Black Friday is the most popular retail holiday of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, 55.1% of all holiday shoppers – 133 million people – visited retail stores on Thanksgiving weekend 2014, many of them on Black Friday itself. Collectively, they spent about $51 billion, or more than $380 per person.
Why do so many people get up early and brave the Black Friday crowds? Because most retailers offer exceptional shopping deals that are difficult or impossible to find any other day of the year. Thanks to extended open hours and Thanksgiving evening blitzes at many retailers, it’s easier than ever to score great Black Friday deals without encountering crippling crowds or stress.
However, research and planning remain key to any successful Black Friday (or Thanksgiving evening) shopping trip. Use this Black Friday 2015 cheat sheet to draw up an efficient shopping plan that includes as many great deals as possible. Remember that some of the retailers outlined here specialize in specific product categories – for instance, Home Depot specializes in home improvement – and have knowledgeable staff to back up their claims to expertise. Other retailers, such as Target and Walmart, take a more generalized approach that may require more DIY sleuthing.
Also, unless otherwise noted, the in-store tips and deals outlined here also apply online – so, if you forget anything while you’re out and about, all is not lost. And some deals are exclusively found online – available when you get home from a long day of shopping, on your phone as you wait in line at the store.
Thanksgiving & Black Friday Open Hours
The first step to a successful Black Friday plan is knowing when to go where. Here’s a look at open hours for all the physical stores listed in this post:
- The Verizon Store: 12am Friday
- The A&T Store: Varies by store
- Best Buy: 5pm Thanksgiving to 1am Friday; opens again at 8am Friday
- Target: 6pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
- Walmart: 6pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
- Fry’s Home Electronics: 5pm to 11pm Thanksgiving; opens again at 8am Friday
- Staples: 6am Friday
- Toys “R” Us: 5pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
- hhgregg: 4pm Thanksgiving to 12am Friday; opens again at 7am Friday
- Home Depot: 6am Friday
- Lowe’s: 5pm Friday
- Menards: 6am Friday
- Ace Hardware: Varies by store
- Kohl’s: 6pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
- Macy’s: 6pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
- JCPenney: 3pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
- Old Navy: 4pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
- Sears: 6pm Thanksgiving to 2am Friday; opens again at 5am Friday
- Kmart: 7pm Thanksgiving, continuous through Friday
Black Friday Deals by Category
1. Small Electronics
Target is a general merchandise retailer with competitive store-wide Black Friday pricing. If you don’t want to get distracted by banners advertising deals on everything from clothing to household appliances, make a beeline for the electronics section, which is typically located on the back wall opposite the entrance. Keep in mind that while Target’s electronics employees are just as knowledgeable as their counterparts at specialized electronics retailers, other departments’ employees probably won’t be able to answer your electronics questions.
To stretch your Black Friday dollars even further, sign up for a Target REDcard for an immediate 5% off your total purchase, plus 5% off on all future in-store and online purchases. Also, for the duration of the holiday season, Target is offering free shipping on all online orders in the continental United States. Finally, Target is offering gift cards ranging from $5 to $100 on select electronics purchases through Black Friday weekend.
Hot Deal: Apple iPad Mini 2 (16GB), $189 with instant $80 rebate at register (normally $269)
Walmart is synonymous with general merchandise retail, so no one is surprised that it’s a great place to find Black Friday deals on small electronics.
In addition to across-the-board discounts (up to 50% in many cases) on small electronics, Walmart’s Black Friday event is best-known for the One-Hour Price Guarantee. The One-Hour Price Guarantee is basically a flash deal: All One-Hour Price Guarantee items are guaranteed to sell at a specified, usually deeply discounted price for one hour after the price is announced. If the store runs out of stock before the hour is up, customers can purchase the items at the service desk or register, and then pick them up at the same store on or before December 24th.
Before you head to the store, download Walmart’s iPhone or Android app, which has useful Black Friday store maps that point you to hot in-store deals at your home Walmart (use the store locator to select the right one). Also, all online purchases greater than $50 qualify for free shipping in the continental U.S.
