, you can shop online in your pajamas at 12:01 a.m. on Turkey Day at many retailers -- and then go back to bed.

Of course, some door-busters will be found only in the stores. If your heart is set on one, you'd better join the 3 a.m. line. Some stores, such as Best Buy, hand out first-in-line vouchers, so those folks are guaranteed to snag the hottest deals.

To avoid the stampedes of years past, Wal-Mart will open its stores overnight on Thanksgiving, though some deals won't be available until early Friday morning.

Toys R Us will also be open Thursday.

What's hot this year

The trick will be getting consumers to fork over their money when there aren't a lot of hot new items to entice them, Cohen says.

TVs and Blu-ray: For years, the big flat-screen LCD and plasma TVs are what have lured most people into stores. Now many people have already bought a TV and are simply looking for things to go with it. Blu-ray players, more than $200 last year, will drop below $100 for lower-end models this year.

That's not to say there won't be great deals on TVs. Target's leaked ad shows a 32-inch Westinghouse LCD HDTV for $246. And Wal-Mart's pre-Black Friday sale -- a good predictor of its day-after-Thanksgiving discounts -- had a Sharp 42-inch LCD HDTV for $498.

GPS receivers: On GPS units, popular gifts for a couple of years running, prices are dropping below $99, even for big brand names such as TomTom or Garmin Nuvi, says Mike Allen, the operator of

Laptops and netbooks: Prices on portable PCs are also hitting some new lows, such as the $149 Acer Aspire model in OfficeMax's leaked Black Friday ad.

Toys: With people expected to buy fewer and less-expensive toys, most retailers are marking at least part of their selections 50% off, and Wal-Mart is offering 100 toys for less than $10, compared with 10 for less than $10 last year.

Video games: There are also a lot of hot deals on video games and DVD movies, starting as low as $3.99. Video-game consoles, on the other hand, are not marked down but will come with bonus gift cards for as much as $100 (Wal-Mart) or a bundle of extra games.

Clothes: Store-brand apparel should be cheaper, analysts say, as retailers are able to pass along savings in production this year.

Shop early or shop late?

The question always comes down to this: How much of your shopping should you do on Black Friday? Should you hold out for better deals in December?

Retailers want you in the stores as early as possible and spending right up to the last minute. But historically, you can find equal or better deals even closer to Christmas, Dealnews' de Grandpre says.

You probably don't want to play a retail game of chicken with this year's hot toys, such as those Zhu Zhu Pets toy hamsters. If you're afraid supplies won't last, buy the toy now from a retailer that will match Black Friday prices. On Black Friday, look for the best deal and then get a refund of the difference after the mad rush is over, de Grandpre advises.

Most importantly, don't get sucked into the buying frenzy that surrounds Black Friday. Make a list and buy only those items you know to be a great deal. And if you miss out on one of these bargains, don't fret. Most likely you'll get other chances.

"This will definitely be a good season for bargain hunters," says Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

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