8 Tips To Shopping Like It’s “Black Friday”

by: Isha Edwards 

November 24, 2011

If you are like many, the thought of standing in long queues for something other than Disney World and Six Flags rides, a rock star or the latest Apple gadget, going shopping in the middle of the night or at the smack of dawn, rummaging through rumpled clothing or being sandwiched between walls of people in a mall with kids afoot is not a welcomed experience.  Although for some, Black Friday is an exhilarating adventure equivalent to finding hidden treasures or a pot of gold, if acquiring coveted items at a discount is the end goal, the adventure may not pay off.

For the past five years, retailers have worked almost effortlessly to convince the masses that the best sales of the year occur on Black Friday. If that were true and retailers were not overwhelmed and intimated by large crowds, Cyber Monday would not exist and pre and post Black Friday sales would not be offered as early as the week prior and up to three days after Black Friday (pause and think about that). 

Carrots on a stick

Comparatively, Black Friday is really just a carrot on a stick or a teaser. If retailers can convince shoppers to come in for a coveted item, they can also coax shoppers to pick up other items along the way that are only partially marked down if at all. The concept works on every level at any store at any time. Rightly so, retailers use this sales strategy to their advantage.


In order to maximize profits, retailers do not leave a carrot on a stick for long. Normally, supply intentionally falls short of demand. This means that a retailer may only have 50 or less high demand items in stock to begin with even though they know or can estimate that more than 50 people will want the same item. In order to maximize profits, the carrot is put on a timer. Anchor stores have mastered the art of timed sales. Since they have a variety of products to offer under one roof, it is easy for anchor stores to keep shoppers engaged longer than boutiques. If a sale expires by noon or earlier, for example, shoppers are more likely to go to their favorite anchor store first or the store that offers the most items for the greatest discount. Either way, timed sales help ensure that shoppers spend most of their money in one place. What I call an “all-in-one store” like Target and Walmart has a similar advantage.

In order to maximize profits, sales are often “scaled” accordingly plus or minus 10 percent. In the week or days prior to a major holiday, many retailers will offer 10, 15, 20 or 25 percent off of regular and/or sale priced items plus additional savings, e.g., $30 off a purchase of $100 or more. On the day everyone is expected to shop, retailers will revert to or near the MSRP and offer 35 percent off the highest listed price making the total savings on Black Friday, for example, nearly the same as any other sale day. For this reason, the best time to shop for items other than electronics and toys is at the end of a season when retailers have no choice but to offer goods at cost or less than cost just to move inventory. Granted, the pickings are slim at the end of a season. However, shopping during off seasons reinforces the very practical habit of shopping for what you need versus shopping for what you want.

8 tips to shopping like it’s “Black Friday”

Is it possible to experience Black Friday more often than once a year? Absolutely. The following are tips for those who do not like crowds, disarray, stampedes or melee and those who want every sale to be like Black Friday.

  1. Pre-shop: Know which store is offering what you want and at what price. Ask about or research prospective sales. This way, if you opt to shop on Black Friday or any other major sale day, you will limit how long you are in a store.
  2. With that said, if a store provides a 24-hour hold on items, make use of it. Let pick-up and purchase be your M.O. Likewise, if a store provides layaway (Sears still does), make use of that also. Benefits: no crowds and a better selection.
  3. If you pre-shop, keep your receipts. Some stores like Macy’s and Banana Republic offer price adjustments within 10 days of purchase. Benefits: Size, color, and style preferences are guaranteed at the same or nearly the same major sale price.
  4. Since the best Black Friday sales are typically offered on electronics and toys and the conditions for obtaining those discounts are pretty steep, e.g. camping out for days ahead of Black Friday, shop for electronics, gadgets and toys online. The end of a product year is also a good time to acquire the same.
  5. Coupons and rewards programs are your friend! The worse time to look for coupons is when everyone is looking for coupons. Ideal to be a regular at a store such that you receive coupons and advanced notice of sales by email, text, mobile apps, and snail mail. If you happen to leave your coupon at home or simply do not have one, sales clerks are usually happy to make an exception for regulars.
  6. If push literally comes to shove as it has in the past during Black Friday, shop the week after Thanksgiving through the week before Christmas. Sales tend to be just as good if not better after the major rush especially if inventory does not move as quickly as expected.
  7. Make a list and tag team with family and friends to shop strategically. This is especially helpful at outlet malls. More territory is covered in less time and being able to catch timed sales greatly increases.
  8. Shop consignment. Surprisingly, consignment stores tend to have the least foot traffic on major sale days. This may be attributed in part to the idea that consignment items are used and therefore less trendy. Why buy used when brand new is deeply discounted—right? Actually, consignment stores also sell brand new items for less than discounted retail prices. This is because consignment stores are among the recipients of overstocked and hard to move inventory by major retailers and even boutiques.

 Got more like Black Friday tips? Share them today!

Isha Edwards is an idea catalyst for individuals and organizations across 12 industries including music, media, fashion, film, academia, professional services, nonprofit, and small business administration. Through EPiC Measures, Isha provides brand-driven marketing consulting and business development services.


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5 Responses to 8 Tips To Shopping Like It’s “Black Friday”

  1. For the record, I tested my Black Friday (BF) theory at Macy’s in Atlanta and guess what? The difference between their pre-BF sale and the one at 12:30 in the a.m. was a whopping $2.63! I have since checked Banana Republic and their “timed” BF sale is the same as last week except that the discount expired after 48 hours. More to come.

  2. Black Friday (BF) Sale update: Stores like Bath & Body Works gave $10 & 20% off coupons nearly a month ago. The coupons have varying expiration dates from 10/31 through 12/24. $10 off of $30 purchase has always been standard so no real BF sale.

    According to store clerks, BBW’s semi-annual sales will not be held this year. Instead, you have to watch their “sales” shelves for discounted, seasonal items. Victoria Secret also gave $10 -$100 off cards prior to BF, which can be applied to any purchase 12/1-12/21. Sometimes, waiting until their semi-annual sale yield better results.

    My favorite store, Loehmann’s had a 35% sale until 10 a.m. Right now, everything is 25% through Monday (11/28). Loehmann’s also provided $15 coupons for use 12/15 through 12/18. Macy’s 25% off everything sale starts on 11/30 and ends 12/5. This “Friends & Family” day pass was distributed prior to Black Friday.

    Typically, money off ($10 or more) amounts to a greater discount than a percent off sale. Make a list and do the math before you shop.

  3. Everything I should have known before my first Black Friday shopping experiences, which were sprinkled with buyers remorse. Wish I had this insight before. This is “home work assignment completed” before due date.
    You are “ahead of the curve” Isha

    • Thank you Tony for your feedback. I appreciate it. Here’s hoping that this “inside scoop” about Black Friday and retail sales minimizes buyer’s remorse for the masses going forward.

  4. Great piece of writing, I will be viewing back again frequently to look around for up-grades.

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