Stamina — that’s what you need for shopping on Black Friday. Bargain-hunters on Long Island have made a new tradition of stay-up-all-night and out-all-day shopping sprees.
With so many stores open for longer hours — including many on Thanksgiving Day again this year — shoppers have more time to get the deals and lots of options.
Don’t assume you can do just as well shopping online.
“The best deals are traditionally in the stores,” says Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group, a marketing research company based in Port Washington.
But along with the deep discounts come lots of people, parking woes and plenty of time spent waiting in line.
Here are some strategies for beating the crowd:
PLAN YOUR ROUTE Veteran Black Friday shoppers use a combination of sales flyers, retail store apps and offers sent via email and text messages to stay on top of the best deals. Some shop from a strict list, grabbing just a few doorbuster items before jumping into express checkout and quickly moving on to the next store. Map out where you’re going each day — and when.
AVOID PEAK HOURS Popular mass retailers still get a surge of shoppers upon opening who are looking for specific deals or items that might sell out fast. Peak shopping hours are 5-6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and noon-4 p.m. Black Friday, Cohen says.
“You don’t have to shop when the crowds are there,” he says. And you probably won’t miss much. “Most stores have gotten away from three-hour specials” Cohen says, and instead offer sales that go on all through Black Friday.
Also: Stores are more crowded on the first day they’re open — so those closed on Thanksgiving will be especially booming on Black Friday.
GO EARLY — OR LATE Consider hitting the busiest spots — shopping malls, outlet centers, big-box stores — in the wee hours of Black Friday morning, when the initial Thanksgiving night rush may have passed and the Friday-only shoppers are still sleeping.
Last year at Roosevelt Field, lots of families were shopping around 6-9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, marketing director Nancy Gilbert says, and the mall was its busiest between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Black Friday. Both she and Cohen agree: Those who shop the stores open in the middle of the night should find shorter lines.
PRIORITIZE If you’re going to a brick-and-mortar store for a big-ticket, limited-inventory item such as a large-screen TV or deeply discounted tablet, know that the pursuit will likely consume hours of your time — and you may not get it.
Last year, Best Buy retail stores doled out claim tickets for some doorbuster items two hours before opening time to shoppers waiting on line. Also last year, Walmart instituted a one-hour guarantee in which store shoppers could still order doorbusters that sold out on the spot for delivery before Christmas — but shoppers still had to wait in a designated line.
Since most retailers offer the same deals on their websites, consider vying for that item online with a smartphone as you’re waiting in line elsewhere.
BUDDY UP Don’t underestimate the social game of Black Friday shopping. At big-box stores, it helps to split up and seek out the popular items or send one person to stand in the checkout line. And then there’s the waiting, made more fun if you’re in good company. Last year at Tanger Outlets at the Arches in Deer Park, droves of college-age friends milled around all night long on Thanksgiving, creating a festive atmosphere in which few seemed to mind waiting in a security line just to enter retail stores such as J.Crew.
SAVE RECEIPTS If you see something and think it’s a good price — buy it, Cohen says. But save your receipts. Retailers have become increasingly competitive about price-matching in brick-and-mortar stores to combat the perception that shopping online is cheaper. “They’re going to honor the best prices they can get,” he says.
PICK A SPOT NEAR AN EXIT Even early-birds who arrive to find half-filled parking lots should choose a spot close to a street exit — particularly a lesser-used back or side one. You’ll have a longer walk to enter the store, but if the lot is full when you’re ready to leave and idling vehicles are clogging the aisles, you’ll be able to get out faster (recall last year’s multiple-hour standstill at Tanger outlets in Deer Park).
BACK IN The extra effort upfront will help you better spot pedestrians and navigate cues from all the drivers who will inevitably be jockeying for your parking spot as you leave.
CONSIDER VALET Malls such as Roosevelt Field offer valet parking service ($7) during shopping hours, including Black Friday, Gilbert says.