Competition for holiday dollars has pushed many retailers to offer deals before Thanksgiving or even on the holiday itself. Stores will also have the traditional “Black Friday” deals Friday, which is often billed as one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
“Small Business Saturday,” a shopping holiday held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which feature big box retail and e-commerce stores respectively. By contrast, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize smaller, local businesses.
Area retailers both large and small have already been offering incentives and deals to get shoppers through the doors, and that will only intensify starting today.
For example, JCPenney will open its doors at 3 p.m. today and is offering early shoppers the opportunity to win cash giveaways in addition to in-store and online sales on merchandise. The store will stay open all night and through the day on Friday until 10 p.m.
Big Lots in Leadington is offering customers three days of sale prices, beginning today from 7 a.m. to midnight and opening on Friday at 6 a.m. and Saturday at 7 a.m.
The new Rural King will be open during normal store hours, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both today and Friday and will offer special discounts and sales each day.
Walmart’s “Black Friday” begins today at 6 p.m. and runs through the weekend.
Other area retailers ranging from farm supply, jewelry, video and gaming, clothing, home goods, grocery stores and most others will be offering special deals to capture their share of available holiday dollars. You can find many of those deals in today’s print edition of the Daily Journal or at www.dailyjournalonline.com.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to arm themselves with information, a budget and the ability to resist pressure to buy items they don’t want or need. One-day deals and specials have become the norm rather than the exception, whether shopping online or in a store. Researching an item before making a purchase will allow you to make a more informed decision and will often save money, hassle and If you’ve researched an item ahead of time you’ll be better able to evaluate offers.
“Some deals may look good but quantities may be extremely limited or the size of the discount greatly exaggerated,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “By checking prices at several retailers and reading advertisements carefully, consumers can make an educated decision on whether it’s worthwhile to stand in line or miss a good night’s sleep.”
When buying gifts it’s important to obtain and keep receipts for all purchases in case the recipient needs to return or exchange the gift. Many stores will provide gift receipts upon request, which allow returns but do not display on the receipt how much was paid for the item.
Be sure to check return and refund policies before buying. Although some stores relax their return policies during the holiday season, others may require that returns be made within a few days of purchase. Some only allow returns if a product is defective while others may give store credit instead of cash refunds.
If a gift needs to be shipped ask whether shipping is included in the price and when the item will arrive. In some cases you may be able to save some money by buying from a store’s website rather than standing in line at a physical location.
Toy safety is also a concern for many parents. Make sure any toys you buy are appropriate for the age of the child. If possible, inspect toys carefully to look for sharp edges that may cut, moving parts that can pinch, or small removable pieces that can be a choking hazard. Toy chests should have air holes, and fabric products should be flame-resistant. Check for a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal on electric toys.
Sales on Cyber Monday, Nov. 30 this year, are expected to reach $3 billion, making it the biggest day for online sales ever and a 12 percent jump from last year.
“We know that many consumers rely on shopping online to save time, money and to have gifts sent to family members around the globe,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO.
“BBB reminds shoppers to be careful: The Internet is rife with scams that can separate shoppers from their money or steal their personal information. Some companies may not be able to deliver gifts in time for the holidays,” Corey said.
Shoppers can prepare themselves for online shopping by watching ads and browsing for the items they’re seeking in advance. Many online sites already have set up sites where Cyber Monday deals will be advertised, but unless you’re educated, it can be hard to tell whether an online deal actually will save you money. Read a site’s policies for returns and understand shipping schedules before you enter your credit card number.
Before you begin shopping online, make sure your computer is protected. If you haven’t already, install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
While online shopping can be a way to avoid crowded stores, shoppers need to be careful of the sites they patronize. When shopping online, be sure to:
• Protect your personal information. Check to see how your information may be used online. When shopping at stores, keep your card out of sight and make sure you get it back and safely in your wallet before you leave the store.
• Know the company’s refund and return policies. Are there restocking fees? Do you have to pay shipping costs on returns?
• Do not rely on pictures of a product. Read the description and check model numbers, if applicable.
• Be cautious of free or very-low-price offers. Often, free offers are followed by an open-ended enrollment in a program that automatically bills your credit card account. Before ordering anything online, make sure you click on and read all terms and conditions.
• Pay with a credit card. If you suspect fraud or don’t receive your order, you can challenge the charge. It’s also possible to dispute charges to your card.
• Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped.
• Print out the order or save it on your computer. Make sure you have the documentation page for online orders and save it until the order arrives.
• Be aware of phishing. Don’t respond to emails that ask for your credit card or bank account number or other personal information. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming there is a problem with an order or account to lure you into revealing financial information. Call the company or find the customer service form on the company website to confirm any problem.
• If you are going to be shopping after dark, park in a well lit area as close to the store as possible.
• Shop with a friend – there is safety in numbers.
• Lock your car and do not leave anything in plain view.
• Put gifts and purchases in the trunk. If you have an SUV, put a blanket or something over the items to conceal them.
• While you are shopping, stay alert and aware of your surroundings. If you see something suspicious, report it to a store employee.
• Do not leave purses or wallets unattended.
• When returning to your vehicle, have your key entry remote out. If you need to and if equipped, push the panic button on the key fob if you feel you are being followed.
• Always glance inside your vehicle before getting inside to make sure there is no one there waiting for you.
Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or email@example.com.