Hot Deal: Apple iPad Mini 2 (16GB), $199 (normally $269)
Best Buy is the strongest of the U.S.’s surviving big-box electronics retailers. It’s also, arguably, the best electronics retailer for Black Friday shoppers who don’t quite know what they want when they walk into the store. Every Best Buy employee is an expert in something or other. With stores staffed to the gills on Black Friday, you’re sure to find someone to answer your questions quickly.
If you prefer to shop online, Best Buy offers free shipping on all purchases through the holidays. And if you encounter a problem with a Black Friday purchase at some point in the future, Best Buy’s Geek Squad team offers expert advice, troubleshooting, and repair – often included in item warranties.
Hot Deal: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS 20.3-Megapixel Digital Camera, $249.99 (normally $349.99)
Fry’s Home Electronics is a regional electronics retailer that mainly serves the southern and western states. The company’s employees are every bit as knowledgeable as Best Buy’s, and the “order online, pick up in-store” process is smooth as can be.
If you’re a frequent online shopper, set up a myFry’s account for an expedited checkout process. If you’re a business owner, be sure to visit on Thanksgiving, when Fry’s holds its one-day sale on “core components, networking, and cybersecurity” products.
Hot Deal: 10-inch Android Tablet 5.1, $59 (normally $119)
Staples’ “Black Friday Blowout” features discounts up to 70% on in-store and online purchases. Since Staples is one of the country’s leading office supply stores, its employees are great at dispensing advice on which phones, tablets, and other gadgets are ideal for small business use – so if you’re an entrepreneur, Staples needs to be high on your Black Friday schedule.
Staples More Account (store credit card with no annual fee) holders get an additional 5% off in-store and online purchases, as well as free shipping for online purchases. More Account holders also get deferred (0% interest) financing for large purchases: 6 months for purchases greater than $299, 12 months for purchases greater than $399, and 18 months for purchases greater than $599.
Hot Deal: Apple iPad Mini 4 (16 GB), $299 (normally $399)
The Verizon Store
If you get chills at the thought of braving Black Friday crowds at the big-box store, skip the crush and head to the Verizon Store. Although Verizon plans and products are widely available at Best Buy and other large-format retailers, the branded stores offer a host of deals that aren’t available anywhere else.
If you’re a current Verizon customer, you probably received an email advertising exclusive device markdowns, often 50% or greater, in the run-up to Black Friday. Those deals are good online and in-store.
Also, Black Friday is arguably the best day of the year to switch to a Verizon FiOS home Internet/TV/phone plan. For instance, you can get the Verizon FiOS Triple Play package for $79.99 per month for months 1 through 12 and $99.99 per month for months 13 through 24 when you sign up for a two-year contract – and Verizon will throw in a $400 prepaid card good for merchandise purchased online and in-store for your trouble.
Hot Deal: Fitbit Charge Wireless Activity Wristband, $89.99 (normally $129.99)
The AT&T Store
The AT&T Store‘s appeal is the same as the Verizon Store’s: similar savings, and less chaos relative to big box retailers. AT&T’s inventory is similar to Verizon’s, and the store offers both in-store and online-only deals that can’t be found anywhere else. The online deals are particularly juicy, though many require a two-year contract – for instance, AT&T throws in an iPhone 5S 16 GB when you pay for a two-year agreement upfront. In-store staff members are generally helpful and unhurried.
Hot Deal: Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit Watch, $99.99 (normally $199.99)
Includes HDTVs, ultra HDTVs, smart TVs, LED TVs, and related accessories
Walmart has an expansive selection of flat-screen televisions and accessories. Black Friday pricing on these items is competitive with dedicated electronics retailers like Best Buy and Fry’s. Look for Walmart-exclusive models, such as the Samsung UN55J6201 55″ LED Smart TV.
