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Tips for navigating holiday shopping

Angel Magee of Mastic and Sacha Alverez and

Angel Magee of Mastic and Sacha Alverez and Lillian Garcia of the Bronx sit outside the Timberland store at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead. (Nov. 27, 2008) Photo Credit: Newsday/Jim Peppler

Here are a few tips to help shoppers navigate the holiday promotions on Black Friday and beyond.

1. Research

A majority of shoppers will be mapping out their plans of attack for Black Friday using circulars and print ads as well as abundant online resources, retail analysts say. "Every store leaks what they are going to put on sale on purpose, because they want the consumer to plan to come into their store," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, a Port Washington market research firm. Shoppers can compare prices and find coupons online with websites that aggregate such information. Most often shoppers will be able to find what they want in their price range and buy it when they want without standing in line hours before a store opens, Cohen said.

2. Check out discounted and free shipping deals

Many retailers offer various discounts or free shipping deals, which may make it less expensive to purchase an item online. "We're seeing a lot of stores that will do free shipping on $50 or more this year, and a lot more are offering free shipping if you spend $25 or more," said Kevin Strawbridge, president of DealTak er.com, a Dallas-based website that aggregates coupons and information on deals.

3. Shoppers should not wait to buy "must have" items when they see those products selling near or within their price range.

While the stores have been running sales leading up to Black Friday, the discounts are not as steep as they were last year, analysts said. In addition, merchants are keeping their inventories tight. "If there's something in your price range, buy it when you see it because chance is it's going to be gone, and . . . there's no guarantee that it's going to be on sale later in the season," Strawbridge said.

4. Keep sales receipts and monitor sales prices even after making a purchase.

If shoppers find that a retailer lowers a price later in the season, most merchants will refund the difference in price within 21 or 30 days, Cohen said.

5. Find out if a Black Friday sale is for a limited number of items and how long the sale lasts.

"If only 12 or five pieces are available, the odds get slim," Cohen said. "and if you want it, there are 100 people who want it, too."

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