Love it or hate it, Black Friday ain’t what it used to be.
Time was, you’d gather with friends and family on Thanksgiving to over-indulge in food and football. The next day, off from work, you might go buy a Christmas tree and then head to the mall to start your holiday shopping. Pretty simple, really.
Soon enough, stores caught onto the fact that everyone was out shopping the day after Thanksgiving. They began opening as early as 6 a.m. for the savvy shoppers and hardcore bargain hunters looking to pick up an entire season’s worth of gifts in one day, most at a good discount.
But somewhere along the way, things got crazy. Retailers sought to outdo each other in the quest to lock up a bigger share of each consumer’s holiday spending. If one store opened at 6 a.m., another would open at 5 a.m. Then 3 a.m. Then 1 a.m. And whether for sport, savings, or camaraderie, shoppers dutifully lined up for doorbuster deals in the dark, weary hours of their turkey hangovers.
Nowadays, even that tradition seems as quaint and far-off as the Pilgrims themselves. In 2011, retailers began opening at midnight, and, by the next year, Walmart led the way in opening its doors on Thanksgiving itself, prompting outrage — and more shopping than ever.
This year, retailers are trying all sorts of tricks to gain an edge on their competition. Plenty of them are open on Thanksgiving — some as early as 6 a.m. on Turkey Day. Others will run mega-promotions on Wednesday, presumably for those not stuck in traffic or on an airplane. Target began offering Black Friday-caliber deals on Nov. 10, and Walmart has promised five days of deals. It seems like brick-and-mortar retailers will try anything to keep you shopping on this side of Cyber Monday.
As the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season launches earlier and lasts longer, some even say Black Friday is all but dead.
The Rise of Black Thursday
Six out of 10 Americans “dislike” or “hate” that stores open on Thanksgiving, according to a survey by Accenture. But despite the general disdain aimed at stores that open on America’s favorite secular holiday, it’s not keeping people away from a good deal. That same survey concluded that 45% of consumers plan on shopping on Thanksgiving Day or evening; half of them will physically go to stores between 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
Stores That Won’t Open on Thanksgiving
Unsurprisingly, the idea of retail stores opening their doors (and making employees work) on Thanksgiving has created a lot of controversy. The Facebook page “Boycott Black Thursday” has 101,005 likes and counting. Three states – Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island — have old “blue laws” on the books that prevent stores from opening on Thanksgiving, and no one is rushing out to change them.
This year, many stores are choosing to keep their doors closed on Thanksgiving Day, and — whether it’s sincere, a marketing ploy, or both — they’re being very vocal about their decisions.
Home Depot tweeted, “Our stores will be closed on Thanksgiving. Take time to enjoy food, family and friends, and we’ll see you early Friday morning!” Massachusetts-based TJ Maxx and Marshalls put out a statement saying, “As in past years, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so our associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends.” And Costco’s vice president said in a statement, “It’s an important holiday in the U.S., and our employees work hard during the holiday season, and we believe they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving Day with their family and friends.”
These are some of the stores not opening on Thanksgiving Day in 2014:
- T.J. Maxx
- Home Depot
- Crate and Barrel
- Bed Bath & Beyond
- Ace Hardware
- Barnes & Noble
- Neiman Marcus
- Burlington Coat Factory
- American Girl
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- Hobby Lobby
- Jo-Ann Fabrics
- Pier 1
- Sam’s Club
- Sur La Table
- Von Maur
- Sierra Trading Post
Stores That Will Open on Thanksgiving
Despite the blowback they might receive, many other stores are still planning to turn on the lights and let in the customers Thanksgiving Day — some as early as 6 a.m.
Macy’s defends their decision to open by saying they work with the sales associates who volunteer to work on that day, who are compensated with incentive pay, according the Huffington Post. J.C. Penney plans on providing “round-the-clock” food, giveaways, and swag bags for employees that work on Thanksgiving.
Here’s a list of stores that will open on Thanksgiving, and when. Check your local store for exact times:
- K-Mart: 6 a.m.
- Meijer: 6 a.m.
- Big Lots: 7 a.m.
- Dollar General: 7 a.m.
- Family Dollar: 8 a.m.
- Rite Aid: 8 a.m.
- Radio Shack: 8 a.m. until noon, then reopens at 5 p.m.
- Old Navy: 4 p.m.
- HH Gregg: 4 p.m.
- Michael’s: 4 p.m.
- Walgreen’s: 4 p.m.
- Dick’s Sporting Goods: 5 p.m.
- J.C. Penney: 5 p.m. (3 hours earlier than last year)
- Best Buy: 5 p.m.
- Toys ‘R’ Us: 5 p.m.
- Sports Authority: 6 p.m.
- Office Max: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Walmart: 6 p.m.
- Kohl’s: 6 p.m.
- Target: 6 p.m.
- Sears: 6 p.m.
- Office Depot: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Macy’s: 6 p.m.
- Staples: 6 p.m.
