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How to shop smart in the Black Friday sales

Does Black Friday get your pulse racing? It's meant to. Although foot traffic in stores this year might not meet pre-pandemic levels, the first Friday after Thanksgiving is still the biggest shopping day of the year, for retailers and shoppers alike. In 2021, 155 million Americans shopped for deals over Black Friday weekend. Whether you're heading to your local big box store or shopping exclusively online, here's how to make sure you're getting the Black Friday deal you're dreaming of. 

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Learn moreDO head to the big retailers

The giant stores usually offer the biggest deals. Amazon has the lion's share of online sales (above 17% market share) followed by Walmart, Target and Costco. Be warned, however, that you'll be going up against a highly competitive field of elite shoppers. Although camping overnight and brawling at dawn are less common now, it can take skill and determination to get items such as smart TVs, gaming consoles and high ticket tech to the checkout. 

DON'T follow the pack

Some retailers traditionally saw Black Friday as an opportunity to shift older stock under the guise of a “doorbuster” sale. Shoppers were so focused on racing to the TVs or electronics first, they overlooked the underwhelming specifications and reviews of the items in question. 

That doesn't apply to specialty or branded stores, however, which often debut new lines in time for Black Friday weekend. Head to an Apple or Samsung store, for example, and you can pick up a competitive deal on a laptop, tablet or phone upgrade. 

DO sign up in advance

Although big discounts attract larger crowds, you're far more valuable to a retailer as a loyal customer than as a one-time buyer. As a result, you'll often find that the biggest discounts are saved for customers who sign up in advance for early bird or VIP sales. Make sure to follow your favorite retailers online and to subscribe to their newsletters and alerts. In return for your contact details, you can expect to get early access to sales and pick of the best deals. You can also fill out your delivery details and payment information one time, saving you a lot of bother later on. 

DON'T wait for Thanksgiving

Rather than whipping shoppers into a Friday frenzy, many of these retailers are choosing instead to start their holiday season sales as early as October. That allows them to get ahead of the competition and deliver a more controlled experience. Along with the rise of online shopping, this longer sale cycle has taken some of the pressure off Black Friday as the only big sale of the year. 

DO draw up a wishlist

Online cart abandonment hits 77% and above for luxury fashion and airlines over Black Friday weekend. Those are the lucky ones. Impulse buying (and with it buyer remorse) is rampant over Thanksgiving holiday season. To ensure that you're not splurging on items you'll immediately regret, draw up a wishlist and set a budget in advance. With greater focus, you can then search for the best deals on those items as they're announced. 

DON'T fall for the sales tactics

Ever wondered why your trusted supermarket places everyday items (like milk and bread) at the back of the store? It's because they're tricking you into walking past as many other items as possible to get there. Even veteran deal-hunters can fall prey to psychological manipulation, so know the tricks beforehand, including:

    • Fake urgency: such as countdown timers forcing you to make a quicker decision

    • Bogus scarcity: Hurry! Your item is dangerously low on stock. 

    • Rogue benchmarking: Retailers use all sorts of ruses to anchor prices, most often by placing them next to other items that are significantly cheaper or more expensive. With a loss leader marketing strategy, they'll even take a hit on one (lower value) item just so they can get you into the store to surprise you with something else.

These are all perfectly legitimate strategies, of course. All's fair on Black Friday. 

DO use your cards carefully

As long as you have a low interest rate card and plan to pay off your balance early, it's nearly always better to pay by credit card rather than debit card or cash. Not only do you get a greater level of consumer protection if there's an issue with your purchase, but many card providers also offer rewards or points as part of their package. If you have a store card or loyalty membership, don't forget to double up on your rewards too. 

DON'T fall for fees or funny business 

Unfortunately, Black Friday weekend is bumper season for scammers, too. Avoid getting ripped off by steering clear of any online store that doesn't have encryption, trust badges, customer reviews, or verifiable contact details in the footer. 

If you're ordering from an overseas retailer, you should also refuse any offer of dynamic currency conversion (DCC). It's nothing to do with fraud, but you will be paying unnecessarily high fees and foreign transaction costs on your order. Always pay in the currency of the country you're buying from, allowing your bank to handle the currency conversion, not the merchant. 

DO compare prices

It's easy to take a discount at face value, but there are a wide range of free tools and extensions you can use to reveal the historical and relative price of a store's Black Friday selection. You might discover, for example, that a store quietly bumped up its prices in August, ready to sensationally “slash” them in November. Many consumer electronics retailers use this tactic. Use price comparison tools to see if you're really saving. 

DON'T forget Cyber Monday 

Originally, Black Friday was for in-store shopping and Cyber Monday focused on eCommerce. But with online retail now consistently outpacing brick-and-mortar browsing, many retailers offer discounts uninterrupted from Friday right through Monday. Is there a difference? According to The Times, you'll get the better deals on big tech and appliances on Black Friday, while Cyber Monday delivers the top discounts on toys, clothing and beauty items.  

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Learn moreThis information is correct as of October 2022. This information is not to be relied on in making a decision with regard to an investment. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent financial advice before making any form of investment or significant financial transaction. This article is purely for general information purposes. Photo by on Unsplash

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