Shop Talk

Follow these tips from the experts and you'll have Black Friday in the bag

November 18, 2006|By Tanika White | Tanika White,Sun Reporter

Ashley Reeder was born to shop on Black Friday. Literally.

Reeder's 22nd birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year. But when she came into this world (wailing stylishly, of course), it was the day after Turkey Day - the biggest shopping day of the year. And she's been a post-holiday bargain hunter ever since.

"It's in my genetic makeup," says Reeder, a junior account executive from Mount Vernon. "I can't hide it."

She's got her Black Friday shopping plan down to a well-worn science. Arrive early. Dress stylishly. Have a carb-heavy lunch for midday energy. Find leather slouchy boots in camel. Home by 2 p.m.

But most of us don't have Black Friday shopping skills flowing in our bloodstreams the way Reeder does.

We lay shoppers need help.

If you're one of the millions of people who plan to hit the ground running at paper-delivery hours - or even earlier - centscm+RDjbadie:next on Friday, we thought we'd arm you with a few helpful tips.

Before Black Friday

Make a list and check it twice.

Black Friday is not a time to fly blind. This weekend, write down the people you're buying for and what you want to get them.

"By taking a moment to think ahead, you are less likely to buy on impulse only because it's on sale," says Cyla Weiner, owner of a Chevy Chase boutique.

Focus is key on Black Friday. Sale items go quickly; many advertised deals are sold out by midafternoon. And surging crowds will prevent any leisurely meandering through aisles. Last year, 2.8 million people descended on stores the day after Thanksgiving, according to shopping.com. If you're not sure what to buy for Aunt Hattie, it's a good idea to wait to shop for her gift when at least 2 million of those folks have gone home.

Research, research, research.

You've got time now to flip through mailers, check the Internet or even get out into the stores to see how much your gift ideas are selling for now. That will help determine if stores are offering real bargains - and which stores have the best savings. For example, a dish set at a department store marked down 25 percent still may be more expensive than a similar set marked down 10 percent at a discount store. You won't know unless you've compared.

"The Internet is great because you don't have to wait until Black Friday to see what the blockbuster deals are going to be," says Dayana Yochim, personal finance expert for The Motley Fool's GreenLight, a monthly newsletter. "There are sites like blackfridayads.com and gottadeal.com. These sites get, often with retailers' permission, copies or advance notice of what these sales are going to be on Black Friday. A savvy consumer can use that ahead of time and say, `Can I have this price now?'"

On Black Friday

Reeder and her family - including her mother and grandmother - will rise at 5 a.m. to brave the cold and the throngs at outlet malls in Rehoboth Beach, Del., next week.

"It's just the excitement around it," says Reeder, who also is a fan of online shopping. "There's just a lot of people. The crowds and the hustle and bustle. I don't know; it almost puts a competitive edge on it."

Shopping gurus have some ideas about how to compete with veterans like Reeder and her deal-grabbing Grandma:

Arrive early to snare a good parking space.

"The earlier you get here, the better you'll be at finding a parking space," says Jessica Bloom, senior marketing manager for White Marsh and Owings Mills malls. "You can always go home and take a nap."

And if you can, valet park.

"You will buy yourself, possibly, an extra hour or more of peace," suggests April Masini, of Ask April.com.

When navigating the crowds, it's best if you're in comfortable shoes and light layers. But it's even better if you've removed all unnecessary items from your purse, leaving only your wallet, with credit cards, cash and ID.

"If you have five days' worth of bills that you were supposed to pay earlier in the week," says Bloom, "leave those at home."

Keep safety in mind. It's not only more comfortable and convenient to have a fairly empty purse, it's also safer.

Black Friday "attracts significant crime," says Larry Loesch, vice president at AlliedBarton Security Services. "As you shop, walk confidently and be alert and keep your shopping bags in your sight at all times. Don't burden yourself with too many bags and never display large sums of cash."

Avoid the pressure. Yochim of The Motley Fool's GreenLight newsletter urges shoppers not to succumb to Black Friday pressure.

"Basically, all of Black Friday is a great tactic for retailers to say, `Buy it now or regret it later,'" Yochim says. "They have this scare tool: scarcity. You have to stay strong."

Pay with cash. Yochim advises shoppers to use cash instead of credit.

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