More Price-Matching, Better Staffing And Other Black Friday Predictions

It’s October, and those falling leaves and brisk temperatures can only mean one thing — that no professional baseball is being played here in Philadelphia. It also means that the official start of the holiday shopping season is a mere eight weeks away.

So what will make this Black Friday (11/28, for those who haven’t marked their calendars yet) any different from ones that came before it? The folks at DealNews have some predictions, including:

1. More Price-Matching
It’s no longer enough for retailers to rely on those shoppers who line up early to take advantage of doorbuster deals. Many consumers who previously waited for the Black Friday hullaballoo to calm down before hitting the stores are now just shopping online and staying away from the melee altogether. So retailers will need to follow the lead of Best Buy and others who price-match Amazon and its ilk.

“Expect to see many more price match announcements as Black Friday approaches,” writes DealNews’ Louis Ramirez. “And as always, make sure to read the store guidelines as not everyone will offer no-questions-asked price matching.”

2. More Discounted Shipping Offers (But Be Warned!)
There’s good news and bad news about a recent decision by the U.S. Postal Service to cut costs for certain businesses. On the one hand, you can expect more online retailers offering cheaper or free shipping. But then you also have to worry that USPS might become overloaded with parcels, leading to late deliveries and other messes. Additionally, the USPS parcel tracking system is all but useless for anyone actually trying to determine the status of an impending delivery.

Writes Ramirez, “Your best bet — shop early and keep an eye on those tracking numbers.”

3. Expect More Staffers At Stores
With retailers opening earlier and earlier — to the point where most major Black Friday participants are now opening on Thanksgiving — many employees and worker advocates have complained about employers’ ruining staffers’ holidays. But the complaints haven’t stopped shoppers and you can expect some stores to have more checkout lines open to deal with the Black Friday crowds.

In August, Walmart announced that it intends to have all of its registers staffed during the busiest days and hours of the holiday shopping season.

4. More “Guaranteed” Doorbusters
Every year, retailers advertise $25 computers and other effectively free “doorbuster” sale items, many of which are gone almost immediately (even though they’re sometimes outdated junk that the stores couldn’t give away during the rest of the year). And with stores opening around the same time as Uncle Paul is doing his annual job of insisting that he crudely carve the turkey, some shoppers have stayed away from Black Friday because they know those doorbusters will be long gone by the time they tuck the kids in bed and hope they don’t wake up in the middle of the night wondering where mommy and daddy went.

So DealNews predicts that more retailers will follow the lead of Toys R Us and offer “guaranteed” doorbuster deals, where shoppers eligible for the promotion receive wristbands or vouchers that guarantee they’ll eventually get the coveted item, even if supplies run out. You might not get the item on Black Friday, but at least you won’t pay more for it elsewhere. More importantly to the retailer, you’ll probably snap up a few other items while you’re in the store.

For more Black Friday predictions, including thoughts on 4K TVs, smartphones, and credit card safety, go to DealNews.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.