Hot Deal: Samsung UN55J6201 55-inch LED Smart TV, $498 (normally $698) – Walmart exclusive
hhgregg is an electronics retailer that primarily serves the Midwest, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic states. Like Best Buy and Fry’s, hhgregg specializes in personalized, expert service and focuses almost exclusively on consumer electronics. Although the company does offer employee incentives, it doesn’t follow a traditional commission model, so you don’t have to worry about high-pressure sales or cross-selling when interacting with floor staff.
If you’re making a larger purchase, apply for the hhgregg Platinum Visa card. If approved, you get deferred (0% interest) financing up to 36 months: 6 months for purchases greater than $197, 12 months for purchases greater than $497, 24 months for purchases greater than $797, and 36 months for certain purchases greater than $1,997. This promotion runs through December 5, 2015.
Hot Deal: Seiki 55-inch 1080p 60Hz LED Streaming HDTV, $298 (normally $398.99)
Best Buy’s 2015 Black Friday TV deals are among the year’s best consumer electronics deals anywhere – online or in-store. Discounts north of 70% aren’t uncommon, particularly during doorbuster hours on Friday morning.
Hot Deal: Toshiba 49-inch LED HDTV (1080p), $149.99 (normally $429)
3. Laptops & PCs
Includes laptops, notebooks, and 2-in-1 devices
Walmart’s laptop and PC selection is just as impressive as its TV selection, and it’s possible to find Walmart-exclusive models from HP, Dell, and other well-known manufacturers. Check Walmart’s website for online-only deals and promotions too.
Hot Deal: Acer midnight black 15.6-inch Aspire E 15 E5-571-563B Laptop PC with Intel Core i5-4210U processor (6GB memory, 1TB hard drive), $379 (normally $549)
Best Buy reliably stocks just-released devices at industry-leading prices. Black Friday discounts of 30% to 50% aren’t uncommon, even on hot-off-the-assembly-line models.
Hot Deal: Dell Inspiron 15.6-inch touch-screen laptop with Intel Core i3 processor (8GB memory, 1TB hard drive), $299 (normally $429)
If you’re lucky enough to live in its territory, Fry’s is one of the best stores to visit for eye-popping discounts on already-affordable devices, particularly if you don’t care about having the latest or fanciest model. Keep in mind that some of the best deals require mail-in rebates.
Hot Deal: Dell Optiplex desktop PC with Intel Core 2 Duo, $59 with mail-in rebate (normally $249)
Toys “R” Us
Toys “R” Us is the best-known U.S. toy retailer. It has a comprehensive selection of the latest toys, games, and tech accessories for kids, as well as low-tech standbys. Employees are knowledgeable, though they’re often stretched thin on Black Friday – so plan ahead if at all possible.
There’s probably a Toys “R” Us in or near your hometown, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking the company’s flagship website for online-only deals. Plus, you can get free shipping on online orders worth $19 or more, or free same-day in-store pickup (guaranteed to be ready in less than an hour).
If you’re a frequent shopper, apply for an “R” Card (store credit card) from MasterCard. The “R” Card earns you 15% off your first purchase with the card, plus points redeemable for Toys “R” Us merchandise.
Hot Deal: Paw Patrol Rescue Training Center Playset, $14.99 (normally $26.99)
Menards is a home improvement retailer with stores in more than a dozen northern states. It’s best known for its frequent “take an additional 11% off” sales and industry-leading prices on lumber, paint, and plumbing supplies.
But Menards also has a surprisingly deep selection of kids’ toys, from model cars to high-tech dolls. Staff tends to be thin in the kids’ section, so do your research ahead of time and make a beeline for the toy shelves.
Hot Deal: Denver Die Cast 1: 48 Vehicles, $1.99 each
Yep, Walmart has a huge stock of toys and games as well. Check out its Black Friday discounts on popular 2016 games for Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4, and PC.
Hot Deal: “NBA 2K16,” “Madden ’16,” or “FIFA ’16” for Xbox One, $27 each (normally $59.88)
Kmart is a well-known discount merchandise chain that’s now part of the Sears retail family, and it features an ample selection of toys for kids of all ages. Online orders of $35 or more qualify for free shipping. Sign up for the Sears Card from Citi to get an additional 10% off your first $500 in in-store or online purchases.
