Isobel’s Declassified Shopping Survival Guide: Black Friday
Black Friday has, like a lot of things in America, reached an astronomical level of hype. I would be lying, however, if I said the sales slotted for this year didn’t make me want to break my card out of the freezer, like Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic (if you’re not familiar, here is the scene I’m talking about.)
I want to start by admitting that I am not a veteran Black Friday participant. For only two years now, I’ve kicked off the holiday season by hiking with family and friends to visit the nearby megastores and malls to score serious deals. Needless to say, you learn what works and what doesn’t pretty quickly, and here are some pointers to help you through what can be the most fun and overwhelming way to kick off the Holidays!
1) Dress for comfort!
This may seem like a given, but you’d be surprised. On my first Black Friday outing I forgot to bring flat shoes with me to Thanksgiving dinner, and I had to go through the shopping marathon teetering on high-heeled booties. Let’s just say it’s hard to keep your cool after two hours on your toes.
Sneakers, flats, flat boots…even slippers if you’re willing to go that route. That same year I saw a group of girls and their moms traipsing around at midnight in cute pajama sets and for a split-second in my desperation I considered stealing their pink bunny slippers. I’d skip skirts and dresses, because I think beating someone for the last cozy PINK sweatshirt will require more mobility than they can give you. Just remember: flat shoes, comfy pants (I can’t think of a better day to wear yoga pants outside of the gym) and layers, so you’re warm to walk to and from your car, but you still have options once you’ve been through ten dressing rooms and you feel like you’re sunburned in South Beach.
2) Bring friends.
This is really more of a preference thing. On the day to day, I prefer to shop alone, because otherwise I really get distracted by who all is around me. On Black Friday, though, I feel like it helps de-stress this high stakes super shopping trip to have a group of your girl and/or guy friends, and it’s a great way to make a fun memory. There’s nothing like people watching at crazy stores like Best Buy when two people lunge for that last iPhone on the shelf like jungle cats. Not to mention, with a team and a little strategy, you can divide and conquer malls and stores like a small army and get the most out of your night.
3) Bring a snack & water, or plan to go to a diner once you’re all done.
Another pretty obvious one. Anyone who’s made a plan to shop for more than two hours knows how desperate a situation it can become if you’re running on empty. Bring a granola bar, some trail mix or fruit, and stop at the nearest open Starbucks, Wawa or Dunkin’ to recharge with coffee before hitting the ground floor.
Also, if you’re shopping through the night, it could be great incentive to indulge in a tried and true New Jersey institution-the 24-hour diner. What could be better than stopping with friends to grab some waffles before heading back home with your spoils at the end of the night? …Morning? You know what I mean.
4) Bring a mix of cash and cards.
Most places take both these days, but common sense dictates you bring both, just in case you find a tiny boutique that has something your mom would love. Plus, even though Black Friday is traditionally a day for getting big-ticket items like gaming systems, televisions, and computers at a fraction of the price, you can still find some great deals on stocking stuffers that you’ll feel like a fool putting on credit.
5) Don’t forget to stop by stores like The Body Shop or Bath and Body Works.
This is more specific than the others, but every year, these stores have some amazing “Buy One Get, like, Four More” deals. I’ve found that yummy smelling body butters, glittery lip glosses, gorgeous candles and even those cute little hand sanitizers always go over well as gifts and stocking stuffers. They’re pampering without breaking the bank, and you really get your money’s worth on Black Friday.
6) Make sure your phone’s charged before you go out.
Another pretty obvious tip, but the same year I wore the worst footwear imaginable, I also made this mistake. I split up with my crew to check out something in Aerie, and as soon as I was finished my phone was dead and they were nowhere to be seen. Get yourself out of this jam beforehand...and maybe employ a buddy system.
7) Don’t be afraid to bring a blanket and pillow for the car ride.
I won’t be ashamed to admit, I did this. I didn’t have to drive, and after a long night of shop-crawling, I was grateful to catch a few Z’s in the backseat. Ranks at about 7 in the Top 10 Naps I’ve Had, but mostly because I was too exhausted to know better.
On a more serious note, we all know Black Friday isn’t just a fun mobile sleepover activity, there is still some serious shopping to do. If you’re looking to take the stores you visit for all they’re worth, and you want to look good doing it, I’d suggest planning ahead. Here are the hours of some major stores and malls in the tri-state area so you can plan accordingly:
Target: Will be participating in Gray Tuesday*, and it opens at 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving and will remain open until 11:00 PM on Black Friday.
Walmart: Open by 6:00 PM on Thanksgiving until midnight on Black Friday.**
Best Buy: Stores will open at 6:00 PM on Thanksgiving, and Midnight Mystery Doorbusters (AKA some serious deals to those who aren’t familiar) are released at Midnight on Black Friday. Stores will be open until 10:00 PM on that day.
Westfield Garden State Plaza: If you’re more towards North Jersey and the New York Metropolitan Area, Garden State Plaza in Paramus will be open by 7:00 AM until 11:00 PM.
Menlo Park Mall: In the New Brunswick area? Menlo, (just like all Simon Group malls like King of Prussia below) will be open at 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving and will stay open until 10:00 PM the next day.
Cherry Hill Mall: If you’re doing your shopping in South Jersey, every store in the mall will be open by 5:00 AM on Black Friday. Some stores have decided to open at Midnight. A list of these can be found here!
King of Prussia Mall: A big staple, and a sight to see during the holidays if I do say so myself, the KOP will be open from 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving until 10:00 PM on Black Friday.
*A new term, believed to have originated on Ebay, for the current trend of extending the traditional Black Friday back into Thanksgiving Day.
**Some Wal-Marts are open 24-hours, so I’d check online to see what the case is with the one in your area before you take my word for that.
Are you a rookie like I was and feel like you’re not quite prepared enough? Or maybe you like Black Friday more than the actual holidays it surrounds? Check out these links:
The Three Black Friday Shoppers You’ll Meet in stores: http://racked.com/archives/2012/11/21/there-are-three-types-of-black-friday-shoppers-an-analysis.php
Great Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales- Glamour: http://www.glamour.com/fashion/blogs/dressed/2013/11/an-exhaustive-list-of-black-fr.html
Great Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales- Seventeen Magazine: http://www.seventeen.com/fashion/blog/black-friday-cyber-monday-sales?click=main_sr
24/7 Wall Street’s “9 Best Deals of Black Friday 2013”: http://247wallst.com/special-report/2013/11/19/the-nine-best-deals-on-black-friday/3/
The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. Shopping on this day can be one of the most high stress experiences of your life, but it has the potential for a ton of fun, too. Take a deep breath. Bask in the glow of the twinkling lights and festive decorations. And don’t forget to treat yourself to something special while you’re shopping for everyone else on your list! Reward for a hard day’s work, right?
Good luck and Happy Holidays!