Prepping for the Super Bowl of shopping
On your mark…get set…shop!
Black Friday has become a game of strategy and stamina as shoppers spend hours in lines waiting for big deals on the hottest items of the season. This year, shoppers will be taking their turkey dinner to go as Thanksgiving has become just another shopping day.
Major retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, have pushed opening times to Thursday in order to compete for holiday shopping dollars. Amanda Rowell of Minden said her plan is to be in line at Toys-R-Us in Bossier City early Thursday morning to get two of her son’s wish list items.
“Toys-R-Us has an amazing ad this year,” the seven year Black Friday shopping veteran said. “My sister and I are usually the first ones in line and we’ll be out shopping for probably 35 hours this year.”
Rowell plans a month and a half in advance for the biggest shopping day of the year, a lesson she learned the hard way years ago. She went into her first Black Friday without a “game plan” or any idea of what was about to happen.
“It was very overwhelming,” Rowell said. “I walked into the store hoping to look at the sales, but I was sadly mistaken. There were people running into each other. I didn’t think people would actually get out that early.”
But it’s true. Rowell has since developed a strategy and team to survive Black Friday. This year, she and her sister will be “Black Friday Ninjas” in their matching lime green shirts.
To survive Black Friday, Rowell said it’s crucial to be prepared, have lists in hand of items you want as well as sales papers for each store you plan on visiting, stay hydrated and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
“Park under lights and don’t carry a purse,” she said. “Make friends in line and talk to them about the things you’re looking for. This is more than a competition. It takes a team effort to be successful.”
Leading another team through Bossier City stores is Krista Madjerick of Shreveport. She also stressed the importance of having a team of shoppers
“Everything is spread out and it goes so fast,” Madjerick said. “It’s best to separate, meet at the register, pay for your things and then rush off to the next store.”
Madjerick has about 19 years of Black Friday shopping experience, beginning when she was just 10-years-old in New York. This year she will be shopping for everything from luggage to clothes and toys for her 17-month-old daughter.
To stand out in the crowd, Madjerick and her group have a specific outfit they wear each year. No Black Friday is complete without Christmas pajama pants, a themed shirt, a Santa hat and good, comfortable shoe.
“Black Friday isn’t about looking good, it’s about being comfortable,” Madjerick said. “There’s no time to change shoes or clothes because you’ll be standing in line for a while.”
Stores continue to open into the wee morning hours with special deals called doorbusters and stay open late into Friday evening. Once customers make it inside the building, many retailers are offering Black Friday specials.
Rowell suggests keeping an eye out for freebies as well. An example, she said, was receiving a free pre-lit Christmas tree as one of the first 10 people at Ellis Home and Garden in Bossier City last year.
So how do you practically shop ‘til you drop? Rowell said they pack a cooler of drinks and snacks to keep their energy up. They also pack blankets, umbrellas and chairs to get them through the long hours outside of stores.
Madjerick’s team makes stops at IHOP or Denny’s for a meal and to also map out their next plan. Then, they load up in a car and hit the streets for more shopping.
“It’s an adrenaline rush. Just the thrill of getting something you really want for an awesome deal,” Madjerick said. “Every store is a new thrill and that keeps the adrenaline going…along with multiple stops at Starbucks. We go hard all day long and will be out shopping for about 28 hours.”
Nationwide sales on Thanksgiving last year were $810 million, a 55 percent increase from the previous year, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak. Black Friday sales were $11.2 billion, a 1.8 percent drop from the previous year.
Last year, Rowell spent about $600, saving $550 from Black Friday deals. Her advice is to set aside money throughout the year into an account or safe place designated for shopping.
Madjerick, however, saves money all year long through a special bank account.
“I treat it as a 12 month bill,” she explained. “It comes directly out of my checking account. It’s a set amount that I won’t miss with each paycheck that doesn’t affect utility bills.”
An important thing to remember, Rowell said, is common courtesy to other shoppers and store employees.
“A lot of the employees are young and wanting to experience Black Friday themselves, but they may not have the answers to all your questions,” she said. “They have dedicated time away from their family on a holiday so just be patient.”
Madjerick’s advice to first time Black Friday shoppers is simple – save money ahead of time, don’t shop alone, stay nourished and caffeinated, map out and research a shopping plan ahead of time, make a list of things you want, bring the sale ads with you, dress warm and bring a cell phone charger.
Above all else, Rowell encouraged first timers to enjoy the experience as long as they want it to last – whether it’s an hour or an all nighter.
“Have fun and don’t stress. Black Friday goes well beyond finding good deals,” Rowell said. “Make memories with your friends and family. It really is such a fun experience.”