Black Friday is big business.
On the retail end stores live or die based on holiday sales, many head into Black Friday deeply in the red. Black Friday is that first chance to bring the books back to black and can be a forecast for the rest of the holiday shopping season. If you come in seriously under plan on Black Friday you can pretty much be certain that Q4 won’t add up.
One thing I know about first hand is Black Friday shopping and the strategy involved. Since before I was born my mother and Nana would hit the stores early in the morning to get the best deals. As the years went on more family members joined and the group became more organized.
They first started at stores that no longer exist like Bradlees and Caldor, now they hit up the big ones with big deals and even bigger crowds like Walmart and Target.
When I was a kid they would stalk toy stores, pushing and shoving to get the latest fad toy like the Furby (remember those scary things?) Beanie Babies and Barbies. As a kid I tagged along one year, I remember Nana sent me in and out of JC Penney to get as many free snow globes as I could carry– I still don’t know what she did with all of them. But what I really took away from that experience is that people will stomp you to a bloody pulp to save a buck.
As an adult I now partake in the annual tradition more for the sport of it than anything. The group has really hit its stride in the last decade with the addition of my aunt Ann who brings serious organization and focus.
Black Friday 2012 was perhaps one of the most organized and successful ventures in years.
The first step to a successful Black Friday is preparation. After the turkey is put away everyone converges at my house Thursday night for dessert and strategizing. There each participant evaluates what they need from each store taking into consideration distance, stock and opening times. When the most important need is identified a plan is constructed based around that item– this year it was a tv from Walmart.
To insure that the big ticket item is successfully acquired we make sure Walmart is the first store on the list for myself, my mom (Lisa) and my aunt Ann (above) starting at the Hanover location at 12:15 a.m. for a 1 a.m. open. From there we headed out on a journey making a stop at The Hanover Mall around 1:45, Target in Hanover around 2:30 and then to the Hingham Kohls around 3:30.
We start in Hanover and make our way north: our final stop will be the South Shore Plaza, where we will meet the rest of the team, at 4:30 am.
Walmart is probably the scariest place to be on Black Friday. Hundreds of people lined up outside waiting for the doors to open, some having been in line since before dark.
Before going into a big store like Walmart you have to have a game plan, a meeting location and some energy.
While in line Ann and Lisa reviewed a map of the store with a cell phone for light and marked where the items on our list were stationed. Before the line started moving we were all assigned a role, Ann and Lisa would each run for tv’s of different sizes and I would find a carriage and run after them.
Once the doors opened we were ready and successfully secured the tv that we came for, grabbing an extra just in case we decided we needed a second at check-out. Though there were no major altercations this year I had some words with a woman who blocked a main aisle with her carriage so she could text. Texting while driving, even a cart, is never acceptable.
After going for a few other items, including 700 thread count sheets for $19.99 that Lisa could not stop talking about, we made our way to the checkout with our kill.
After getting our purchases to the car we headed back into the mall to look through Old Navy for any deals on adults and kids clothes. Ann was successful finding several items including a red scarf that she sported for the rest of the journey.
The third store was Target but not after a refueling stop at a busy Dunkin Donuts.
Though we didn’t have anything specific in mind for Target beyond toys we went anyway because there is always something you don’t realize you need until you see it on sale. We all split up and looked around on our own before meeting at check-out.
Next we headed north to Derby Street and Kohls. At Kohls we picked up many items including a lot of clothing for ourselves (at this point I still haven’t purchased anything besides coffee). In the shoe department we make our first blunder when Ann grabs another woman’s cart by mistake (a mistake possibly stemming from a minor head injury suffered earlier in the morning). Luckily the mistake was caught and our purchases, coupons and lists secure.
After Kohls we headed to the South Shore Plaza where we met up with Nana (Isabella aka Bella of Bella’s Shopping team), my aunt Heather and 11 year-old cousin Marissa.
At the plaza we were greeted as minor celebrities with many fawning over our team shirts and hats. After being in the mall for only 15 minutes we were approached by the mall’s PR lady who asked us to get in front of the camera. Now, fully assembled, the team made its first television appearance of the day going live on Fox 25 Boston at 5:30 a.m. With little prep and a lot of coffee we made it through the interview without looking crazy or any nervous cursing.
After the interview we dug in scoring great deals at The Limited, Bath and Body Works, The Disney Store, Pac Sun, and Express before we sat down for breakfast and a break at Au Bon Pain. Now around 8 a.m. our day of shopping was coming to an end.
After breakfast we made another television appearance, this time in a taped segment for CBS Boston’s noon broadcast cementing our celebrity status.
If you dare oppose us next year you need to remember a few things:
1- Be prepared. Browse the sales with fliers and know what is most important on your list. Have coupons, water, snacks and maybe a powder puff ready but travel light, you need both of your arms.
2- Have a plan. Know where you are going first, second, third and so forth. Get maps of stores in advance to know where to get the items you are looking for before they are gone.
3- Energize. Get some sleep before you head out to be sure you are at maximum shopping capacity. Before leaving grab some coffee and do a few stretches to warm your body up.
4- Look the part. If you are going as a group why not look like one? We debuted our team shirts a few years ago but added baseball hats this year. Don’t try to make your own with iron-ons, that’s for amateurs– have shirts or hats printed up. With everyone in uniform you look much more formidable, cautioning other shoppers before getting in your way.
Challenge us in 2013– if you dare.