Reports of Black Friday’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and if you doubt that, show up at a big box retailer at 3 a.m. this Friday. But it’s undeniable that the shine around shopping’s biggest day has dulled a little, and that shows up in the data. Last year, 134 million people shopped during Thanksgiving weekend, down from 141 million the year before, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
This drop could be good news for consumers (lower odds of getting injured by a massive crowd?) or it could be bad news (struggling retailers more likely to pounce on consumers’ wallets with tricks?). At Credit.com, we’re all about making sure you get a good, fair deal, so here’s a list of Black Friday gotchas to watch for as you get into the gift-giving mood. (We’ll leave the self defense to you.)
1. Waiting Until Black Friday
Why is Black Friday shrinking? Online shopping is growing, but so is the entire shopping season, which is creeping closer to Halloween. In fact, the NRF says 57% of holiday shoppers have already purchased a gift by now.
“Black Friday is starting earlier and earlier,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org. And that leads to Gotcha No. 1
It’s inevitable. Retailers who want to “win” Black Friday change the rules, and try to get an early start. Some are making Black Friday last all November long. Walmart will make most items available online at 3 a.m. on Thursday, Dworsky says. So don’t wait if you are dead set on getting a great deal this Friday. The gift you seek might already be on sale.
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.