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How to Read a Black Friday Ad

Oct. 31, 2014
Black Friday, Shopping
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There may still be nearly a month to go until Black Friday, but you can start setting yourself up now for shopping success. Black Friday is about more than waking up early and braving the crowds. A crucial part of getting a great deal is knowing how to spot one in the first place.

Before stores even unveil their seasonal offers and promotions, spend some time brushing up on your Black Friday ad-reading skills. Become a savvy shopper now so you can score the best deals come Nov. 28.

Some helpful steps to get there:

Track Down the Ads

If you want to be the best Black Friday shopper you can be, you’ll first want to get an edge on the competition. Keep checking NerdWallet for Black Friday ad leaks so you’ll see them as soon as they’re available. This will give you more time to study. Plus, the sooner you know which promotions are offered, the sooner you’ll know which stores you’ll want to target come Black Friday (or Thanksgiving for early-opening stores).

Dig Into the Deals

According to a 2013 NerdWallet analysis of 25 Black Friday ads, an overwhelming 92% of retailers repeat Black Friday deals. That’s right: 23 of the 25 stores analyzed in the study offered at least one item for the same sale price in both 2013 and 2012. The moral? Do your homework before going blindly into a store. Just because a product may be featured as a sale item doesn’t mean that it’s actually marked down.

Before ever setting foot in a store, do some research. Some effective ways to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck: Determine your must-have items, cross-compare them among several retailers, and check last year’s ads to see if the item was also on sale in 2013 – and for how much. Also consider doing an online search to see how much the item is sold for during non-promotional periods. This may help you decide if the amount of the discount is really worthwhile.

Beware ‘Derivatives’

Next, you need to be completely sure that the product you want and the product that is being offered by a retailer are indeed one and the same – Black Friday shoppers should beware “derivatives.”

Derivative products are similar to the popular products that consumers want, but are actually less advanced versions. These seemingly identical products may be made by the same brand-name manufacturer, but they likely lack important features. What is the best way to combat this potential problem? Time recommends searching for a product via its model number.

Do Prices Reflect Rebates, Coupons?

Once you’ve found an item that looks appealing and you’re determined that it’s actually the product you’re yearning for, delve a little deeper into the deal. Is the listed price the price you’ll be paying upfront? Or does the price include a mail-in rebate?

The very concept of a rebate is designed to add work to the shopping process. Shoppers pay a higher price upfront with the promise of money back after they fill out and send in a form. Redemption rates for rebates range from 5% to 80%, depending on the amount that can be redeemed, according to Consumer Affairs. With redemptions rarely – if ever – reaching 100%, retailers are banking on making money off the laziness or forgetfulness of customers. If there’s a chance you’ll be one of the many who don’t follow through, you’ll probably want to look for instant savings deals instead.

The same rule applies to in-store coupons and gift cards. Stores may offer a coupon and/or gift card upon purchase of a particular item. For example, electronics retailer h.h. gregg offered a $100 store gift card last year when shoppers purchased select smartphones. If you don’t plan to shop at the store again – or if the coupon is valid for only a limited time – you may want to stay away from these types of deals.

And Finally: Read the Fine Print!

Beyond the bright colors, flashy images and catchy phrases, Black Friday ads often contain fine print. You’ll want to drag out the magnifying glass when determining the value of a particular offer.

For instance, many stores offer time-staggered deals. This means it’s important to pay attention to the time frame during which a particular price will be available.

Last year, family footwear retailer Shoe Carnival increased prices after noon on Black Friday. Those Rampage Wendey boots that many shoppers were eyeing, for example, went from $19.98 in the morning to $39.98 later in the day.

You’ll want to take note of time-limited deals such as these when creating your 2014 Black Friday shopping schedule. Also note while you’re reading that tiny type whether certain deals have a quantity limit per customer.

Following all of these steps should give you a head start on scoring the very best Black Friday savings. Happy shopping!



Helpful tips image via Shutterstock