Hot Deals: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Extendable Lightsaber, $4.99 (normally $9.99)
Kohl’s is a general merchandise retailer that focuses on clothing, toys, gadgets, and durable home goods. This year, the company is running a number of parallel Black Friday promotions, including free shipping on online orders of $50 or more, $15 Kohl’s Cash (redeemable for in-store and online purchases) for every $50 spent between through November 29, 2015, and 15% off your first online purchase when you sign up for Kohl’s Mobile Alerts (a mobile push notification system that alerts you to new sales and discounts).
Hot Deal: 50% off select toys from Fisher Price
5. Home Improvement
Includes raw materials, fixtures, tools, gardening supplies, and decorations
Lowe’s is a national home improvement chain that’s basically paradise on Earth for DIY fixers and handy types. In-store staff members are a bit more plentiful and hands-on than other big-box home improvement chains’, including Home Depot (Lowe’s biggest competitor).
Order more than $49 online to qualify for free shipping, and sign up for the Lowe’s Consumer Credit Card for 5% off all in-store or online purchases. Look out for special Black Friday package deals, such as a free Bosch tool set (normally $119) with the purchase of an 18-volt lithium ion cordless drill kit with soft case ($299).
Hot Deal: Seven-foot-tall GE Colorado Spruce Pre-Lit Artificial Christmas Tree, $99 (normally $179)
Home Depot is a one-stop home improvement superstore that offers competitive prices year-round – and on Black Friday, the deals seem almost too good to be true. Watch for “special deals of the day,” which promise savings of 50% or more on certain items (such as a Hoover Air Lite Compact vacuum cleaner). When purchased online, these deals always earn free shipping or local delivery (store to house), regardless of order size. Also, you can do free same-day pickup at your local store on pretty much any online purchase.
Hot Deal: Seven-and-a-half-foot Martha Stewart Living Quick Set Dual LED Pre-Lit Artificial Christmas Tree, $79 (normally $199)
To boost your Black Friday savings, apply for the Menards BIG Card from Capital One. Every time you make a purchase, you earn 2% rebate on all purchases, redeemable for in-store or online Menards purchases once you earn at least $5 in rebates. You can also take advantage of six months of interest-free financing on purchases greater than $299, and 3.99% APR financing on purchases greater than $1,500. Also, the BIG Card earns an additional 1% rebate on purchases at Speedway, Holiday, and Kwik Trip/Kwik Star convenience stores, redeemable for Menards purchases.
Hot Deal: Crescent 170-piece professional tool set, $49.99
With more than 4,600 locally owned, small-format stores nationwide, Ace Hardware is a neighborhood alternative to Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards. If you’re going to be out and about on Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, make Ace one of your first stops. Pricing is competitive with larger home improvement retailers throughout Black Friday weekend.
Hot Deal: Dewalt 20-volt compact cordless lithium-ion drill/driver, $99.99 (normally $129)
6. Clothing & Apparel
Includes clothing and accessories
Although Target certainly shouldn’t be your first choice for high-fashion purchases, it’s definitely more chic than big-box peers Walmart and Kmart. And its pricing power is evident in deep, broad Black Friday deals on everyday apparel and accessories.
Hot Deal: 40% off select men’s, women’s, and children’s sweaters (multiple brands)
Old Navy is already tops for apparel bargains year-round, but its Black Friday deal is truly magnificent: shoppers simply get 50% off the entire store. If you’re shopping online, you can apply multiple coupon codes to the same item (if applicable) to boost your spending power. The multi-coupon trick doesn’t work in-store, however.
Hot Deal: 50% off entire store
The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade isn’t the only reason Macy’s is synonymous with holiday shopping. The famed department store offers deep Black Friday discounts on virtually everything in the store, from high-end beauty products, to budget-friendly clothes. Staff members, most of which stick to specific departments, are experts in their respective fields. And this year, Macy’s is giving away more than $1 million in merchandise, trips, and personal makeovers to in-store shoppers through its Walk In and Win promotion. Just download the Macy’s app to play.
