Sale Day Shopping Strategies
When those big sale events like Boxing Day (Canada, UK) and Black Friday (USA) roll around each year, it's hard to resist getting caught up in the excitement. As professional shoppers, we are often asked about our strategies for nabbing the best deals during these events. Truth be told, we both try to avoid it. (Besides, Dec. 26 (Boxing Day) is Kristina's birthday!) However, we know many who love the thrill of the deal, so here are our tips for making the most of these yearly shopping events.
(Note for USA readers: Boxing Day (Dec. 26) is like Black Friday.)
Prepare Ahead of Time
Establish needs vs. wants
Making this distinction will help you stay on track with your budget. It can be difficult to fight the urge to buy things because they seem like such a great deal, but if you prepare ahead of time and only look at the items you need, you’ll save yourself lots of heartache when your credit card statement arrives. Discipline, Shopping Bags!
Make a detailed list
Once you’ve decided what you need, make a list of the items you’ll be looking for at Boxing Day/Black Friday sales. Go online and look at the items. Do your research, look for product reviews. Be specific and note brands, models, and features, so that you don’t accidentally purchase a lesser item accidentally and end up being disappointed.
Know your prices
Do your research ahead of time on the items you wish to buy on Boxing Day/Black Friday. Make a list of the regular prices as well as any discounted prices you’ve noticed lately. Once the sales advertisements hit your mailbox or inbox, you’ll be able to determine whether you really are getting a good deal, or whether you should wait for an end of season clearance at another time.
Have a back-up
There’s a chance that things on your list might be sold out by the time you get to the stores. For example, if you’re planning on purchasing a particular TV model, be sure to have one or two other models on your list to fall back on as second and third choices. You should just as thoroughly research these as you did your first choice in order to make sure you’re buying a product that has all of the features you’re looking for.
Watch for sneak peeks
Once you know what you’ll be looking for on Boxing Day/Black Friday, watch for those sale alerts and flyers to start coming in a few days beforehand. Be sure to sign up for email alerts through all your favourite retailer websites. If you’re on Facebook, watch these retailer Facebook pages as well. Boxing Day flyers and email alerts start appearing in around the 20th to 22nd. Black Friday flyers the same, about 3-7 days before the actual day.
Map out a plan
Once you’ve got your research and list, map out your plan for hitting the stores. You don’t want to be back-tracking or fighting through traffic and crowds unnecessarily.
Many retailers start their Boxing Day/Black Friday sales early online. In fact, last year a big electronic retailer started their Boxing Day sale online on Christmas Eve at 8pm!
To prepare prepare ahead of time for online Boxing Day/Black Friday shopping
Go to your favourite retailer websites and sign up for their e-newsletter, which will often give you sale alerts and sneak peeks, as mentioned above.
Also, be sure to update all of your account information on each site (billing and shipping addresses, phone number, saved credit card information, etc.) to make it easier during checkout and avoid potential mistakes.
You can also bookmark the pages of all the items you are hoping to purchase during the Boxing Day/Black Friday sale, or put them in a wish list if the website offers that option. Then you can come back later and move everything to your cart. Don’t bother putting things in your cart ahead of time since retailers often purge carts before big sale days.
ON THE DAY OF THE SALE EVENT
Time it right
We think the best time to go is just after the opening rush, about an hour after the store opens. By that time, all the people who lined up will have finished up their purchases and moved on, leaving lots of room and selection for the next shift of shoppers.
Avoid going in the early afternoon, which seems to be one of the busier times as many people decide to go out to the mall after enjoying a lazy morning.
Eat before you go
Breakfast is the most important meal for energizing your day. Don’t eat a big meal, however. Eat lots of fruit and protein.
If it’s going to be a long shopping day, bring nutritious snacks with you (e.g. bananas, mandarin oranges, nuts, energy bars, water) so that you can keep your energy level up and avoid getting dehydrated (and grumpy), and also not waste time in food line-ups at the mall.
Comfortable shoes, obviously! Wear lightweight clothing in thin layers, especially if you’re going to be trying on clothes. Leave your heavy winter coat at home or in the car.
Wear a cross-body purse to leave your hands free. Empty your purse and bring only the essentials to lighten your load.
Bring a good collapsible tote bag or two to help you carry your purchases so that you won’t have to keep track of too many bags.
Credit or cash?
If you don’t want to risk overspending, use cash only. However, be extra vigilant in crowds. (Pickpockets love crowds!)
Debit cards also equal cash, but an advantage of using real money is that some stores with multiple checkouts may set up a “cash only” line. This means you may get through the checkout faster than plastic users, especially if the whole computer/banking system is slowing down, as it sometimes does on heavy shopping days.
Have compassion for the sales people
Don’t expect to be met with the same level of service you normally might get. Sales people will have been preparing for days, and in the case of Boxing Day (Dec. 26), may already be tired from the pre-Christmas rush. Expect line-ups, don’t complain.
Don’t expect to have your product questions answered. (As always, it’s important to do your research beforehand and that way you can answer all your own questions.)
Don’t bother negotiating
Often it’ll be junior staff working on Boxing Day/Black Friday and they won’t have the authority to make deals.
Check out the check out
Keep a keen eye on the till as your purchases are being added up properly. Mistakes are not uncommon, especially on a day like Boxing Day or Black Friday. Have patience and use courtesy when dealing with mistakes.
If you’re serious about snagging the deals and you have a long list, go solo today. Shopping with friends can just slow you down, and heaven forbid, could cause unnecessary competition if you pick up the last of something that your friend wants (or vice versa). Leave young kids at home with a spouse or sitter.
BEWARE of HOLIDAY HUMBUGS
The Bait & Switch
While it’s illegal in Canada, it still does happen on occasion. Watch out for retailers that advertise an item at a ridiculously low price to draw in customers. When customers arrive, the product is sold out, but the retailer then proceeds to sell you a similar item at a higher price.
Theft from Cars
Just as important to be aware of during the holiday season, be careful when leaving purchases in your car as thieves tend to hit mall and store parking lots for easy pickings. Keep everything out of sight, and use your trunk to store bags and coats.
Crowds are inevitable on big sale event days, and pickpockets work best when hidden in big groups of people. Keep your personal items close and your purchases in sight at all times. Use a zip up purse at minimum, and zip it after every purchase!
What do we mean by this? We’re talking about psychology of course; it’s all about mind over money. Remember, just because something looks like a really good deal, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Avoid impulse purchases by telling yourself ahead of time you will not indulge your impulses. Stick to your list and things you’ve researched and you’ll save yourself a lot of headache and unnecessary debt after the holidays.
Anna & Kristina