The Super Bowl of shopping has arrived.
People will jam stores and shop for online bargains across Central Florida and beyond, with the mayhem starting earlier on Thursday than ever before.
With so many deals out there, it helps to have a plan. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about Black Friday -- and what's now starting to be called Gray Thursday.
Q: When does the Black Friday shopping start?
A: It's really been Black Friday all week, with retailers offering deals throughout. But for in-store shopping, it starts at 5 p.m. Thursday when Toys "R" Us opens. Best Buy will follow at 6 p.m. Most Walmart stores are open throughout Thursday, but "doorbuster" sales start at 6 p.m. Sears, Kohl's and several area malls including Orlando Fashion Square, Florida Mall and Seminole Towne Center open at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Q: How should I prepare?
A: Read product reviews and know what you want. Remember, electronics with a low, low price might be a brand that's not well-known. Thursday's Orlando Sentinel, traditionally the largest paper of the year, contains advertisements with many of the best deals to help you do your research ahead of time.
Q: What should I take with me?
A: If you plan to stand in line for hours, pack snacks, bottled water and something to do. If you want a doorbuster deal with limited quantities, you could station friends or family members at various stores and coordinate by cellphone. If you plan to race for a hot item, know where to find it. Some chains have maps online.
Q: What are some of the best offers?
A: As usual, electronics are inspiring people to line up days in advance in some cases. Walmart has a Funai 3 LED 720p HDTV available for $98. Best Buy is selling an iPad 2 for $299.99 and an LG 55-inch LED HDTV for half off at $499.99. Target will sell Samsung 55-inch LED HDTVs for $697.99.
Q: Will the stores run out of stock?
A: That is possible with the hottest items. Walmart, however, says it will guarantee 21 doorbusters to people in line inside the store tonight between 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday, and again between 8 and 9. The guaranteed items include the iPad mini, a $29 Furby Boom and a 1-carat T.W. diamond and sterling silver pendant and earring set for $98.
Q: Will stores match competitors' prices?
A: Many stores have price-matching guarantees during the holidays but exclude Black Friday. Walmart will match competitors' Black Friday ads, but only during the time period the offer is in effect.
Q: Will there be anything fun? Any freebies?
A: J.C. Penney will give out small Disney snow globes at 4 a.m. Walmart will throw in $100 gift cards with the iPad minis. At Florida Mall, a live DJ will entertain waiting customers outside Florida Mall, with stilt walkers giving out prizes starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. At Orlando Fashion Square, shoppers can enjoy a DJ, cookies and cocoa, and those who spend $100 will get $20 in reward bucks.
Q: What are stores doing for crowd control?
A: For the first time in all its stores, Walmart is issuing wristbands for certain items such as video-game consoles. Customers with the bands can claim the products within two hours after the sales start. Best Buy is handing out tickets up to two hours before its sales for popular items.
Q: What times are the doorbusters?
A: Some stores are having waves of doorbusters. Walmart will start selling them at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and at 8 a.m. Friday. Best Buy will sell doorbusters at 8 p.m. Thursday , then again at midnight and 8 a.m. Friday. Toys "R" Us will have a second wave of rock-bottom deals at 5 a.m. Friday after its opening at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Q: Will I miss the best deals if I stay home and shop on the Web?
A: More specials are going online, so there is a good chance that you can score great deals without leaving the comfort of your home. Of course for many, shopping on Black Friday is done for the sport of it all.
Q: If I skip Black Friday, can I still get good deals?
A: The retail industry now has a number of deal days -- Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day and Small Business Saturday -- that can give you a second chance to save big.
Q: Will the stores be crowded?
A: Yes, but possibly not as much as last year. A National Retail Federation survey predicts 140 million people will go shopping on Black Friday weekend -- about a 5 percent drop from last year's 147 million. Experts say Black Friday is losing some of its allure as deals get offered earlier.
(c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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