Things to know about the holiday shopping season

We’re on the verge of the most-buzzed-about shopping weekend of the year.

It starts on Thanksgiving with after-dinner doorbusters — provided you eat early. It morphs into Black Friday, which used to be the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. And it continues, to a much lesser extent, Saturday and Sunday.

With so much hype, there are some things you really should know about the weekend.

No. 1: Of the four-day holiday weekend, the best deals are on Thanksgiving — even though more people shop on Friday. And, yes, there’s a reason for that.

Last year, 43.1 million shoppers said they shopped on Thanksgiving, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade association that represents retailers. Twice as many shoppers — 86.9 million — said they shopped on Black Friday.

Shoppers who are most interested in low prices shop on Thanksgiving because prices and doorbusters are best that day. Most, though not all, of the Thanksgiving shoppers are interested in low prices because they have to stick to strict budgets. They have a finite amount of money to spend. “Once they’re done, they’re done,” said Michael Bernacchi, a University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor. And stores want to grab as much of those shoppers’ limited budgets as quickly as they can.

In addition, brick-and-mortar stores have to compete with Amazon, which is always open and also has a bigger foothold in the online world than other stores’ online operations. “If stores don’t do what they can to take some business away from Amazon, Amazon’s going to have it all,” Bernacchi said. “Once this online selling started … nobody has really figured out how to do it very well outside of Amazon.”

No. 2: Thanksgiving and Black Friday don’t necessarily have the best deals of the year.

If you’re looking for toys, know that experts say they tend to get marked down the first two weeks of December. “Traditionally, the closer to Christmas you wait to buy, the more likely you’ll find deep discounts,” said Katrina Chan, shopping manager for NerdWallet, a consumer education website. Of course, if you’re after a toy someone really, really wants, it’s always best to shop early to avoid disappointment.

While discounted TVs will be everywhere, not every inexpensive TV is a good deal.

“On Black Friday, retailers have been known to sell something called derivative products — lower-quality versions of popular products created specifically for Black Friday,” Chan said. “These items — which are usually electronics — may be inexpensive, but that’s often because they have fewer features and cheaper production costs than mainstream versions.” Her suggestion: In order to avoid getting a bad deal, try to determine if a product you see advertised is a derivative or the real thing by searching its model number online.

Name-brand TVs tend to be even less expensive closer to the Super Bowl, when retailers clear out merchandise they think will become outdated in order to make room for the latest models.

What makes Thanksgiving weekend such a big deal is its big concentration of deals — sales galore! — which makes for easy shopping on a weekend when many people have a four-day break from work and time to indulge in what has become a holiday tradition.

No. 3: Tell your mom if she doesn’t want to miss a deal, she needs to sign on to social media and download store apps.

Thanksgiving weekend sale circulars are great, but they’re only part of the best shoppers’ prep. Why? Because they’re printed well in advance of Thanksgiving and retailers, depending on what their competition is doing or because they need to make revenues, often add items to their sales. Plus, by this time of year, retailers’ advertising budgets are pretty depleted.

The best way for them to get the word out on last-minute sales is through Facebook, Twitter and store apps.

You know that; now make sure your mom does, too.

And make sure she knows about sites like GottaDeal, NerdWallet and DealNews that track and compare deals from a wide variety of stores. Another good one: Consumer Reports.

No. 4: We seem to be suffering from BFF — Black Friday Fatigue.

Since 2013, when stores began opening on Thanksgiving, our interest in shopping over the holiday seems to be waning.

Last year, total spending over Thanksgiving weekend was down 11% from 2013, according to the NRF, a trade association that represents retailers. (That followed a 2.9% decline from 2012 to 2013.) The number of shoppers was down, too — 55.1% of consumers shopped during that four-day weekend, down from 58.7% in 2013, which might not seem like a huge amount, but it does signify a downward trend.

And it looks like that trend is going to continue this year: 135 million people are expected to shop over Thanksgiving weekend this year, compared to 140 million last year.

Simply put, the weekend is less important than it used to be — 20% of consumers expect to do less shopping on Black Friday this year than last and 52% of shoppers say they rely less on Black Friday than they did in the past, according to a survey by Deloitte.

Why? There’s always a sale. Black Friday — which used to be a single day — has grown into an entire season, gobbling up Thanksgiving with it. Retailers start their holiday sales on Nov. 1 — that’s when Amazon started its Countdown to Black Friday Sale, for example — and continue them to Jan. 1. When there’s always a sale, Thanksgiving weekend feels less important than it once did.

No. 5: The reason stores close on Thanksgiving has nothing to do with family time.

Stores are in business to make money. Stores open when they believe they will make money. Big box stores open on Thanksgiving because they believe they will make enough money to compensate employees for working the holiday and to pay for heat and electricity needed to open their doors to shoppers.

When it comes to Thanksgiving Day shopping, it’s all about deep discounts on TVs, computers and — yes — Crock-Pots. (I dare you to show me a store that’s open Thanksgiving and isn’t touting a deal on a slow cooker.)

Stores that don’t offer these products — Nordstrom, REI, Neiman Marcus, Von Maur — don’t open on Thanksgiving. Neither do stores without mass appeal — Staples and GameStop have made headlines for being closed on Thanksgiving, but neither has the draw that Target or Walmart has. When was the last time you saw hundreds of people waiting in line for a doorbuster at Staples?

And outdoor retailer REI got a huge amount of positive publicity when it said it would close on Thanksgiving and on Black Friday to allow its staffers and shoppers to enjoy the outdoors.

“To me, it was a successful publicity stunt,” said Brad Olson, owner of GottaDeal, a website that tracks Black Friday deals. “We’ve had this site for 12 years, I’ve never even seen an REI Black Friday ad. … It’s not like they’re known for these sales they’re going to cancel. … I don’t think they’re going to lose that many sales to it, because they were never known as a Black Friday store to begin with.”

So all in all, i suggest that you don’t shop much this weekend and instead spend as much time as you can with your family and friends. But if you’re going to shop, try to remember this article. Happy Thanksgiving !!!

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