Black Friday shouldn't require you to sacrifice a full day of your four-day weekend to shopping.
Walmart (WMT) - Get Report , K-Mart, Sears (SHLD) , Macy's (M) - Get Report , JC Penney (JCP) - Get Report , Target (TGT) - Get Report , Kohl's (KSS) - Get Report , Best Buy (BBY) - Get Report and other unsteady retailers doggedly remain open on Thanksgiving day, as 35% to 36% of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers told the National Retail Federation they shopped on Thanksgiving itself -- though only 17% do so before 5 p.m. While roughy 154.4 people shopped on Thanksgiving weekend last year, just 75% shopped on Black Friday. That crowd of 116 million is sizable, but not as big as the 122 million people who shop in the comfort of their own home or office on Cyber Monday.
Never mind the fact that only 40% of those who shop on Thanksgiving weekend do so in a store. That reduces the Black Friday throngs to little more than 46 million people, and even they aren't as dedicated as they used to be. Fewer than 15% line up at stores at 6 a.m. or earlier. The 29% who head out at 10 a.m. or later is up from 24% last year.
Black Friday has gone soft. Accounting firm Deloitte notes that 20% of holiday shoppers are finished with their shopping by Thanksgiving. Roughly 55% of holiday shoppers do their shopping online and have retail holidays like Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Free Shipping Day to work with. Even 44% of Black Friday shoppers now do their shopping online. There's no need to shove your way through a mass of humanity for a cheap, generic television. Black Friday deals now exist online, and don't require a loss of sleep or violence toward your fellow human beings.
Images of people stampeding each other for "door buster" deals and having tugs of war over electronics and appliances are quickly becoming embarrassing cultural artifacts. You don't have to be out there anymore, and wise retailers have adapted -- spreading out Black Friday deals throughout Thanksgiving weekend or foisting them onto Cyber Monday or some random day in December instead.
Instead of subjecting yourself to that humiliation and then shuffling over to the dying casual dining establishment in the parking lot for a plate of branded, microwaved gruel and cheese-laden appetizers, reclaim the day as your own. Some states, municipalities and companies now move other holiday onto the Friday after Thanksgiving, and there are more relaxing ways to spend that time than by scrounging for a cheap version of that must-have gift that will be forgotten a year from now.
What should you do with all that free time? Well, we have a few ideas:
Hit the movies
Last year, Disney's (DIS) - Get Report "Moana" and Viacom-owned (VIAB) - Get Report Paramount's "Allied" brought in nearly $100 million in the U.S. by themselves during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. A year earlier, the three top Thanksgiving weekend movies -- Lions Gate's (LGF.A) "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2," Disney/Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur" and Warner Brothers' Rocky sequel "Creed," hit more than $170 million in those five days. In 2014, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" pulled in $82 million alone.
Hollywood knows full well the power of the Thanksgiving weekend box-office draw and, since Disney took home $80 million with "Toy Story 2" on Thanksgiving weekend in 1999, it's become the start of a second blockbuster season. The Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games and James Bond franchises have all staked it off as prime real estate, while Disney has used it to great effect for films including "Enchanted," "Tangled," "National Treasure," "A Bug's Life," "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Frozen." Last year's Thanksgiving release, "Moana", went on to make nearly $250 million in the U.S. alone.
However, since the original "Twilight" released in 2008, six of the last nine top-grossing movies of the holiday season have opened on Thanksgiving weekend or before (though the Christmas-released Star Wars films are wrecking that streak. Holiday moviegoers don't always have to wait until December to get out of the house anymore, and those Thanksgiving weekend movies are a great way to avoid shopping center crowds and holiday guests who've overstayed their welcome.
You want to finish your vacation on the Sunday after Thanksgiving? Or that Monday? Yeah, so does everyone else.
The standing advice from every travel site from Priceline to FareCompare to CheapoAir will tell you, the cheapest days to fly in for Thanksgiving are the Monday and Tuesday before the holiday or the holiday itself. The cheapest day to fly out? Black Friday.
It makes sense. Most people aren't taking the long weekend just to fly out on that Friday and spend the remaining two days away from family. However, for those who've been in town since Monday or Tuesday, Friday is the best day possible to fly home and take the weekend to recuperate. Granted, not a whole lot of people take this approach, but those that do are $100 or so richer for it.
Buy a car
Yes, even automakers offer deep discounts on Black Friday.
We've been touting its merits as a car-buying day since at least 2011, but last year was really something special. October car sales had fallen 5.8% from the same time in 2015, despite J.D. Power noting that dealers gave away $3,723 in incentives for each vehicle sold. That was the third-largest incentive amount in history and took 10% off the average price of a vehicle, according to Kelley Blue Book's estimates.
There was a $4,000 discount on the Nissan LEAF (which coupled with $7,500 in electric vehicle incentives for a whopping $11,500 off). General Motors (GM) - Get Report offered 20% discounts on Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles. Chrysler was dropping $6,000 off discontinued vehicles like the Dodge Dart. If you needed a Ford F-150 or Nissan Titan, discounts ranged from $6,500 to $10,000. Used vehicle pricing and analysis site iSeeCars says Black Friday is a great time for used-car deals as well, with 33% more deals and incentives than a typical sales day.
Plan a proposal
Christmas and New Year's proposals aren't unique or creative: in fact, there's a whole industry that relies on them. However, if you're in a rush to get married, the real swell of winter proposals and weddings doesn't start until Valentine's Day. If you're looking for empty venues and dates, there are a lot between now and, oh, May.
January, February and March are the absolute slowest months for weddings in the U.S., according to the folks at XO Group's TheKnot. While couples will weather the cold to get Christmas trees and garland into their photo album, they won't put up with it once all the sparkly lights are gone and the landscape looks like tundra.
Frugal couples have already booked dates during these months for discounts on venues, catering and photography, but demand for wedding dresses in particular bottoms out this time of year. Boutiques are filled with dresses for after Christmas, when all those holiday proposals turn into planning, but those same boutiques are dead on Black Friday. You'll have room to negotiate and, with everyone else holiday shopping, you'll have nearly unlimited access to racks and fitting rooms.
College football's full slate of games switches from Saturday to Friday, with playoff positioning, conference championship matchups and bowl game invitations on the line. They also start at noon Eastern and 9 a.m. Pacific, which makes a midnight doorbuster doable, but why?
If you're lucky, you have a house full of leftovers, a day worth of games and movies on the screen and no compelling reason to be anywhere. In fact, the networks don't do all too shabbily on Black Friday, with CBS, ABC and Fox all showing games and ESPN packing its own lineup several channels deep with college football's waning season. Black Friday also bursts the dam on holiday specials, with CBS busting out "Frosty The Snowman" and NBC going with Dreamworks' "Trolls Holiday." The Hallmark Channel, which will have been showing Christmas movies for nearly a month at this point, chimes in with "Finding Santa."
Disney-owned Freeform begins its "Countdown To 25 Days of Christmas" on November 18, which means it'll be showing Christmas movies intermittently until the actual 25 Days of Christmas begin on December 1. However, we advise pacing yourself. Between all of that and the Christmas movies, specials and shows on streaming channels, you may end up tossing your TV out the nearest available window once Ralphie and "A Christmas Story" take over TBS on Christmas Eve. It's a shame there won't be any $100 generic Black Friday TVs left to bail you out when that happens.
Is Your Wallet Ready for Black Friday?