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NerdWallet Predicts: What to Expect From Black Friday 2016

Sept. 29, 2016
Black Friday, Shopping, Shopping News
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Whether you are ready or not, Black Friday is just two months away.

You may want to hide from the madness, but in a matter of weeks retailers will start trying to lure everyday Americans away from their steaming turkey dinners and cordial family gatherings to fight for a limited number of deeply discounted electronics and other coveted products.

At NerdWallet, we’ve analyzed Black Friday shopping for years, and we’re using those findings to predict this year’s trends. Here’s what shoppers should expect in 2016.

More shopping days

Black Friday is on Nov. 25 this year, but gone are the days when the annual shopping event remained trapped in its one-day-only cage. Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and others have made a habit of launching their sales on Thanksgiving — a full day before Black Friday.

Some start even earlier. Last year, stores such as Best Buy and Target launched select Black Friday-level deals before Thanksgiving even rolled around. Online retailer Amazon held its “Black Friday Deals Week” with a whole week worth of sales.

This year, be prepared for sales to start earlier and last longer, leading to more shopping days and opportunities to save — or spend.

It could be wise to wait until retailers show their full hand of deals, though. “Just like the past two or three years, I expect that the best deals offered by many online retailers will not be on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, but on Cyber Monday, which falls on Nov. 28, this year,” says Utpal Dholakia, a marketing professor at Houston’s Rice University. “So when shopping online, I think it will pay to be patient and wait.”

Less spent on shipping charges

In 2015, Best Buy and Target eliminated their requirements for shipping minimums for the holiday shopping season, reducing one of the main hurdles in online ordering. Other stores offered remarkably low thresholds.

Expect more stores to jump on the free-shipping bandwagon this year. As a shopper, you will need to buy fewer items to qualify for free delivery.

More opt outs

But not every retailer is game for Black Friday. In 2015, REI drew a line in the sand on store openings on Black Friday. The outdoor retailer launched an #OptOutside campaign as it closed its doors and encouraged shoppers to spend time outside instead of in its stores — and Staples followed suit.

This year, we anticipate the battle to continue between stores opting to open on Black Friday (and Thanksgiving) and those against the move.

Less time for turkey

More than 151 million people said they shopped either in store or online (or both) over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2015, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

In recent years, die-hard shoppers had to cut short their Thanksgiving celebrations to make way for Black Friday shopping because of early store hours. This year, they may have to skip their turkey dinners altogether.

In 2014, J.C. Penney opened its doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Its sale crept up earlier in 2015 with a 3 p.m. opening.

We expect sales to start at — dare we say — an even earlier hour on Thanksgiving this year.

More online doorbusters

Arguably, the biggest draw of Black Friday is the doorbusters. These are the limited-time deals from retailers that usually dominate Black Friday ads. Doorbusters are available in extremely limited quantities and are typically only in store — sometimes causing brawls in past years.

But many retailers brought some of their doorbusters online last year. Best Buy, for instance, opened its doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, but its deals were available all day online. J.C. Penney and Target did something similar.

The move toward online doorbusters seemed to be well-received. In 2015, online doorbuster deals accounted for 40% of all online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, according to data released by Adobe, which tracks visitors to websites. This year, shoppers can continue to click on their computers or smartphones instead of camping outside stores for days.

Black Friday is coming. Are you ready?

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @courtneynerd.

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