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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Countdown To Black Friday 2009

USA Today

Three percent of buyers, Consumer Reports' Money Blog figures, have already done their holiday shopping. Odds are they have now turned to getting a  head start on filing their taxes.

For the rest of us, Black Friday looms. We will be trolling between now and the Big Event to offer you news, tips, deals and ideas.

Consumer Reports also notes that 47% of shoppers plan to make gift purchases over the long weekend -- a third of them say they'll be looking for things for themselves.

Timing is important. Walmart plans to open at 6.a.m. Thanksgiving morning and stay open all night, even  though the huge savings won't be up for grabs until 5 a.m. Friday.

Walmart.com CEO Raul Vazquez tells USA TODAY retail reporter Jayne O'Donnell that on Monday the discounter will announce some of the 50 items that will be available for 40% off on its site on Thanksgiving Day.

But O'Donnell cautions that even when "doorbusters' sound good, try searching sites like Bradsdeals.com, CouponCabin.com, Pricegrabber.com and/or ConsumerSearch.com, to see if it's the really the best price available (don't forget to factor in shipping too!) and that it is a highly rated product.

Other early risers: Best Buy will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., JCPenney from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., Kmart from 6 to 11 and Macy's from 5 to 10.

The New York Times notes that Walmart, still reeling from last year's trampling death of an employee when the doors opened, is trying a number of tactics to calm things down.

An excerpt:

Shoppers at Wal-Mart will not have to sprint toward a pile of flat-screen televisions and scuffle with one another to get one. Rather, customers will be able to enter the store at any time and line up at merchandise displays for the must-have items on their lists. When the products go on sale Friday at 5 a.m., workers will supervise the lines, giving shoppers the merchandise in the order in which they joined the line — until the goods are out of stock.

This year, for the first time, the National Retail Federation has created a comprehensive set of guidelines for crowd control. These include dress rehearsals and offering entertainment to keep shoppers calm in line.

Here's a key, if chilling, excerpt:

If something were to occur during the event that required an emergency response, (e.g. trampling, shooting, inclement weather, sales items that ran out quickly, a large line of angry customers, etc.) the reaction would be different. To prepare for the unexpected, retailers should consider:  evacuation routes, communication plans, law enforcement/public official engagement;  preservation of evidence.

One amusing note: We've run across three websites now that bill themselves as an "official" Black Friday website.

For buyers hungry for something other than deals, Ikea is offering a free breakfast -- well, they concede it is a "small  breakfast" with coffee --Friday through Sunday.

Fat Wallet offers what it calls a "Deal Rumor Roundup" of Black Friday desktop computer sales.

Business Week reports that high-end teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, after years of refusing to trade status for sales growth,  is marking down its trendy apparel in an attempt to stem declines and lure back young customers.

More shopping tidbits: 

Gap Inc. says 700 Old Navy stores and 300 Gap and Banana Republic stores will open for five hours at noon on Thanksgiving Day.

That's more than double the number that opened on the holiday last year. The openings will kick off three-day sales: Old Navy, for example, will offer sweaters at $15 and 50% off outerwear.

Toys R Us Inc., which considered opening on Thanksgiving Day, is instead throwing open the doors at its Toys R Us stores just after 12 a.m. Nov. 27, the day after.  That's five hours earlier than last year. Its Babies R Us stores will open at 5 a.m. Nov. 27.

Theblackfriday.com, which bills itself as a clearinghouse for deals, is now up on Facebook to spread the word on everything from chess sets to Christmas tree storage bags.

Our website diving turned up this interesting bit -- an early reference to Black Friday as a holiday shopping phenomenon. Bonnie Taylor-Lake, of the American Dialect Society, came across a January 1966 column that was part of a department store ad.

Here's an excerpt:

"Black Friday" is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. "Black Friday" officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.

CNNMONEY cautions shoppers to check the fine print in store circulars before  busting through the doors. Some of the hottest deals are only good "while supplies last" or there a "minimum 2 per store."

In its timely tip list, CNNMONEY also cautions buyers that some of the Black Friday deals on high-end items are for "derivatives," that is, models with fewer features than the standard model.