Hot Deal: Select women’s boots sizes from Rampage, Seven Dials, and Style & Co. brands, $19.99 each before 1pm Friday (normally $59 and up)
Once the go-to retailer for affordable, fashionable clothing, JCPenney has lost some of its luster since the early 2000s. But with more than 1,000 stores in 49 states, Penney is still a top destination for clothing bargains.
This year, the store is offering doorbuster coupons for early arrivals on Thanksgiving – anywhere from $10 to $500 off your total purchase, depending on when you arrive. Online orders greater than $49 earn free shipping.
Hot Deal: St. John’s Bay men’s and women’s flannel shirts, $9.99 (normally $15 to $60)
Includes laundry equipment, refrigerators and freezers, cooking equipment, dishwashing equipment, home mechanicals, and similar items
Sears is a major appliance and home improvement retailer. Though the company has fallen on hard times since the Great Recession, it’s still a great place to find Black Friday deals on its high-quality Kenmore appliance line. Plus, Sears Card holders save an additional 5% on all purchases and earn 12-month special financing (interest-free) on appliance purchases greater than $399. Online orders over $35 qualify for free shipping too.
Hot Deal: Kenmore 4.2-cubic-foot gas range with broil & serve drawer, $499 (normally $829)
Home Depot’s Black Friday appliance sale promises up to 40% off select models. Also, from November 27th to December 3, 2015, the store is offering special financing on large purchases. The special financing period lasts 12 months for purchases between $299 and $998, 18 months for purchases between $999 and $1,998, and 24 months for purchase greater than $1,999. Exact terms, including interest rates, vary by store and customers’ credit profiles.
Hot Deal: Whirlpool Duet 4.2-cubic-foot high-efficiency front load washer and 7.3-cubic-foot high-efficiency front load dryer, $599 each (normally $799)
Lowe’s Consumer Credit Card holders get six months of special financing (interest-free) on purchases greater than $299, which covers most appliance buys. Though special financing is available year-round, it’s an opportunity to reduce the upfront cost of Black Friday specials.
Hot Deal: Maytag Bravos 4.3-cubic-foot high-efficiency top-load washer, $499 (normally $649)
Take Advantage of Price Match Guarantees
As they ramp up competition for holiday shopping dollars, more U.S. retailers than ever are offering price match guarantees on items purchased during the holiday shopping season. If you’re shopping at more than one store on Black Friday, or complementing your in-store purchases with online buys, keep your receipts in your wallet or handbag (or on your phone) and be ready to present them to store associates.
Before you shop, read the fine print on every price match policy you plan to exploit. While some are fairly lenient, others are riddled with exemptions, exclusions, and gotchas. For instance, Best Buy promises to price-match all local competitors, including any online deals (such as those found at Walmart.com and available for shipping to your ZIP Code), but only price-matches a handful of the most popular online-only retailers (such as Amazon and Newegg).
Also, price-match policies typically require the two items to be exactly identical: same size, specifications, model, trim, and so on. Most retailers have a glaring exemption for price-matching on clearance items too. And, when you do invoke a price-match policy in-store, be prepared to escalate your complaint to management if you run into resistance from rank-and-file employees.
Black Friday falls on the day after a holiday dedicated to feasting and merrymaking. The last thing most people want to do after they’ve stuffed themselves silly is get up before dawn and wait in line for great deals at their favorite electronics, clothing, or home improvement stores. That’s why growing numbers of consumers are exploring low-stress Black Friday alternatives.
If you do choose to brave the crowds this Black Friday, make sure you plan ahead. (Pre-Friday planning is a great way to avoid awkward Thanksgiving conversations with your opinionated relatives.) Make a detailed list of where you plan to shop and what you want to buy. Lay out a few alternatives for each in case a sought-after item is out of stock. And remember to refer to this post as needed on the big day.
With proper preparation and disciplined shopping, Black Friday might be the only day you need to hit the stores this holiday season. If you forget anything on Friday, there’s always Cyber Monday.
What are your plans for Black Friday this year?