Some 147 million shoppers will bustle through the stores on Black Friday and into the post-Thanksgiving weekend, but the real deals will escape them unless they're smart about their timing.
Black Friday presents a great opportunity for stores to get rid of not-so-popular merchandise and make deals with second-tier manufacturers in order to lure shoppers.
"They cut deals with vendors
to get phenomenal prices, but the type of items that I see offered are often not the bestsellers... It's usually some kind of off-deal that they've got," said Pat Fitzpatrick, president and CEO
of Atlanta Retail Consulting. "Sometimes, you'll find that retailers will serve up some of their slow-moving items with tremendous discounts, to increase the cadence of the velocity of the specific items."
Bottom line? Don't get sucked into "deals" that are in fact rip-offs. Quite simply, you need to think smart about your shopping because there are some items that shouldn't be bought on Black Friday. And we'll tell you what they are in just a moment.
Five million fewer shoppers are expected compared to last year, according to a preliminary Black Friday shopping survey
reported by the National Retail Foundation. That means retailers are stirring up business any way they can. (Some 81% are using Facebook to alert shoppers about in-store deals, up from 74% last year, according to Shop.org's eHoliday survey conducted by BIGinsight.)
With the flurry of advertising, it can be difficult to keep in mind that the currently touted items likely will land in the bargain bins a month later. So we scoured the Web and talked to experts about what deals might get even better with time.
Here are eight items to watch for:
If you're shopping for clothing because you want to pad your wardrobe, hold off until January when stores slash prices and put their winter clothing on clearance. Some items see a dramatic drive up in prices: Last year, Ugg boots hiked from $85 in September to $137 on Black Friday
. That's a markup of more than 60%.
Brand-Name HDTVs, Cameras And Electronics
"I think there's going to be a note of caution among individuals buying consumer electronics," Fitzpatrick said. "I have noticed in previous years there tends to be a decrease in price at approximately the second or third week in December."
Stores typically have deeper discounts in January and February when manufacturers need to move product fast to make room for the new models. (The huge, yearly Consumer Electronics Expo is in January.) Specialty electronic stores might even be able to track a particular item for you and email you when it decreases in price, said Marcia Flicker, associate professor of Marketing at Fordham University.
When it comes to getting good deals on toys, think like a shop owner.
"Eighty percent of toys are sold between September and Christmas," Flicker said. "So stores, with the exception of Toys R Us, will stock
up their inventory
, planning to sell it in the fall. If they see that it's not moving as fast as they anticipated, they will drop the price to get rid of it for Christmas."
That can mean
big discounts for unsold toys by mid-December. Reports dealnews.com: "Last year nearly all of the toys hit price lows during the third week in December. We saw Bigfoot the Monster drop 40% in price, the LeapFrog Leapster Explorer dropped 31% and Pillow Pets dropped 52%."
But be warned: With big box stores aggressively offering layaway
plans, waiting too long might be risky if there's a sell-out of this year's super-popular toys, such as the LeapPad2 Explorer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the LEGO Lord of the Rings video game, according to the website TimeToPlay.com.
Flicker recommends planning ahead by "physically going to the stores and seeing how much inventory they have and how fast it is moving" -- and listening to the chatter about a popular toy.
Christmas Decorations And Trees
They sparkle and look festive, but hold off on buying them for a week or two until stores are thinking about having to make room in their storerooms for the leftover decorations. You'll get a much better deal. Of course, they'll be at an all-time low after Christmas.
Unless it's an absolute to-die-for item, you'll see pretty much the same supplies rotated for discounts all year long.
Jewelry and watches are in hottest demand just before Christmas and Valentine's Day. The Wall Street Journal
and Decide.com tracked online prices throughout the year and found that the prices of jewelry and watches tend to hike closer to Christmas. Consider buying jewelry in spring and summer.
Game Consoles Without Bundled Items
Major video game consoles usually have better deals when items are bundled together with premium accessories and two or three game titles. The past few holiday seasons, they were frequently discounted by 30% to 40% off retail prices, according to cbsnews.com.
Linens, Towels And Kid Stuff
"The traditional time for linens and towels to be on sale would be January or July," Flicker said. "Children's goods are often on sale in the back-to-school season. But everything is going to be on sale on the 26th of December."
The Investing Answer:
Do your research and consider loading your phone with a few deal-finding apps for the shopping hunt.
"The most important thing is not to get caught up in the excitement that you lose track of your budget," Flicker said. Use electronic resources to help you.
"Decide.com is a great website to help find instant price history. The data shared for just about any good will help you determine if now is a good time or if the good may go down in price later on," said Andrea Woroch, consumer and money-saving expert.
Black Friday websites like BFads.net, BlackFriday.info, and TheBlackFriday.com allow you to compare holiday ads, while mobile apps like Nextag, TGI Black Friday, Snip Snap, ShopSavvy, and RedLaser can be used to compare prices while in stores.