FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2013 file photo, customers shop at a Target store in Colma, Calif. Experts say Thanksgiving weekend lives up to the hype of serving up the best bargains of the year from TVs to clothing. Shoppers, however, need to do their homework before joining the crowds at the mall or heading online for the official kickoff thatâ€™s increasingly creeping into the turkey feast. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
NEW YORK — Brace yourself for the Black Friday shopping bonanza.
Sure, stores have been pushing discounts on holiday merchandise since Halloween, but experts say Thanksgiving weekend still lives up to the hype of serving up the largest breadth of the season's bargains from TVs to clothing. Shoppers, however, need to do their homework before joining the crowds at the mall or heading online for the official kickoff that's increasingly happening the day of the turkey feast.
"You have to do research in advance and know what the best prices are at the stores and what time," said Brad Wilson, editor-in-chief of BradsDeals.com, a deal website that tracks holiday discounts.
For the holiday weekend, Thanksgiving Day is becoming the better day for deals, beating out Black Friday, some deal experts say. Still, shoppers should dissect every offer. Phong Vu, CEO of DealScience.com, uses historical data and technology to predict where and when the best discounts will be. He says consumer electronic deals are better on Thanksgiving or Black Friday than the rest of the holiday weekend. But shoppers may find better clothing discounts on the Monday after the holiday.
Retailers have been advancing some of the Black Friday deals from the holiday weekend to lure shoppers first. Online king Amazon.com is starting its deals this Friday, two days earlier than last year, and will be adding new discounts every 10 minutes for eight straight days at amazon.com/blackfriday. Deals include up to 45 percent off select Samsung TVs.
Target is giving early access Wednesday to some of the specials reserved for the holiday kickoff by holding a presale on a handful of Black Friday discounts both in stores and online. And for the second year in a row, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is lowering prices on popular toys, electronics and other items to match or beat select Black Friday deals from top rivals like Best Buy, Toys R Us and Target. The sale starts Friday. As part of the move, it's cutting prices on Razor Electric scooters to $88 from $117 and 60-inch Sony or LG Smart HDTVs to $648 from $798.
Here, a few tips for deal hunting during Thanksgiving weekend:
PLAN AHEAD: Scope the stores and websites ahead of time. Scan the Black Friday ads to see which deals are the best. Then map out when you hit the stores. Many retailers are opening on Thanksgiving — at different times. J.C. Penney is opening its doors at 5 p.m., while Macy's and Kohl's are opening an hour later. All three will stay open more than 24 hours straight. Best Buy decided not to open round the clock this year since traffic in its stores in the middle of the night was light. It will open at 5 p.m. and then close at 1 a.m. on the holiday. Stores will reopen at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. on Black Friday.
Use price comparison sites like BradsDeals and PriceGrabber.com to do your research.
BEAT THE CROWDS BY SHOPPING ONLINE ON THANKSGIVING: Increasingly, a number of stores are offering the same deals online on the holiday that will be available in their stores hours later. Stores like Best Buy are also offering special web-only deals as well.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA: Sign up for your favorite stores' Twitter feeds — many will be tweeting deals. Shoppers should also "like" the official Facebook pages of their favorite stores, too. Shoppers can now shop on Amazon.com's Instagram feed.
BRING THE CIRCULARS WITH YOU: Matthew Ong, an analyst at nerdwallet.com, a personal finance website, says having the physical ad while you shop in the stores will ensure you get the advertised price.
USE NEW STORE APPS OR WEBSITE FEATURES: Target has spruced up its app with new technology powered by Point Inside that pins the location of items shoppers are looking for onto interactive store maps. That includes the doorbuster deals over the Black Friday weekend. Toys R Us has a new app that lets you find what you're looking for down to the shelf and pushes deal offers to your smartphone while you're in the store. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has unveiled an interactive circular on its website that brings together customer product reviews, buyer's guides and how-to videos on products.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STORES' PRICE-MATCHING POLICIES: Wal-Mart just started to match its online prices with Amazon.com and other online competitors. It follows Best Buy and Target in matching prices of online rivals. But shoppers should carefully read stores' policies. In order to prevent fraud, Wal-Mart tightened its policy on Wednesday. It says it will match prices from Walmart.com and 30 major online retailers, but won't honor prices from marketplace vendors, third-party sellers, auction sites or sites requiring membership.
Follow Anne D'Innocenzio at — https://twitter.com/adinnocenzio