The day after Thanksgiving isn't about digesting all that turkey anymore. Black Friday is instead a shopping marathon, where only the strong-elbowed survive. The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend a whopping $630.5 billion this holiday season, a rise of 3.7%. And Black Friday, the unofficial kickoff to holiday shopping mania, is the busiest shopping day of the year, followed by "Super Sunday" right before Christmas.
But Black Friday has lots of tricks up its sleeve that might make you want to stay home and eat leftovers instead. Personal finance site NerdWallet analyzed Black Friday ads from 21 major retailers and found that the deals this year aren't all they promise. "Just because a retailer promotes a certain product as a 'deal,' consumers shouldn't take that at face value," Katrina Chan, NerdWallet's shopping manager, said in the report. "Shoppers still have to do their homework early." Here's what you need to know.
1. A lot of the big-ticket deals are repeats this year.
NerdWallet found that 95% of retailers are repeating some Black Friday deals, listing at least one product at exactly the same price this year as they did on Black Friday last year. According to an analysis by WalletHub, 11.2% of the items on sale will be repeats. Some of the ads are even virtually identical from year to year.
2. Not all stores are created equal.
WalletHub crunched the sale numbers to figure out the best and worst stores to check out on Black Friday. JCPenney offered the biggest percentage discounts, followed by Kohl's and Stage. The worst were warehouse stores like Sam's Club and Costco, but those places are more likely to offer major deals year-round if you buy in bulk.
3. Stores try to pump up the discounts using sneaky tricks.
According to the NerdWallet report, some stores will increase the "original" price of a product in a Black Friday ad by listing the manufacturer's suggested price rather than the one they usually use in stores. That makes the discounts seem that much bigger on Black Friday. Take a look at the same product's "original" price in various stores, and you'll likely see different prices for the exact same thing because of these tricks. So instead of being dazzled by a 50% off label, take a look at the actual sale price, do your research, and decide whether you're willing to pay that amount.
4. Brands also use tricky strategies to make you think products are new.
According to NBC News, some electronics companies will put out "new" models of products like TVs just to trot out for Black Friday. These items, called "derivative" products, don't have any sales history, so stores can give it a high "original" price and an inflated discount price. The products aren't anything new; sometimes they just simply change the model number, or take away a feature to make it cheaper. If you look up the model number and you don't see any reviews, be skeptical.
5. You might have already missed out on major discounts.
Some big-box stores, like Sam's Club and Sears, had the same prices, or sometimes even lower ones, earlier this month than they promise on Black Friday. After all, Target and Walmart have kicked off their holiday shopping seasons already, and Amazon even started its "Black Friday" sales at the beginning of November. "It isn't Black Friday. It isn't even Black Friday weekend or Black Friday week anymore," Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group told CNET. "This year, it's the whole month. It's going to be Black November."
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