Brad Wilson, 32, founded BradsDeals (www.bradsdeals.com), a website specializing in price comparisons, coupons and deals, in 2001 as a self-proclaimed “broke college student” at UNC Chapel Hill. Since then BradsDeals, now based in Chicago, has exploded and expanded into a second site and smartphone app devoted to the biggest shopping day of the year: Black Friday.
Shoppers can visit Black Friday by BradsDeals (www.blackfriday2012.com) to view leaked ads, store hours and some of the best deals of the big day as chosen by the site. And it’s never too early to start your research; in fact, Wilson says that’s key to having a successful shopping trip.
“It’s really the one day a year where we get this kind of transparency where we can see what the stores are doing this far in advance. Start researching and make a plan,” he said.
So before you lie down for a long nap after dinner Thursday, plan your route and gather your ads. But Wilson also warns shoppers not to forget about the stores who aren’t advertising.
How to snag the big buys
“It’s really a retail-wide event. The big box stores get the most attention for putting out large ad circulars, but you can basically shop anywhere and they’ll be having some sort of promotion,” he explained.
Some of the most popular items that will be sought this year will include TVs, Kitchen Aid mixers, Dyson vacuums and apparel. BradsDeals tracks the number of clicks on products, and last Black Friday, televisions received four out of every five clicks on the site.
But just because TVs and electronics get the most attention doesn’t mean they’re the best deals available. Wilson suggests being open to any deals you see. Plus, prices will usually go back up for a couple weeks in mid-December.
Avoid the rush
Shoppers can expect the usual madness in stores this coming year, but most retailers are taking steps to reduce the rush.
Stores are staggering sale hours more this year, offering certain promotions for only a couple hours throughout the day, and some will be handing out tickets to shoppers who arrive first.
“In years past you got one bite at the apple,” Wilson said. “Now you get two or three at least if you incorporate sale times.”
The limited quantities of some of the best deals are the main cause of stress and conflict for shoppers, and this year Walmart has a solution.
“For the first time Walmart has guaranteed availability for their biggest deals,” Wilson explained. “The limited quantity thing has been a staple of the Black Friday phenomenon, but Walmart has said that anyone who’s there between 10 and 11 p.m. on Thursday will get a voucher for their best products.”
He believes that will be a game changer for the big day.
Watch out for warranties
The top concern for shoppers this year shouldn’t be return policies, as most stores extend those during the holiday season, but store warranties.
“We make a lot of big ticket purchases on [Black] Friday, and you obviously shouldn’t buy the store warranty because it’s really overpriced. Most products we buy come with a one-year warranty,” Wilson explained.
Instead of the store warranty, he suggested shoppers check with their credit card company to see if they offer extended warranty protection. Many American Express cards and VISA Signature cards offer this service.
With extended warranty protection, credit card companies can reimburse you the purchase price of products bought with select cards if the items break. Wilson explained that in many cases you end up with more money than the product costs to replace due to depreciation. If you have a card that offers this service, use it for your Black Friday purchases.
Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday
Even though Black Friday dwarfs the number of purchases made on Cyber Monday, Wilson says it’s one of his favorite ways to shop.
“The discount of online coupon codes jumps by about 5 percent that day. Pricing is a little better, discounts are aggressive and there’s a big sales tax benefit for many,” he said. “If I had to pick one day to shop, I’d pick Cyber Monday.”
While it’s true that some of the big door buster sales on Black Friday aren’t replicated online, many of the other bargains throughout the day could be.
“If I was standing in line on Black Friday, I’d be on my phone cruising the Internet to find the same items I’m shopping for to see if I can find them for a similar price,” he said.
What are you shopping for on Black Friday, and which stores do you plan to visit?