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Black Friday: How to get the best deals amid a changing holiday shopping landscape

Over the past several years, deals have popped up earlier, and online shopping has been on the rise. Enter a global pandemic, and things are changing yet again.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Remember the days of Black Friday doorbusters? 

If you wanted the best deals or just had to have that hot toy or gift, you had to stand in long lines and fight huge crowds at 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving.

Over the past several years, holiday shopping has taken on a different look: big box stores and malls open on Thanksgiving, 48-hour shopping marathons to lure in customers, and, of course, the rise in online shopping.

Deals started earlier and earlier and lasted longer as retailers realized that they had to be more competitive to bring in your dollars. 

Holiday shopping amid a pandemic

Now retailers across the country are trying to navigate a holiday shopping season amid a global pandemic. Some stores have limited hours or reduced capacity. Others might be restricted to online orders or curbside pickup, or worse yet, closed altogether.

Many stores and malls that previously touted being open on Thanksgiving Day have done an about-face and will be closed for the holiday. They'll reopen Black Friday morning but perhaps without the massive crowds and pomp and circumstance of previous years.

"This Black Friday is going to be like no Black Friday we've ever experienced in our lifetime. We have seen such a shift in retail during this pandemic, and you'll see it more so now as we're heading into the winter months," said Erin Habes, fashion editor at Buffalo Spree magazine and full-time lecturer in Buffalo State College's fashion, textile and technology department. 

Some stores started advertising big holiday sales in October.

"It's a lot earlier, trying to get customers to not so much just focus on that one day. But you're going to find lengthier sales in the stores. There's definitely going to be some good deals," said Habes. "In comparison to last year, at this point, we were seeing 20 to 30 percent off. This year, at this time, we are seeing a lot greater of a discount, 40 to 50 percent off."

Habes says to expect to see some of the biggest deals on clothing, especially spring and summer merchandise because stores are trying to unload stock that they couldn't sell during COVID shutdowns earlier in the year.

And in this age of work from home and virtual learning, Habes says expect plenty of deals on home goods and electronics.

"Everything to do with the home is going to be a huge focus for holiday this year. We are going to see a lot of deals on electronics, whether it's shop online and pick up in-store," said Habes.

Rise in online shopping

More and more people will be shopping from the comfort of their own homes, according to the folks at retailmenot.com.

"Yes the rise of online shopping has been happening over the years, but this year 75% of people told us that they are going to do the majority of their shopping online. Twenty percent said they're only going to shop online, and 88% of people say they will not be shopping those major doorbuster sales on Thanksgiving morning," said Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot.

When to shop for the best savings

Target is offering Black Friday bargains now and dropping new deals each week through the holidays.

Walmart's already in the holiday spirit with early sales on home goods, electronics, toys, and more. Walmart is also advertising more big savings the day before and day after Thanksgiving.

Kohl's will be closed on Thanksgiving Day but will kick off a week-long Black Friday sale on November 22, and "Super Deals" will start online on Thanksgiving.

Home Depot is hosting a month-long Black Friday sale through December 2. You can shop the sale in stores, online and through Home Depot's app. There's free home delivery on select items.

An extension of savings...

Skirboll suggests installing a browser extension to help you add up the savings when shopping online.

"DealFinder is my favorite. It automatically applies coupon codes and cashback offers right at checkout, saving you all of the time and all of the money," said Skirboll.