Some of us look forward to the rancor of shopping on Black Friday, and some of us avoid the crowds at all costs. With the inevitable traffic jams at our favorite locations, those of us planning on shopping on that day may be able to better plan our stops if we happened to know in advance what each store had to offer, such that we could prioritize our search. In past years, it was a family tradition for us to all devour the thick Thanksgiving newspaper, pouring over the myriad sale books weighing down the paper. As if we were in a dream or a trance, we each individually contemplated our plan for that noble day. While perusing the multitude of sale books in the Thanksgiving newspaper is still one of the pleasures of life, the necessity for that exercise in wishful thinking has diminished over recent years as a variety of “deals” websites are actively compiling so called “leaked” copies of the Black Friday sale books, often weeks before the big day.
I grew up in a “retail” family, working in my dad’s department store, learning the inner workings of retailing. What many shoppers may not be aware of is the lead time necessary to compile, create, publish, and distribute the Black Friday (and other major sales events) sale books to the hundreds of local newspapers in time for them to insert the circulars into their Thanksgiving editions. In the days before computers, when employees of the advertising department had to physically cut out paper images, prepare copy, and literally paste it all together before sending the sale books to a printer, my dad used to tell us that it was at least a six month process to create, print, and distribute major sale books to be inserted into the newspapers. Typical retail store shoppers are blissfully unaware of all of the work that goes into the preparation of a holiday sale book. Manufacturers and distributors have to be contracted months in advance to coordinate the physical manufacturing of the goods, negotiate pricing, arrange and schedule the distribution of the goods to the stores. In my dad’s department store, they typically had a pretty good idea of what would be in a late November Black Friday sale book by Memorial Day, and had a final version ready for the printers weeks before Labor Day. Sale books would be printed by the pallet load, and shipped to the newspapers in advance of Thanksgiving; newspaper readers are often unaware that the larger editions of the newspapers, such as Sunday and holiday editions, are actually prepared and printed in advance, only waiting for current content such as the front page and sports section to be printed last, and then finally assembled into a newspaper.
While the employees of the advertising departments of the retail stores, the printers of the sale books, and the newspaper stockroom employees are somewhat sworn to secrecy about the contents of the sale books, there are so many people involved in the creation, production, and distribution of these sale books that it is inevitable that they will prematurely leak out. While the individual department stores and retail chains would not want to give a “heads up” to their competitors about their sale plans, pre-released copies of sale books had been known to be sold to competitors, sometimes for substantial sums. With the speed of the internet along with its universal reach, it would only be a matter of time until these leaked sale books appeared on line well in advance of Black Friday. While there is both historical and contemporary evidence that some retailers jealously (and legally) guard premature release of the content of their holiday sale books, it has also become apparent that some other retailers can actually benefit and welcome the “buzz” created by the early release of lists of what they will have on sale on Black Friday.
As I type this at the beginning of November, almost four weeks before Black Friday, several of my favorite “daily deal” websites have already posted so called “leaked” copies of Black Friday sale books. Stores including Macy’s, Belk, Harbor Freight, Walmart’s “Wonder of Christmas Toy Book”, Big Lots, Dollar General’s “Toy Book”, and others are already posted online, with others being added on a daily basis before Black Friday. One of my favorite Black Friday deal sites is DealNews (dealnews.com/black-friday), which projects that it will have the sale books for about 75 of the national retailers posted online prior to Black Friday. While DealNews already has the Dell Home, Dell Small Business, Macy’s, Belk, Half-Price Books, and Harbor Freight sale books posted, others that DealNews expects to post in the coming days include Ace Hardware, Bass Pro Shops, BestBuy, Costco, CVS, Fry’s, Gander Mountain, Kohl’s, Lowes, OfficeDepot/OfficeMax, Petco, Petsmart, Sam’s, Sears, Stein Mart, Target, ToysRUs, Tractor Supply, Walmart, and many others.
Another personal favorite deal site which has a reputation for having an accurate and comprehensive selection of advance posting of Black Friday ads is Brad’s Deals (blackfriday.bradsdeals.com/ads) which includes many of the same stores as listed by DealNews, but also includes Academy, Beall’s, Palais Royal, and several others. Like some of the other websites, many of the same already leaked Black Friday ads are posted online at Brad’s Deals.
