Leaks Help 'Black Friday' Shoppers Strategize
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.
And today is a day I could have gone shopping for sales on my way to work - in the dark. It's called Black Friday, because many retailers rely on this day to lift them out of the red. Holiday shoppers can snag some mighty big bargains if they're willing to wait in line. And this year they can strategize with the help of specials that have been leaked on the Internet.
NPR's Carrie Kahn has this roundup.
CARRIE KAHN: Karen Ann Parkinson is in line this morning bright and early at her local Target store in Redondo Beach, California. The sixth grade teacher is looking for the latest Xbox videogame, Halo Reach. But it's not for one of her four children.
Ms. KAREN ANN PARKINSON: It's actually for me. Shhh. Don't tell anybody. Is that bad, that I'm Christmas shopping for myself?
KAHN: Parkinson says she loves the crowds and the excitement of today but she admits she's slowed down a bit. This year was nothing like what she had to do during the Beanie Baby craze of the 1990s.
Ms. PARKINSON: If they would open at 6 a.m., you know, you'd be there at 3 or 2 lining up around the block. It was insane. My mother and I were a little addictive with the collecting of the Beanie Babies, so we had just hundreds of Beanie Babies by the end.
KAHN: And she didn't pore through the newspaper for Black Friday ads this year either - she used the computer and was able to plan out today's budget and strategy a week ago.
Ms. PARKINSON: So this is gottadeal.com and so it has all the stores listed that you could possibly want to shop on.
KAHN: So this is the first time you've ever used this?
Ms. PARKINSON: Yes. It's much faster than it used to be just getting the newspaper.
KAHN: Parkinson could have started planning in September. That's when some sites got their hands on retailers' Black Friday ads. Gottadeal.com's Dev Shapiro says he gets his leaks from the guy in the mailroom.
Mr. DEV SHAPIRO (Gottadeal.com): He'll take the ad into the bathroom and take pictures of it and then send it to us. Or it's the guy at the printing press who happens to get a copy of it, take it home, scan it into the computer and send it to us.
KAHN: Shapiro also gets an annual cease and desist letter from big retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
Mr. SHAPIRO: It wouldn't be Black Friday without the Wal-Mart legal threats.
KAHN: So he waits until he gets the green light before posting Wal-Mart specials. He says this year there are plenty of deals, especially on big screen TVs and small electronics, like e-readers. Shapiro's been camped out in front of the Best Buy in Plano, Texas since yesterday.
Mr. SHAPIRO: We rent a Port-a-Potty, and that's a big joke with everybody, and we know people in line.
KAHN: There may be as many as 138 million shoppers in lines and stores today, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. And Allison Paul with the accounting firm Deloitte says it looks like holiday spending will be up about 2 percent this year. Not great, but a big improvement over recent years, when Paul says there was nowhere to go but up.
Ms. ALLISON PAUL (Deloitte): It's kind of like you can't fall off the floor. But that's good news for retailers because what it signals is, you know, the end of the downturn and the end of this sort of puritanical approach to the holidays.
KAHN: Paul says retailers who've taken full advantage of social networking are going to do better this year. Best Buy for the first time has holiday marketing on Facebook, Twitter and two smartphone apps. VP Sherri Ballard says this could be the best Black Friday in years.
Ms. SHERRI BALLARD (Vice President, Best Buy): We're extraordinarily excited about it. I think there's probably a lot of pent-up consumer demand.
KAHN: Ballard says she's not worried that all the leaks and online bargains are taking the fun out of Black Friday. Shopping devotee Karen Parkinson says she wouldn't trade going out in the crowds for anything. It's a holiday tradition, a challenge.
Ms. PARKINSON: Definitely an element of Black Friday is the game of getting it first and being able to get one of the limited number of items, you know.
KAHN: And, she says, watch out. That discounted Halo Reach videogame at Target - it's hers.
Carrie Kahn, NPR News.
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