Black Friday is still a month away, but as the competition has grown in recent years, retailers are advertising their sales earlier than ever.
Michael Brim, founder of BFAds.net, a website that pulls together the top Black Friday ads from retailers across the country, has already began compiling deal announcements from Harbor Freight, a company that sells tools, Build a Bear, and other toy and book sellers.
Brim calls Best Buy, Target and Walmart the big three in recent years. Although Brim said Target had the best item last year, a 42-inch TV for around $200, Target's chief financial officer John Mulligan said the store will not be focusing on doorbuster Black Friday sales this year.
“We’re not interested in driving sales for the sake of sales, [so] you might see us lag competitors in terms of comp-store sales increases,” he said during Goldman Sachs’ Global Retailing Conference, explaining that he would rather focus on the everyday shopper and push Target-specific home goods and fashion like their Neiman Marcus collection.
Though waiting in overnight lines in the cold and fighting for the last laptop have become part of the sport that is Black Friday for some, Brim recommends shopping online.
“When you shop online, you can be at Walmart, Target and Best Buy all at once,“ he said, adding that online retailers tend to have a national inventory, making it more likely you'll score the TV you want than if you shop the limited supply at your local store.
Most sales start online at midnight on Thanksgiving morning, so Brim says that's the best day to log on.
Shoppers who like to plan ahead can sign up for BFAd email alerts on the site to find out when the latest deals are posted.
“We know a ton of people will be at certain stores, but if a somewhat equal deal is offered at a competitor with less traffic, we make sure to advise people of that,“ Brim said, noting that it's worth it to pay a little more and avoid the lines and the risk of going home empty-handed.
In recent years, stores like Walmart and Lowes have used their Facebook pages to give customers an early scoop on sales in exchange for a “like.”
While last year Toys R Us, Kohl's and other popular stores opened Thanksgiving night, opening dates for this year have not yet been announced. Brim said most deals are announced between early and mid-November.
Brim predicts a larger TV than last year, perhaps a 46-inch, will be offered this year for around $250. He says Furbies and video game console Wii U, which will be released in November, will be coveted items this year in addition to the usual consumer electronics, but he also advises looking into home appliances.
“You can do really well on home appliances leading up to Black Friday,“ he said. “In the past two years we've seen great deals at stores like Home Depot and Lowes.“
If you know you will be buying a TV or printer in store, Brim advises buying cables online ahead of time on sites like Amazon. You'll save big and you won't be tempted to buy them in store on Black Friday just to have instant access to your new toy.
Black Friday shoppers hit Tanger Outlets in Riverhead. (Nov. 24, 2011)