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Black Friday 2018: Searching for the best sales

Rick Wagner • Nov 22, 2018 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Today is only Thursday, but Black Friday sales are already upon us in earnest. 

They started Wednesday, or even last week, it seems.

For weeks, retailers in the Tri-Cities, nationwide and online have been advertising and promoting pre-Black Friday and “better than” Black Friday sales. Many online Black Friday sales are live or went live Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Some brick-and-mortar stores like Big Lots will open Thursday morning, with many opening Thursday afternoon only to close awhile and reopen Friday morning, sometimes with new or carryover deals.

Others, like Office Depot/Office Max, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply and Harbor Freight, don’t open until Black Friday proper.

Confused yet?

WHAT ARE ACTUAL SHOPPERS PLANNING?

Judy Bowery of the Rogersville area, a veteran Black Friday and bargain shopper, said she’s already done a lot of Black Friday shopping online, including at Kohl’s, which offered 15 percent off and $15 in Kohl Bucks for every $50 spent, and at the Rogersville Goody’s, which gave out gift cards and coupons earlier in the week. However, she still plans to venture out Thursday and Friday to JCPenney, Belk and Bath and Body Works.

“We’re just going to be looking to see what we can find,” Bowery said of shopping in Rogersville and Kingsport, adding that she plans to shop Cyber Monday, too, and that her daughter, Amy Bowery, is seeking a deal on a 32-inch smart TV for her mom’s bedroom. Also, Bowery is looking for a larger microwave.

Another veteran Black Friday and bargain shopper, Pam Shipley of Kingsport, said she’s also taking advantage of online sales.

“I’m just going to go online and buy stuff I’m afraid I wouldn’t get at the store,” Shipley said, adding that her daughter is looking for Paw Patrol and PJ Masks clothing items for Shipley’s grandson.

WHAT’S CHANGED FOR BLACK FRIDAY 2018?

For those who peruse the Black Friday ads posted on the Internet, either “leaked” from the retailers themselves or in some cases obtained through more clandestine means, the biggest apparent difference is that Walmart no longer is offering a guarantee that in-store shoppers who get an armband will get doorbusters by Christmas (or at all), or have a better or more expensive item substituted. That means if you get it in the store Thursday or Friday, you get it. If not, you don’t unless you find it elsewhere.

However, the ubiquitous U.S. retailing giant is promoting online ordering with shipping to home or to store. Retailers like Belk and Walmart chose to “leak” their own ads instead of waiting for one of the Black Friday websites to do it. For the record, retailers sometimes send such websites cease and desist orders about leaked ads, although others either don’t make waves or let the leaked ads make their way on the Internet to provide free, if premature, advertising.

In addition, some businesses not known for Black Friday deals are getting into the shopping spirit. For instance, Goodwill stores in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia are closed Thursday but will open Friday by taking half off all donated merchandise, which these days is by far the majority of items in those stores.

Even newspapers are getting into the fray. For instance, the Kingsport Times News is offering two Black Friday subscription deals: A seven-day print and digital plan for $10 a month using EZ Pay or $30 for 13 weeks through Friday. Or call (423) 392-1390 and ask for “Black Friday savings.”

CVS, Walgreens, Gamestop and many other retailers have Black Friday offerings, too, as do Lowe’s and Home Depot.

WHAT’S NOT CHANGED? (OR WHY ARE ELECTRONICS DOORBUSTERS IN FROZEN FOODS?)

If you’re already a subscriber or otherwise reading this Thanksgiving Day paper in print, it is loaded with Black Friday ads. Sometimes these ads have extra or different items than those in the leaked ads or those retailers put online themselves. Everything from toys and furniture to clothing and housewares is on sale.

Although WalletHub, a personal finance website, says computers and phones are the least rewarding deals, electronics continue to take some of the most prominent spaces in Black Friday ads readers will see in the paper as the turkey cooks in the oven. Walmart is again offering online maps and a smartphone app so shoppers can make their way through stores to find Black Friday deals that are located outside of their usual departments. Also, Best Buy will have folks lined up around the building in anticipation of deals with coveted slips of paper that give them the rights to a specific item, hours and hours before the doors open.

Belk, not normally known for televisions, has a doorbuster 32-inch TV for $79.99 (no brand specified) and Kohl’s has a 58-inch 4K Samsung for $549.99, including $165 back in Kohl’s Cash to spend later. Target has a 65-inch Element smart 4K TV for $199.99 (sure to sell out in a hurry) and a smart 32-inch TV for $199.99, while Office Deport/Office Max, Best Buy and Walmart, with a Hisense 40-inch for $99, also are among those with TV deals that most every retailer seems to have. (See ads for when the stores open or deals are available online.)

However, Sears and Kmart have no TV deals advertised. (Sears no longer sells TVs in Johnson City, but Kmart sells them in Kingsport.) Sears is still big on tools and appliances, but Lowe’s, Home Depot, JCPenney and Best Buy also offer appliances.)

DEALS GO ON DESPITE BANKRUPTCY, AND WHAT ABOUT FOOD DEALS?

You may recall the Sears/Kmart parent company Sears Holdings Corp. has declared bankruptcy. However, Kingsport still has its Kmart and Johnson City its Sears. At Kmart, spending at least $50 Thursday through Sunday will get you $50 back on your Shop Your Way Rewards (SYWR) card redeemable Nov. 27-Dec. 3. Sears is offering $50 cash back Thursday and Friday only plus $250 back on qualifying purchases of $250 or more, with points at $25 weekly over 10 weeks. Both are limit one per SYWR card, and other Sears promotions go up to $600 back in points. 

JCPenney will open its doors at 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and will give out coupons up to a $500 off a $500 or more shopping spree. And if you want to use a gift card there or buy one as a gift, for every $100 in JCPenney gift cards you purchase, you’ll get points good for $25 for use later.

Grocery stores, including Food City, Food Lion, Ingles and Kroger, also are offering deals. For instance, at Kroger, gift cards purchased generate four times more fuel points on the store loyalty cards instead of the normal two times. Shoppers use those points in increments of 100 to get 10 cents off a gallon of fuel, up to a maximum of $1 off a gallon on 35 gallons at a time.

At Food City, buying a Butterball turkey will generate 10 times the normal fuel points, which can be used for 15 cents off 20 gallons or on Wednesdays for 30 cents off 20 gallons.

So gobble, gobble. Let the bargain hunting begin.

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