En español | Forget doorbusters; 2020 is the year of the web-buster. Retailer websites are bursting with Black Friday deals. Overall, holiday online sales are forecast to top $190 billion, or 35.8 percent more than last year, while in-store sales are expected to drop 5 percent, according to eMarketer.
If you're still thinking about braving the crowds — and the germs — to do a traditional Black Friday in-store shopping spree, here are 10 reasons to stay home and shop safely from your couch instead.
1. The best deals might already be gone.
If you're waiting to do your deal hunting in stores on Black Friday (Nov. 27), there's a good chance you could lose out on some of the best bargains of the season. This year, Black Friday has morphed into Black November as major retailers, including Best Buy, Home Depot, JCPenney, Kohl's, Macy's, Target and Walmart, have already started their big sales. And unlike past years, just about all of the juiciest deals are online. The few in-store-only doorbusters that I spotted were TVs, including a 60-inch LG TV for $399 at Target. Bottom line: It pays to shop early and often online, especially if you're looking to buy a hot item. “It is possible that the price might fall a bit more, but you'll know you got a good deal and you won't be shopping during the Black Friday rush when things might sell out,” says Kristin McGrath, editor and shopping expert at BlackFriday.com. To ease worries about missing out on even lower prices, Target is extending its price-match guarantee on select items.
2. No lines.
In-store traffic during the holiday shopping season is expected to be down by up to 25 percent, according to ShopperTrak. But you might still have to wait in long lines. Many stores that normally kick off their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving, including Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Kohl's, have announced they will be closed this year for the holiday, and when they open on Black Friday morning they may be limiting in-store traffic. Instead of waiting in lines outside stores to snag the best deals, queue up online so you don't miss out! Here's how: Most sites let you bookmark or save product selections on a wish list; also, place sale items in your online shopping cart, if possible. “In some cases, you can go directly to the product page online and add items to your cart; when the deal goes live, you'll see the price drop and can buy it,” says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews. “Other retailers will change their web pages slightly so you can look up the product now but the product page will change when the deal goes live.” Either way, be prepared to pounce when the sale goes live. Putting an item in your cart doesn't guarantee you'll get it. Check if the store's site or app offers alerts, like Macys.com and Amazon, or mark your calendar. Ramhold warns that due to the volume of online shoppers this year she expects website hiccups. Try to be patient if pages aren't loading quickly.
3. Free shipping.
When you shop online, you save both time and gas money. And many stores offer fast, free shipping with low order minimums. Target and Walmart, for example, offer free 2-day shipping on orders of $35 or more; Amazon's minimum is $25, unless you're an Amazon Prime member. (If you're worried about porch pirates, try out Amazon hubs.) If you're holiday shopping on the late side, take advantage of Free Shipping Day, which falls on Dec. 14 this year and features hundreds of stores offering free shipping deals.
4. Contact-less curbside pickup.
Thanks to the pandemic, many retailers are offering free pickup outside the store in addition to home delivery, including Walmart, Target, JCPenney and even some specialty stores like the Gap and Old Navy. Just drive over and a clerk will deliver your order to your car. In addition to protecting you from COVID-19, buy-online/pick-up-in-store options can also help ensure that you get your gifts on time. The increase in online holiday shopping could mean longer-than-usual delivery times. Costco, Kohl's and other stores are already warning about possible delays. Another bonus to shopping online and picking up your items at the store: You can get your stuff in hours, not days. For example, Macys.com, which offers free in-store pickup, says most orders are ready in two hours.
5. Online deal-finders.
Finding the best bargains online has gotten a lot easier. You can stay on top of the action throughout the holiday season using deal sites like BlackFriday.com, DealNews.com and Wirecutter. “At DealNews, we'll tell you if it's the best price we've seen on a product,” Ramhold says. Also, check out Flipp.com for digital versions of paper circulars and for a handy shopping-list feature that you can use on your smartphone; it automatically rounds up flyer deals on items and a new Watch List alerts you when new sales pop up.
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6. Easy returns.
During the holidays, most retailers extend their return deadlines to after Christmas. Amazon's policy is super generous this year. It's giving customers until Jan. 31, 2021, to return items purchased between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. Plus, you can now make label-free, box-free returns at over 5,800 U.S. locations, including UPS Stores, Kohl's stores and even Whole Foods Market. Wherever you shop, be sure to read the fine print on return policies, especially if you're buying from a third-party seller on sites like Amazon and Walmart; they might have more restrictive policies.
7. Less buyer's remorse.
When you go into a store during the Black Friday rush it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and toss extra stuff in your cart without doing your research. Shopping online can help curb impulse purchases, according to a recent survey that showed shoppers are more likely to buy things they don't need in stores than online.
8. You can support local businesses.
With many local businesses suffering this year due to the pandemic, it's a great year to shop on Small Business Saturday, which is the day after Black Friday and features deals at stores in your area. Be sure to check the websites of local stores for deals and hours.
9. Quick price comparisons.
When you're in a store, you have to do your research ahead of time or pull out your smartphone. When you're shopping online, a quick price comparison is right at your fingertips. Whatever you're buying, be sure to check all of the major sellers, including eBay, and make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Some rock-bottom prices might be on older models or models that are specific to Black Friday and have fewer features, especially when it comes to TVs.
10. There's always Cyber Week!
Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) has morphed into a weeklong shopping event. Ramhold says if Cyber Week is anything like in previous years, the best markdowns will be on speakers, laptops, toys and clothing. Also think of Cyber Monday as a second chance to snag Black Friday deals you might have missed, McGrath says. They may resurface if you're lucky!