Brown is the new black. Brown Thursday – the shopping extravaganza formerly known as Thanksgiving – will kick off the shopping season today, one day before the traditional Black Friday.
It’s considered the Super Bowl of shopping, and some Western New Yorkers were hoping to get an edge on the competition this year by shopping today, thinking their fellow shoppers would stay home and finish their pumpkin pie before heading out.
But they didn’t count on the robust numbers of Canadian shoppers who already celebrated their Thanksgiving in October and are expected to cross the border to shop today.
“To us, it’s just another Thursday, another shopping day,” said Walter Sendzik, CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce in Ontario.
In fact, 47 percent of Canadians said they would shop in the United States for Black Friday, according to a recent poll by the Bank of Montreal.
Canadian retailers, such as those in the Pen Centre in St. Catharines, are stepping up their marketing in hopes of keeping Canadian shoppers on their own turf. Many are offering Black Friday promotions and price-matching policies.
Plenty of locals will hit the stores today, too, despite criticism about Black Friday’s encroachment onto Thanksgiving and grumbles about what is being considered hyped-up marketing over ho-hum deals.
“New Yorkers are more excited about the upcoming holiday season than they have been over the last five years,” said Don Levy, director of Siena Research Institute, in its annual holiday spending report.
The report said 1 in 10 shoppers in New York State are expected to shop today, according to a report by Siena Research Institute at Siena College.
Other polls, such as one from Accenture, expect as many as nearly 4 in 10 people to hit stores today.
Black Friday got its name because retailers depend on the holiday shopping season for as much as 40 percent of their total annual revenue, taking them out of the red and putting them into the black.
If you plan to brave the stores today, keep these tips in mind.
1. Do your homework. It’s easy to fall prey to hyped-up marketing if you go in without a game plan, so gather your ads and fire up the search engines. Not all Black Friday deals are great bargains, and prices will fall on many items as the holiday season progresses.
Figure out who you’re shopping for, what you’ll get them and make a list of where you’ll find each item at the best price. Then stick to that list. Clip your coupons or save them to your phone and make sure you have everyone’s clothing sizes.
2. Map it out. Today is not a day for browsing, it’s a day for getting in and getting out, haul in hand. All your decisions should be made before you even walk through the door.
Use your shopping list to map out which stores you’ll hit and the order in which you’ll hit them, taking opening times, door-buster times and geographic locations into account. If you haven’t done a run-through to get the feel of the layout, go online and study your stores’ floor plans so you can zip quickly to your targeted items.
3. Wear your shopping shoes. It’s going to be a long day, so dress for comfort and dress in layers. You’ll need a warm coat if you plan to wait outside for store openings but will get hot once you start running from aisle to aisle.
Consider packing a lunch (or a midnight snack). A few restaurants will be open at 3 a.m., but do you really want to fight the crowds to get a bottle of water and a sandwich when you can just as easily pack one yourself?
4. Shop in teams and split up. Dispatch one person to the toy department to get everything there, send another person to electronics to shop for the group, and so on.
Everyone will come back together to divvy things up, either in the (likely very long) line at the registers, or at the end of the day when you’re all back home.
Make sure your cellphones are charged so you can find each other easily. Have one or two people run bags and packages out to the trunk so your hands will be free for the next store.
5. Consider staggering your arrival time. That is, if you’re not camping out for a limited-time door-buster. Stores will be running timed specials throughout the night and some deals will be offered throughout the entire weekend.
Experts expect the first rush to start at 8 p.m. and continue until about 1 a.m., at which point it will drop off until about 7 a.m. and start all over again. If you want to snag the deals without having to fight the worst of the crowds, aim to shop during that lull.