In recent years, there has been some controversy about major big box retailers opening on Thanksgiving day in order to attract early shoppers; it is expected that more retailers will be open on Thanksgiving day, and their Thanksgiving “doorbuster” ads are also to be posted. Among the “rumored” Thanksgiving day specials are Macy’s sales starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, with some being available until Saturday “while supplies last”, which “may” include: “Women’s Boots & Booties, Select Styles 50% OFF; Rampage Handbags, Select Items, $20; Misses’ Down & Wool-Blend Coats, $80; 3/4-TCW Diamond Earrings in 14K White Gold, $289; Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Sweaters, Knit Tops & Outerwear, 50% OFF; and dozens of other items. The listing of Macy’s sale items on DealNews that may be available starting at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving is 30 screens long, including the images of the items. The Macy’s listing can be viewed online at dealnews.com/black-friday/s288/Macys. Macy’s will be far from alone, being open on Thanksgiving; Sears recently announced its Black Friday sales hours as Thanksgiving Night 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and on Black Friday Sears will open at 5 a.m. Other national chains already announcing Thanksgiving Thursday openings (blackfriday.bradsdeals.com/store-hours) include Belk which will be opening at 6 p.m., and some of the major drug store chains such as Rite Aid which will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. These contrast with the recent announcement that the national sporting goods cooperative, REI, will be closed both on Thanksgiving day and on Black Friday. The “rumored” Black Friday sale will begin at 7 a.m. on Friday at Harbor Freight, and includes items typically found on a good sale from that seller (dealnews.com/black-friday/s1909/Harbor-Freight-Tools).
DealNews, which has an earned reputation for Black Friday deal predictions (dealnews.com/features/Crazy-Deals-That-Could-Actually-Happen-This-Black-Friday) predicts that there will be some “crazy deals” on Black Friday, including a name brand 60″ TV for $549, or about $350 less than the same or similar model sells for on Amazon. Consumers should watch for the rumored $99 basic but fully functional new laptops, with faster and more powerful 15″ laptops with the latest CPU and chipsets going for about $300. Generic (“no name”) Android powered 7″ tablets will be available for $20, and the newly released Roku 4 streaming media device (possibly including a prepaid gift card) is expected to be offered for about $115. Popular video games should be available for about half-off, along with new video game consoles from Microsoft (Xbox One) and Sony (PS4), selling in the sub-$300 range, or about the same price that the previous models are currently selling for in the “used” aftermarket. Those interested in top-of-the-line cell phones will likely find deep discounts on high end models; DealNews claims that the HTC One will be on direct sale for $480, or about $170 less than the same model is currently sold for by the cell phone carriers. DealNews also predicts that other top-tier cell phones will be available on Black Friday for direct purchase at an average discount of 26% off their regular prices.
Still to be posted, but should be available well before the important day, are some of the most popular Black Friday destinations, including BestBuy, Academy, Fry’s, Target, ToysRUs, and Walmart. A few years ago, after evaluating the offers in the Thanksgiving day paper, one of my daughters and her husband left the Thanksgiving dinner that they were hosting in the early evening, stood in the freezing rain for hours waiting for one of the Dallas area big box electronics stores (CompUSA) to open at midnight Friday morning. Both being familiar with the layout of the store, and having reconnoitered the store late Wednesday evening, each had a planned mission and carefully calculated route to maximize their priority purchases. Shortly after the store opened at midnight, they were the proud owners of a very large screen TV, as well as a new computer, laptop, and other hi-tech items purchased at deeply discounted Black Friday “doorbuster” prices. Now, with the availability of the online sale book postings well in advance of Black Friday, savvy shoppers can even better plan their holiday purchases, both in terms of budgeting, desired products, and shopping times.
For the readers interested in seeing what will be available on Black Friday, as well as on Thanksgiving Thursday, DealNews and Brad’s Deals should be among the first websites visited on a regular basis to view the latest postings. They, along with several other dedicated Black Friday websites, offer a free daily email notification whenever new ads are posted. For those not willing to put up with the traffic and crowds, many of these same websites will also be posting the Cyber Monday deals, available the Monday following Black Friday. While some economists are predicting that this will be a slow holiday selling season, and with some local stores already offering “Pre Black Friday” deals, retailers will be working hard to separate us smart consumers from our money.