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Gird your loins and charge your laptops, tablets and phones, because the biggest long shopping weekend of the year has arrived.
Despite those 32 million overachievers who got a head start on shopping this past summer, more than 183 million Americans still plan to shop – either on foot or on the couch – from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, according to new data from the National Retail Federation.
And retailers are ready for the rush.
“Even if a lot of holiday shopping has already started, retailers would be crazy not to leave a few tricks up their sleeves for the biggest shopping weekend of the year,” says Kathy Grannis Allen, spokesperson for the National Retail Federation.
For those tricks, and advice for shoppers seeking killer deals, we spoke with Howard Schaffer, founder and CEO of Offers.com, and Brad Wilson, founder and CEO of Brad's Deals about what you need to know (and do) this weekend:
What’s hot this year?
“Star Wars: The “Force Awakens,” wearables (e.g. Fitbit) and 4K TVs. Schaffer says toys, video games and apparel for the upcoming release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will be the products to battle for. You can find light sabers for as low as $4.99 on Shopko, action figures for $9 at Wal-Mart and the best deals on the “Star Wars Battlefront” video game at GameStop ($59.99; $69.99 for the deluxe edition), according to NerdWallet’s DealFinder.
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Pricing on wearables will be lower, adds Schaffer. For example, you can find the Fitbit Charge for $89.99 (regular price $129.99) at Best Buy, Target and Kohl’s.
For TVs, you’ll find the best deals for on Black Friday. This is the year of the 4K sets, says Wilson.
“My favorite Black Friday deal of the year is a 55” LG 4K UHD TV for $698 at Wal-Mart,” he said.
Keep quality in mind
As is true every year on this long weekend, you’re going to see the most deals of the year, but not necessarily the best deals, says Schaffer. This is especially true of “door-buster” deals, more of which are online this year.
Once reserved for brick-and- mortars, door busters are used to lure you into the store so that sales reps can upsell and add more items to your cart. Today, merchants have mastered the art of pesky salesperson online with features like, “Customers who bought this also bought this.”
If you’re gunning for one particular item, keep quality in mind. Offers.com tracked 2014 door busters from big-box retailers by looking at product reviews on Amazon after people had used them, and found that for many of these products, the ratings were three stars or less.
“When you’re buying door-busters, don’t buy off brand products (which most door busters are),” says Schaffer. “If you’re going to buy door-busters, stick with the name brands.”
Your two biggest allies are a budget and a list.
“Create a budget, create a list, and – based on your list – go find the best deals," says Shaffer. "There’s never a best day – it depends on what you’re buying and your (financial) situation.”
What’s going to stress you out (and throw off your budget) isn’t the dollar or two extra you spend by not timing a purchase perfectly, but the overspending on items that aren’t on your list, he says.
FYI: Gallup says the average American plans to spend $830 on gifts this season -- up from $720 last year.
When to shop in store
If your list of gifts is pretty specific (i.e. you don’t need a toy, but THE toy, like the “Star Wars” R2-D2 Interactive Robotic Droid), then you’re better off putting your stretchy pants on and heading to the store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, says Schaffer.
Manufactures (purposely) make fewer big-selling items and retailers understock them so they’ll run out if you’re not quick to act. Wilson says most deals will be online, but if the ad says “quantities are limited,” then “that’s usually a pretty good tip off that it won’t be (available) online.”
Two of the deals on Wilson’s top 25 list for Black Friday are in-store only: a PS4 bundle at Kohl’s that comes with Kohl’s Cash, and Toastmaster kitchen appliances (which you can earn a net gain of $5.01 when you use an in-store only coupon and cash in the mail-in rebate later).
When to shop online
You can shop online for pretty much anything, says Wilson. And you should absolutely use the Internet to compare prices with tools like PriceBlink, the new (and free) browser add-on and app that searches the Internet while you're shopping to find better prices, coupon codes or free shipping. Offers.com data shows that unlike Black Friday – which has the best product deals – Cyber Monday has the best storewide, brand-wide and category-wide sales.
When to shop mobile
“App Only Deals” are becoming more of a thing. Amazon is going to have deals – 150 of them – that are available exclusively in its app, running from Thanksgiving through Wednesday, Dec. 9. For instance, one in-app exclusive will be a Hisense 55-inch 4K Smart LED TV for $448 ($331.99 off). Wilson says the same goes for Target and its Cartwheel app.
With reporting by Kelly Hultgren