What to buy and what to avoid during 2016 Black Friday sales

Nov. 27, 2015 – Atlanta – Roxanne Wilhelm shops on Black Friday morning at the Toys”R”Us store. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Black Friday is just one week away. The ads have been “leaked,” and experts are busy analyzing the deals. It is time for shoppers to make a plan, whether they will be shopping online or in-stores.

Last year, more than 60 percent of shoppers made a purchase during Black Friday weekend from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday. While some shoppers opted to hit the streets, the biggest increases were seen online. Online shopping on Thanksgiving Day hit a record $1.73 billion, according to Adobe. Black Friday sales came in at $2.74 billion, a 14 percent increase over the previous year.

This year, retailers have continued to spread deals throughout the week in the hopes of extending the shopping season, but some of the best deals tend to be offered on Thanksgiving Day, say the deal pros at DealNews.com.

In a major shift from the past four years, many retailers will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, but it is an adjustment that mostly benefits stores and won’t have a huge impact on consumers, said Benjamin Glaser, Features Editor with DealNews.

Related: Atlantic Station urges retailers to close on Thanksgiving Day

“This is fine for consumers because they can just shop online. It is more convenient and it is easier to compare deals. Thanksgiving is the best day of the year for shopping, but you don’t have to leave home,” he said.

Shopping in-store offers the advantage of doorbusters — those crazy low-priced items that come in limited quantities, but they come with no guarantees. While in-store shoppers are plotting how to be first in line, savvy online shoppers are connecting with their favorite retailers on social media and signing up for newsletters.

Related: Target, Best Buy open on Thanksgiving Day

“This will give you immediate notice during Black Friday when sales go live,” said Glaser. Some stores, such as Amazon and Target, may be offering app only deals, a trend that has developed in the last two years, he said.

Shopping online also makes it easier to conduct the necessary price comparisons since you should never trust the first deal you see during Black Friday sales (online or in-store).

This year brings a host of new deals on everything from 4K HDTVs to home goods, but there are also plenty of deals that may look familiar. Repeat deals are not always bad, but it is good to be aware so you don’t end up buying last year’s electronics (the same model) for more money, said Philip Dengler of BestBlackFriday.com.

The site studied the top 25 stores for Black Friday shopping and analyzed the deals in circulars from 2015 and 2016 to find duplicates.

Almost all stores repeated at least one deal and 20 of the 25 stores surveyed repeated five or more deals. About 50 percent of retailers had at least one repeated deal that was more expensive than it had been last year. Costco was among the biggest offenders with more than five repeated deals and more than three that are priced higher this year than last, Dengler found.

So what should you be shopping for this season? First, base your shopping on what you actually need, says shopping expert Andrea Woroch.

Make a list of what you need and try not to be swayed by big discounts. If you don’t need a new HDTV, don’t buy one just to get a deal. Always remember to mail in rebates, be sure to compare prices before making a purchase, and don’t blow your entire holiday budget during Black Friday.

Here are some of the best (and worst) items to shop for this year, according to Glaser of DealNews.

BEST THINGS TO BUY

Gaming consoles and streaming devices: For the first time, there are multiple generations of gaming consoles available. There are versions that are not even a year old but as with smartphones, manufacturers have started offering minor updates followed by major updates, said Glaser.

Shoppers must decide if they want a moderately different version or if they want to hold out for a big change. Wal-Mart is offering a Playstation 4 Slim Uncharted 4 500GB Console Bundle with $30 Gift Card for $249. The pricing beats DealNews’ predictions by $50. Kohl’s is offering the same bundle with $75 Kohl’s Cash, a winning deal for regular Kohl’s shoppers.

The popularity of streaming devices has exploded in recent years, Glaser said, and this year, they can be found at prices just below $70.

4K Smart TVs: “This is the first year we will see significant discounts on 4K TVs. They were luxury items up until this point,” said Glaser. If you are in the market for a television, you have a lot of choices. Best Buy, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart are all offering 4K Smart TVs (different sizes) at some of the lowest prices seen for the category and brand.

Clothing: Black Friday is a great time to buy clothing, but it is harder to plan since clothing retailers don’t typically leak ads. Specialty retailers such as Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, H&M and more may offer discounts as large as 50 percent storewide. Macy’s and JC Penney are among the department stores that offer the best discounts on clothing, according to a recent survey from Wallethub.com.

Laptops: In any given year, shoppers can reliably find a 15-inch laptop for about $300 – $350, with up-to-date Intel Processors. Look for brands like Lenovo, Toshiba, Dell and HP. The challenge may be finding a mid-range laptop, said Glaser, as retailers will try to push higher-end machines with a level of power the average user doesn’t need. Find computer deals at retailers such as Office Depot/Office Max and Staples. Best Buy and online retailer Newegg, also offer solid deals on laptops.  Shoppers with light word processing needs, can opt for a Netbook or Chromebook for less than $100.

Home goods: This is one of the best times of the year to make a big purchase for the home. Check out Home Depot and Lowe’s for deals on large kitchen appliances. Also consider Sears where it is rumoured that the Kenmore brand may be discontinued. As long as the items have a warranty, shoppers should be fine. Handheld kitchen gadgets can be had for less than $10 this time of year.

WORST THINGS TO BUY

Gift cards: Wait until December to buy gift cards from national and regional restaurants when you can look for bundles and get more in credit than the cost of the card.

Winter clothing and jewelry: Some winter apparel will be on sale, but items such as parkas, wool hats and scarfs and more will be more deeply discounted in January and February during after Christmas and Winter clearance sales.

Black Friday is not a great time to shop for jewelry. In fact, there isn’t a really great time to buy jewelry in the coming months, but December is likely to have the best offers, Glaser said.

Exercise equipment: Wait until after the new year to invest in new exercise equipment. When everyone is focused on getting in shape, retailers will offer discounts on a range of items.

Toys: Toys can be hit or miss during Black Friday. It is hard to find discounts on the hottest toys, Glaser said. So even if you see modest discounts on top toys, you should buy them. The second week of December is also a good week to shop for toys at retailers like Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart. Just don’t wait until closer to Christmas, the best toys will be gone or may even cost more.

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