Black Friday 2011 Preparation for the Best Shopping Discounts

The Yorktown mom knew that she could get a peek at Black Friday advertisements in early November at websites like blackfriday.info and blackfriday2011.com. This year, she is scouting ads for an Xbox360 bundle that includes a few games.

On Nov. 25, nearly every electronics retailer is offering an Xbox360 bundle for $199, including Best Buy, hhgregg, Radio Shack and Toys “R” Us. Walmart wins the price war by offering two bundle options that include games, an Xbox Live membership and a $50 Walmart gift card for $199. One of the bundles includes the Kinect accessory. Kmart is offering a $199 deal onThanksgiving Day. Target stays basic, offering the gaming console by itself for $139. The website Amazon.com has inched close to these price points, and it is sure to price-match the deals on or before Black Friday.

This type of research once took place during an after-turkey pow-wow with girlfriends and family members. Shoppers mapped out their route, packed their purses with protein bars and armed every team member with copies of wish lists.

This year, by the time the wishbone is set aside, retailers will have offered their Black Friday deals online. And, in many cases, the best bargains will be scooped up in a matter of minutes.

With more shoppers moving to online sales — holiday shopping on the Internet is expected to increase by at least 15 percent this year — chances of scoring that in-store bargain are a bit better than shoppers may assume.

And, according to an Accenture survey, this year’s turnout at stores could be the lowest in three years. Of the survey respondents, only 44 percent of consumers planned to shop on Black Friday, compared to 47 percent in 2010, and 52 percent in 2009.

The bottom line this Black Friday: Predict what the majority of shoppers will do and tweak your plan just enough to maneuver around them.

The most effective price comparison research should have begun before Nov. 1, but starting right away is not in vain. Determined to be the bargain hotspot, Amazon.com begins its week of Black Friday deals Sunday.

To start, write down the prices you see on Amazon.com for the items on your Christmas shopping list. Check those prices against the Black Friday deals to set your bargain parameters. If you can beat or match the Black Friday price, snatch it up. In addition, you know you should not pay more than your base Amazon.com price.

Websites like dealnews.com, techbargains.com and crazytowndeals.com also help you track online sales. A quick check each morning will help you gauge the availability of discounts.

Even if you plan an online-only deal hunt, retailers still require late-night interaction. Some stores, like Office Max, advertise their online Black Friday deals to begin at a certain time — 7 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, for example. Best Buy and Lowes, among others, promise to offer deals on Thursday, though specific sale times are not listed.

The biggest chains —Target, hhgregg, Best Buy, Kmart — will open at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Walmart will begin deals on items like toys and movies at 10 p.m. Thursday. Doorbuster electronic deals begin at midnight.

“Our customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early,” says Duncan Naughton, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer.

And while some scoff at a marketing machine that continues to morph Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, others consider the move positive.