It's been quite a while since shoppers needed to wait until Black Friday to take advantage of "Black Friday" deals. For years now, retailers have rolled out huge early BF sales starting on the day after Halloween, or even earlier.
This year is no exception, with Amazon, Office Depot, Target, and Walmart among the many competitors launching early bird deals by November 1. But the true discount frenzy doesn't arrive until the week of Thanksgiving, which is just about upon us. Here's what shoppers can anticipate in the days ahead.
Amazon launched the first of its early Black Friday deals weeks ago, but the world's largest retailer just announced that the pace of new sales will increase sharply exactly one week before Black Friday. From Friday, November 18, through the day after Thanksgiving, Amazon says it will periodically roll out new deals as often as every five minutes. While Amazon has unveiled some of the sales ($15 to $40 off Amazon tech like tablets and Echos, 32-inch LED TVs for only $70, up to 60% off toys), it isn't revealing exactly when these discounts will become available. So shoppers have to stay tuned, or sign up for Amazon's deal-tracker alert.
Amazon is also enticing consumers to turn to it for all of their holiday shopping needs by dropping the price of Amazon Prime to $79 (down from $99 per year normally) for subscribers signing up on Friday, November 18. Prime members get free two-day shipping on most Amazon orders, plus free unlimited music and video streaming, among other perks.
Amazon is hardly the only retailer that's not waiting until Black Friday to introduce Black Friday-like sales. Walmart has already begun offering select early Black Friday deals via its mobile app. Discounts during the retailer's Pre Black Friday Sale are live in stores and online right now as well, with deals like a Dyson bagless vacuum for $249 ($140 off), and RCA 16GB tablet for $35 ($25 off), and a trampoline for $199 ($120 off).
Meanwhile, Sears is giving members of its Shop Your Way rewards program early access to the doorbuster deals. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. this Sunday (November 20), rewards club members can get doorbuster prices at Sears stores that won't be available to the general public until the night before Thanksgiving. The items include a Kenmore refrigerator for $1,000 (normally $2,200), small kitchen appliances for $9.99 after a $10 rebate (regularly priced $25 and up), and an extra 30% off clothing purchases of $50 or more.
Sears is also giving customers free shipping on all orders (no minimum purchase) starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 23, and continuing through Thanksgiving. Bear in mind that Best Buy and Target have reintroduced free, no-minimum-purchase shipping on all orders for the duration of the 2016 holiday shopping season, and that it's common for retailers to offer free delivery on purchases during the holidays, even at the last minute. They're also promoting pre-Black Friday discounts, with Target hosting 10 Days of Deals starting Saturday, November 19, for instance.
In terms of evaluating which sales are ho-hum and which are the real deal throughout the season, check out this list of bargain-hunting tips from Consumer World.
Virtually every retailer will be swimming in new sales launched on the weekend before Thanksgiving. But with few exceptions here and there, the promotions won't be all that much different from any other weekly specials throughout the year. The consensus is that stores truly step up their game in terms of deep discounting starting on Thanksgiving.
The majority of Walmart's Black Friday deals, for instance, are available to online shoppers starting at 12:01 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. The shopping experts at dealnews.com say that TV sales like a 40-inch Element HDTV for $125 and a 60-inch Vizio HDTV for $398 are among the best doorbuster deals they've ever seen.
Check out sites like BFAds.net, Brads Deals, The Black Friday, and dealnews.com to view deals from all of the retailers above and more. And note that most Black Friday deals are actually available to shoppers starting on Thanksgiving Thursday, either in person, online, or both.
If you're still miffed about missing out on an amazing Black Friday special last year, fret not. There's a good chance it'll pop up again next week. Shopping experts who carefully track deals throughout the year and pay special attention to peak sales days note that many Black Friday sales repeat themselves, with retailers featuring the same items at the same prices year after year.
Note that Black Friday is NOT the best day finding deals on all merchandise. The majority of shoppers have come to see Black Friday sales as mostly hype, with the typical store offering a small selection of truly amazing prices mixed in with many other mediocre discounts. While it's impossible to state unequivocally which is the best day for getting the lowest prices, studies indicate that Black Friday is often great for deals on cheap electronics, video games, DVDs, and gaming systems. It's also regarded as a terrific day for negotiating a deal on a new car, what with dealerships eager to clear lots and boost sales figures toward the end of what's a fairly slow month for business.
Black Friday Weekend & Beyond
If you miss out on any of the sales next week, don't sweat it. There will be many more sales and rounds of discounts to follow. The 40% off discounts you're seeing now are highly likely to transform into 50% or 60% off discounts on Cyber Monday—as well as many other days leading up to Christmas.
Once early and actual Black Friday promotions end, they will be replaced by Cyber Week sales. And then Green Monday sales. And then special discounts with complimentary delivery thanks to Free Shipping Day promotions. And many, many more random flash sales and limited-time deals will surely surface regularly now through December 25. Oh, and then the inevitable "after Christmas" sales will arrive.
The point is that in the days ahead you won't be able to swing a debit card without hitting an item that may seem like a can't-pass-up bargain. In fact, regardless of how short-lived and special the sale may appear, something similar—and perhaps even better—will pop up after it disappears. One other fact smart shoppers must consider is that retailer original prices are so incredibly inflated today it's hard to tell when discounts of 30%, 40% 50%, or more are truly deals, and when they're still way overpriced.