Black Friday used to be a day of shopping.
Now the shopping event seems to last more than a week: There’s Thanksgiving Day, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and something called Free Shipping Day in December.
It’s enough to make you give up and not shop at all.
OK, we all know that’s not going to happen, so hopefully I can bring some clarity to the proliferation of shopping days that have popped up in recent years.
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But first, if you don’t want to pay attention to the calendar, the good news is you don’t have to. It used to be stores saved their best deals for Black Friday, but retailers have gotten so competitive that they’re trying to nab your dollars by rolling out deals well before Black Friday even starts.
How to find out about them? The stores’ ads and email newsletters will tell you (quite loudly). Sites such as Ben’s Bargains also track the best deals from numerous retailers, such as the top laptop deals available right now.
But back to the shopping days.
Thanksgiving Day: Black Friday crept into Thanksgiving years ago, but thankfully the intrusion into the holiday seems to have slowed. Stores are still opening on Thanksgiving (most of the big ones at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.), but opening times aren’t drastically earlier this year.
As usual, all kinds of deals will be available. About 15 percent of Americans will venture out to stores on this day, according to International Council of Shopping Centers data.
Black Friday: It’s still the queen bee of the shopping week, with 41 percent of people heading out to look for deals in stores.
It’s predicted that Black Friday this year will be the busiest day and rack up the most sales of the holiday season, says research firm ShopperTrak.
But it isn’t always. Last year, Super Saturday raked in the most sales (more on that day in a minute).
Small Business Saturday: Saturday, Nov. 28, is the day when locally owned mom-and-pop shops say, “Hey, don’t forget about us.” Ironically, it was started by a big company, American Express, in an effort to get shoppers to use its credit card.
Truth is, locally owned stores would gladly have your business any day of the year. Some companies do something special for the day, usually posted on their Facebook page.
Cyber Monday: Monday, Nov. 30, is the online shopping day made just for people don’t want to change out of their pajamas to shop. Expect lots of deals online.
It’s worth noting, though, that plenty of online deals also happen on Black Friday.
Free shipping day: This day, on Friday, Dec. 18, isn’t one of the major ones and is a bit promotional. Basically, participating retailers on FreeShippingDay.com all agree to offer free shipping with no minimum purchase on that day and delivery guaranteed by Christmas Eve. So stores such as Cabela’s, which normally requires a minimum $99 purchase for free shipping, will have free shipping no matter how small your purchase that day.
Many offer additional discounts, often between 10 and 50 percent off, on Dec. 18.
It’s worth noting though that many sites, includingTarget, already offer free shipping during the holidays, so you don’t necessarily have to wait for this day.
Super Saturday: Mostly an industry term, it refers to the Saturday before Christmas – Dec. 19. It often trades places with Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the season because people are scrambling to get their shopping done.
In short, if you hate crowds, don’t go to the mall on this day.
Long Line at the Post Office Day: OK, I made that name up, but Saturday, Dec. 19, is the last day to send packages via First Class mail and have them arrive by Christmas Eve. You can still get gifts there in time by spending a little more with Priority Mail by Dec. 21 and Priority Mail Express by Dec. 23.
By the numbers
Top 10 predicted busiest shopping days by foot traffic
Nov. 27 – Black Friday
Dec. 19 – Super Saturday
Dec. 26 – Day after Christmas
Dec. 12 – Second Saturday before Christmas
Nov. 28 – Saturday after Thanksgiving
Dec. 20 – Sunday before Christmas
Dec. 5 – Saturday after Cyber Monday / First Saturday in December
Dec. 21 – Monday before Christmas
Dec. 13 – Second Sunday before Christmas
Nov. 29 – Sunday after Black Friday