It’s here again, bigger, earlier and as frantic as ever: Black Friday, which now starts on Thanksgiving, unofficially kicks off the holiday shopping season this week with a smorgasbord of shopping.
This holiday season will be crucial for many retailers. Predictions for how much consumers will spend remain weak or modest, and some analysts are saying this could be the worst holiday shopping season since the recession.
“The U.S. consumer is approaching the important holiday shopping season with few reasons to celebrate,” wrote Wells Fargo analysts in their holiday forecast. The National Retail Federation’s survey showed shoppers are planning to spend an average of about $738 on gifts — down 2 percent from what they spent last year.
That’s pushed retailers to open their stores earlier on Thanksgiving and warn investors that they might have to discount more aggressively. But just because retailers are glum doesn’t mean shoppers should be: The weak shopping season means deals could be more plentiful this year.
And the best part? You might not have to camp out in line for a week before the stores open to get a bargain. Here are five things you need to know before Black Friday:
GET READY TO SHOP EARLIER THAN EVER: Last year, shoppers were waiting in line outside stores on Thanksgiving before their turkey leftovers had cooled in the fridge. This year, people will be in line before the turkey’s even out of the oven in some homes, as more and more stores are open earlier than ever.
Wal-Mart is starting its deals at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, when Best Buy is opening also.
Macy’s, Target, Belk, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s are opening at 8 p.m. Toys R Us is beating them all with a 5 p.m. opening time. And Old Navy is opening at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving, then closing at 4 p.m. and reopening for the next 29 hours straight at 7 p.m.