- Sports Authority: 6 p.m.
Black Friday Deals
So, are there any deals out there worth battling the crowds over, or that you couldn’t just get online? Here’s a sampling of some of the steepest and most intriguing advertised discounts we’ve seen to date.
Remember, don’t get sucked into the frenzy (unless you simply enjoy the madness). Make a list of what you want, seek out the best deals for those items, and buy them — but just them. The reason stores are so desperate for you to come inside is so you’ll be enticed to buy things that aren’t on your list. (Here are some more tips to keep you from blowing your budget on Black Friday.)
Gadgets, TVs, and tech devices are great go-to gifts, and there’s usually no better place to score a deal on them than Best Buy.
- Apple 11.6″ MacBook Air for $779, Apple 21.5″ iMac for $900, or $200 off a MacBook Pro. Apple’s laptops and desktop computers rarely go on sale — they typically only get discounted once a year. So if you’ve been waiting to buy a new Mac, this is probably your best chance.
- Apple iPad Air 2 for $399 (reg. $499). Target offers a slightly better deal, if you don’t mind being compensated in gift cards.
- Panasonic 50-inch 1080p LED LCD HDTV, $199.99. That is a crazy-low price for a big-screen, brand-name HDTV.
- Samsung 55-inch 4K 2180p Smart LED LCD Ultra HDTV, $899.99
- Beats by Dr. Dre Solo HD On-Ear headphones, $79.99
Target began running big holiday discounts as early as Nov. 10. Still, they’ve saved one ace up their sleeve for Friday: 10% off gift cards. If you regularly shop at Target for groceries, diapers, or other household staples, this is essentially free money, and could be worth battling the crowds for. The other deals below are in limited quantities, with no rain checks available.
- 10% off Target gift cards, 6 a.m.-12 p.m. Friday
- Element 40-inch 1080p LED LCD HDTV, $119. It’s not a well-known brand, but that’s one of the lowest prices you’ll ever see for a 40-inch, 1080 pixel flatscreen TV.
- Buy an Apple iPad Air 2 for $499 and receive a free $140 Target gift card
- Nikon L330 20.2MP digital camera, $99 (save $130)
- Google Chromecast, $24.99 (reg. $35). This little gadget makes a great gift or can help you cut the cord on cable, and rarely drops in price. Also on sale at Walmart.
- Samsung Galaxy S5, 1 cent (save $199.98) with two-year contract
- GoPro Hero 3+, $249 (reg. $299) and receive a free $50 gift card
- Select Xbox games, including Madden ’15 and NHL ’15, 50% off
- Select Lego sets 40% off (if you have a kid, you know Legos barely ever go on sale)
- 40% off all apparel (men, women, kids, and babies; some exclusions, including outerwear, socks, sleepwear, and Toms)
The world’s biggest retailer is also perhaps most responsible for the negative perception of doorbuster deals gone awry and nearly everything else wrong with the Black Friday frenzy. After all, people have been shot, stabbed, and trampled to death in past Walmart Black Friday stampedes.
This year will hopefully bring less carnage: Walmart has stretched out its deals over five days, and the big-box retailer is offering a “one-hour” guarantee. If you’re in line for a sales event when it begins — the first one is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but with check your local store — you’re guaranteed an item at the Black Friday price, even if it sells out. If it is sold out, you get a Guarantee Ticket and register it online to have your item shipped.
- Buy Xbox One Halo: The Master Chief Collection bundle for $329 and receive a free $30 Walmart gift card
- 15.6″ HP Intel Celeron touchscreen laptop, $249
- Dyson DC33 Multi-Floor Bagless Upright Vacuum, $199 (reg. $349)
- Fitbit Flex wristband, $69 (reg. $99)
- Google Chromecast for $25 (reg. $35) or Roku 1 Streaming Player for $28 (reg. $48)
- Buy an Apple iPhone 6 for $179 and receive a $75 Walmart gift card (with two-year contract)
- Vizio 65-inch 1080p Smart LED LCD HDTV, $648
The struggling retailer hopes to entice shoppers with huge discounts on some of its Kenmore appliances. The popular brand rarely gets discounted more than 10-15%, so you might want to take advantage of these deals if you’ve been looking for a new stove, fridge, or washing machine.
- Kenmore washer/dryer combo, 799.99 (55% off) until 1pm Friday
- Kenmore 4.9-cu. ft. electric range, $398.99 (46% off) until 1pm Friday
- Kenmore 28-cu. ft. french door, bottom freezer refrigerator, $999.99 (45% off)
- Craftsman 22-in. dual stage snowblower, $399.99 ($300 off). Give the gift of less shoveling this winter; limited quantities, no rain checks.
- NordicTrac C900i Treadmill, $599.99 (save $900); advertised as the lowest price ever offered.
- Serta Cobee queen mattress set, $245 (reg. $749.99)
Kohl’s begins offering its more than 500 Black Friday deals at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving night, where permitted by law.
