The best prices aren’t always offered on Black Friday

11/22/2013 2:55 PM

11/22/2013 2:54 PM

Fifty-inch high-definition TVs for less than what a 32-inch costs? The latest Apple products on sale? Smartphone deals that you can actually make money on?

We must be coming up on Black Friday.

The National Retail Federation expects 140 million Americans to shop during the four-day period from Thanksgiving to Dec. 1, a slight decrease from the 147 million last year.

Almost 25 percent — or 33 million — plan to hit the stores on Thanksgiving, where most major retailers are opening in the evening. Ninety-seven million shoppers plan to shop the day after on Black Friday.

Thursday and Friday newspapers are still the most popular place to find Black Friday circulars, with half of those surveyed saying they will scour the newspaper for sales, according to the NRF.

If you want a sneak preview of the ads, though, many retailers have already posted their Black Friday promotions on their websites. Or you can see most of them “leaked” to websites devoted to posting the ads.

One of the best at slicing and dicing Black Friday prices is DealNews at www.DealNews.com.

This team of writers will not only tell you whether the Black Friday deal you’ve spotted is a good one, but they’ll tell you when you might find a better price this holiday season, based on historical data. They’ll also scour the web to find coupon codes so you can get an even better deal online.

“We simplify the whole shopping process,” said Mark LoCastro, spokesman for the website. “Black Friday used to be one day. Now it’s a season.”

The website recently posted a list of what not to buy on Black Friday. Ironically, toys are at the top of the list.

“We’ve looked at the past two years, and the steepest sale on toys is two weeks before Christmas, not Black Friday,” LoCastro said. “You may see deals, but it won’t be the best percentage off.”

Cameras and name-brand televisions are better purchases to put off until after the holidays if you can, as retailers clear their shelves for newer models, he said. In the same way, winter clothes, exercise equipment and jewelry and watches all have better deals later in December and into January.

So what should we buy next weekend?

Michael Brim, founder of BFads.net, said this year’s Black Friday ads, overall, have better deals than in recent years.

The leader of the pack is Target’s 50-inch Element high-definition TV selling for less than 32-inch offerings at just $229 on Black Friday, he said.

“But it is a doorbuster, so there will be a limited supply,” he said.

Walmart is guaranteeing 20 of its doorbuster items for one hour from when they are released, an expansion from just a few items last year, Brim said.

“If the item is not in stock, they will give you a rain check for that item and it is guaranteed before Christmas Eve,” he said. “They are the only retailer offering this.”

But be sure that you know when your doorbuster item goes live, said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org.

“Some stores are staggering the release of their doorbusters at different times,” he said. “For Walmart, it is at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday, while at OfficeMax it is at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. If you don’t read their circulars carefully, you may show up at the store either hours early or hours late.”

To separate the good from the not-so-good deals, Dworsky recommends using pricing tools, such as the Price Checker at ConsumerWorld.org and PriceHistories.com

Walmart’s best deal is an Apple iPad Mini tablet for $300 with a $100 Walmart gift card, Brim said.

Usually Apple products are required to stay within the manufacturer’s pricing, but retailers have started to get around that in recent years by offering store gift cards in a bundle with the product, Brim said.

But don’t expect any Black Friday deals on the new Xbox One or PlayStation 4 video game consoles — this year. If you want a deal, wait until Black Friday hits next year, Brim said.

“I predict some phenomenal bundles then,” he said.

Here are some other Black Friday shopping strategies I learned from last year’s shopping:

• If you see a good deal online on Thanksgiving, buy it then or the item may run out. I made the mistake of waiting until after Thanksgiving dinner to buy some boots for my daughter at Belk’s online for $19.99. Her size was gone by then.
• If the store runs out, ask if they can order and have it shipped. On Black Friday, we went to Belk’s for the boots but the retailer was out at the store as well. We went a few doors down to the Shoe Rack and they, too, were out of similar boots. But the sales clerk said that we could buy them and they would ship them to us for free.
• If you don’t have the store coupon with you, ask the sales clerk if she can still add it on. Almost all clerks have a copy of the coupon at the cash register. Some will automatically give you the discount.
• For smaller crowds, try outlying malls. We had no trouble finding a parking space at Alliance Town Center in north Fort Worth. The drive from Arlington was about 20 minutes, but traffic was good on Friday morning and the shopping experience was much easier than at other malls closer in.
• Black Friday stretch. BF has expanded way beyond department stores and boutique retailers to furniture stores, hardware stores and other non-traditional holiday retailers. So if you need a new sofa or a new set of wrenches, now may also be the best time to buy.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

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