With Black Friday fast approaching, retailers are stocking shelves and shoppers are poring over the latest Black Friday ads. Major retailers such as Walmart, Sears, and Target will open earlier than ever before-late Thanksgiving evening-and these bumped up opening times are thought to increase the Black Friday madness even more.
But for a casual shopper, one who hasn't been plotting store routes and divvying up buying plans between family and friends, what's the incentive for venturing out on Black Friday? Good deals on thousands of items, of course, but is it really worth it?
To help you make your decision about whether to visit your favorite retailers on Black Friday, we've listed some of the new perks being offered on Black Friday so you can make your decision fully informed. While these perks might not turn an ardent introvert into an overnight camping shopaholic, they will definitely make your life easier if you do decide to shop on Black Friday:
1. New Black Friday apps. Black Friday apps have been around for a while-the TGI Black Friday app, for example, debuted in 2009 and is still a good resource for shoppers to search for products, save their favorite deals, and see the sales available at a certain retailer-but new this year are the retailers' own in-store navigation app features.
The Walmart mobile app will be loaded, for the first time ever, with interactive in-store maps that allow customers to easily find the locations of certain items in their local stores. Shoppers can click on an item on the app and the app will display the product description, price, and location in the store.
The Macy's app now has improved in-store usability, with a store directory being a key piece of the retailer's special Black Friday features that were rolled out onto the Macy's iOS app in mid-November. The store directory lists the floors and departments where items are housed.
2. Store Credit Card Promotions. This Black Friday, retailers are looking to both reward their most loyal shoppers and simultaneously cross-promote their store credit cards. Target will be giving exclusive access to online Black Friday deals to REDcard holders beginning November 21, and Macy's will be granting Macy's American Express cardholders a chance to win a $5,000 Macy's shopping spree for every purchase made with the store's credit card during the holiday season. If you have a store credit card, check the store's policies to see if you're eligible for any special perks on Black Friday.
But if you don't already have a store credit card, watch out, as this can be more of a trap than a perk. Store credit cards are notorious for high annual percentage rates (the Macys' credit card has a 24.50 percent APR), low signup bonuses, and poor rewards rates on other non-store purchases. For more information on comparing credit cards, check out NerdWallet.com's credit card comparison tool to make sure you're making an informed credit card decision.
3. Skipping the camping out. For some, camping out in front of a favorite retailer is a Black Friday tradition. For everyone else, it means you're unlikely to get those coveted doorbusters, since it's hard to compete with that level of intensity.
Luckily, however, it seems retailers understand missing out on doorbusters is one of the biggest detractions from shopping on Black Friday. Why visit a store to grab a doorbuster, only to be disappointed, when you could have shopped online?
Walmart is attempting to solve this problem by offering a unique 1-hour in-stock guarantee on three select doorbusters. If you visit a Walmart store from the hours of 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, you're guaranteed to get an iPad 2 16GB Wi-Fi for $399 plus a $75 Walmart gift card, a LG BLu-ray Player for $38, and an Emerson 32" LCD 720p TV for $148. If any of those items are out of stock on the shelves, you can purchase a Guarantee Card to ensure the item will be shipped to that store for pickup before Christmas.
4. Rejuvenation Stations. As showrooming has cut more and more into brick-and-mortar retail business, retailers have fired back in a variety of ways. But what about the physical malls themselves? This year, malls are stepping up efforts to cut down on the madness of Black Friday that drives profitable shoppers away.
Perks malls are providing VIP Parking, massages, and gift wrapping. Free "rejuvenation stations" will offer coffee, snacks, and a place to sit and recharge. Some of these lounge areas will have free Wi-Fi hotspots and device-charging stations.
There's even more tactics that malls are trying, from kid-specific "survival kits" including juice, activity sheets, and toys, to coat checks and drop-offs to hold shoppers' bags. While we thought free breakfast at Sam's Club was one of the best Black Friday perks of the past few years, this year malls are going above and beyond the pastry and coffee that Sam's Club offers.
Matthew Ong is a strategy analyst for NerdWallet, a financial literacy website educating consumers in a variety of money matters from college costs to Black Friday shopping.
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