- 50% off all toys from PlaySkool, Fisher-Price, Step 2, Barbie, Monster High, Nerf, Matchbox, Hot Wheels, and Play-Doh
- Earn $15 Kohl’s cash back for every $50 you spend
- $7.99 each for a 4-quart Crock-Pot, Bella waffle maker, Bella panini maker, or 10″ x 20″ electric griddle (reg. $20-$40)
- 50% off all Fiesta brand dinnerware and accessories
- Celestron 114 mm telescope, $79.99 (reg. $199.99)
- Barbie Volkswagen Beetle, $24.99 (reg. $59.99)
- LeapFrog learning table, $24.99 (reg. $49.99)
The e-commerce giant is already in the midst of its “Deals Week,” with new deals unveiled as often as every 10 minutes through Nov. 28. We like Amazon’s scrollable deal finder, which allows you to see all the current deals by category as well as upcoming promotions about to go live.
Amazon Prime members receive 30 minutes of early access to select Lightning Deals; a free 30-day trial will get you free two-day shipping for all your holiday shopping (just make sure to cancel before you get charged).
I’m not sure who this appeals to, but Kmart is offering Thanksgiving morning doorbusters. Who wants to sleep in a bit, toss a turkey in the oven, and watch the Macy’s parade with your kids when you could scrape yourself out of bed before dawn on Thanksgiving morning to shop at Kmart? A second round of doorbusters runs from 7 p.m. Thursday through 3 a.m. Friday.
- All board games on sale, $2.99-$12.99 each
- 75% off diamonds
- 80% off 10-ct. gold earrings
- All Lego City and Friends sets on sale; limited quantities, no rain checks
- Buy one, get one for $1 on all footwear
- 6.5-ft. McKinley or Van Buren pine artificial Christmas tree with 500 lights, $49.99 (save $110)
Toys ‘R’ Us
Look for a few four-hour doorbuster deals from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday, or while supplies last, at “the biggest toy store there is.” (Gee whiz!) Other deals extend through Saturday.
- Skylanders Trap Team Starter Packs, $37.50 (reg. $65-$75)
- All Skylanders figures and Disney Infinity 2.0 figures: buy one get one 70% off (buy one, get 40% off through Saturday)
- Barbie Sisters’ Horse Adventure Play Set, $39.99 (50% off)
- Disney ‘Frozen’ Elsa Musical Snow Wand, $7.99 (reg. $15)
- Let’s Rock Elmo, $14.99 (50% off), through Saturday
- Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Home, $44.99 (50% off), through Saturday
- 50% off LeapReader books ($7.49 ea.) and LeapFrog LeapsterGS Explorer ($24.99), through Saturday
- 30% off Melissa & Doug toys and puzzles
- Imaginarium 55-piece train set with table, $39.99 (50% off)
- 50% off all Lego Galaxy Squad sets. Again, Lego products rarely go on sale.
It’s not hard to find a discount at Macy’s on any given day of the week, if you track their promotions. However, there are some standouts available while supplies last from 6 p.m. Thursday until 1 p.m. Friday:
- Tommy Hilfiger mens coats, $79.99 (reg. $195-$225)
- Misses cashmere sweaters, $39.99 (reg. $139)
- 12-piece Rachel Ray or Circulon cookware sets, $99.99 (reg. $229.99)
If you’ve got a budding musician in the family, you can get big discounts off already rock-bottom prices on musical instruments and accessories from 7 a.m. Friday through Nov. 30.
- Rogue RA090 full-sized acoustic guitar, $39; limit one per customer, 18 per store
- Musician’s Gear 4-piece complete drum set, $99 (reg. $199); 10 per store
- Shure SM48 vocal mic, $27 (reg. $55); limit one per customer
Cyber Monday Tips
If you don’t have it in you to cut Thanksgiving short to go shopping or battle the crowds on Friday, you can still take advantage of the holiday hysteria with various Cyber Monday deals. Discount prices can start as early as 12 a.m., so start early (or stay up late) to get the best deals.
Some stores, such as Best Buy and Overstock, aren’t broadcasting their online deals early, and you’ll just have to sit tight until Monday to score the bargains. Sign up for email alerts to be notified as soon as stores reveal their Monday deals, or keep an eye on CyberMonday.com to get up-to-date information on Cyber Monday specials.
Expect Amazon.com — supreme ruler of Cyber Monday shopping — to continue its parade of deals. And Walmart says it will offer more than double the amount of online deals they had last year, including deals up to 50% off. Walmart.com shoppers can score a 55-inch Samsung Ultra LED HDTV for $998 (a $500 savings), a 7-inch tablet for $37.99, and a bundle package of a PlayStation 4 Lego Batman and Little Big Planet Console for $499, saving $189.
Anytime you’re shopping online, use caution. Be certain it’s a safe website and that your information is protected. Use a credit card that offers fraud protection and, better yet, cash back bonuses for shopping online.
Kristen Kuchar also contributed to this post.