The case for shopping on Black Friday in 2020
Like most things in 2020, Black Friday won't be the same this year.
But at least in the case of holiday shopping, change might not necessarily be a bad thing.
If you're thinking about shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, here's why you should — and at least one reason you shouldn't.
THE DAY STILL HOLDS MEANING
Retailers kicked off Black Friday sales back in mid-October to coincide with Amazon's Prime Day. There's been an onslaught of discounts ever since.
But no matter how many sales retailers label throughout the year as "Black Friday" discounts, there's still something special about the day itself. This year, it falls on Nov. 27.
The day after Thanksgiving is a "designated consumer shopping day," says Tom Arnold, professor of finance at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
That's why retailers continue to market it and offer savings. Based on prior years, there will still be something special left, even after all of the early deals.
Retailers typically hold on to some fresh deals to release over Thanksgiving weekend, according to Katherine Cullen, senior director for industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation. She recommends acting on early deals this holiday season if you see a price you like though.
Official Black Friday deals often start on Thanksgiving Day and last into the weekend. They'll be followed by Cyber Monday sales on Nov. 30.
YOU CAN SAVE MONEY
These sales make Black Friday shopping a fun family tradition. But it's also a great way to save cold, hard cash.
In fact, that could make the discount bonanza even more attractive this year, according to Christopher Newman, associate professor of marketing at the University of Mississippi.
"It may be especially popular this year since many consumers are feeling financial strain due to economic and employment problems caused by COVID-19," Newman said in an email. "Many consumers will likely not be in the financial position to pass up the price savings afforded by Black Friday."
Cullen says wellness, personal care and comfort items as well as those for the home have been "popping" during the pandemic as consumer demand has increased. Hobbies like baking and holiday traditions like wearing matching pajamas are also popular.
You can likely expect retailers to discount products that appeal to pandemic conditions. Best Buy's early Black Friday deals included markdowns on laptops and wireless headphones. Target slashed prices on things like video games and toys.
IN-STORE SHOPPING IS SO 2019
In an effort to promote safety in the pandemic, most stores are closing on Thanksgiving this year. They're also bringing sales online — a move that's both convenient and cost-effective for Black Friday shoppers.
"We've heard retailers saying, 'We're probably going to offer the same deals both online and in store on Black Friday so that people can shop in the way that's most comfortable and safest for them,'" Cullen says.
That means many retailers won't be enticing customers to brave the crowds for in-store-only doorbusters, she adds. That's welcome news for consumers.
"Many shoppers will still feel uncomfortable going to brick-and-mortar retail stores, and many state and local governments are still imposing reduced capacity limits inside stores," Newman said.
Aside from the safety and convenience of not having to leave home, Arnold suspects this head-to-head online competition will also be a monetary win for shoppers.
"I think the consumer is going to benefit because now it's going to be a lot easier to compare prices with the competition online," Arnold says.
In the past, he says, retailers could lure shoppers into stores, and consumers would often buy the products, even if they were listed online for a slightly better price. That's because at a physical store, you have the item with you and don't have to worry about shipping delays — even if you pay a little more for it.
BUT EXERCISE RESTRAINT
As in the past, for every impressive Black Friday deal you see, there's likely another deal that's less worthwhile. Set a budget ahead of time so you know exactly what you're looking to purchase and how much you're comfortable spending.
Be cautious about your health, too. Look into a store's safety protocols to see if you'll feel safe being in a physical store. If you won't, many retailers allow you to buy online and pick up curbside, Cullen points out.
And if you've already shopped more than enough this holiday season during the impressive early sales, it's fair to say you can sit out Black Friday to avoid overspending.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @courtneynerd.
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