Black Friday survival guide

The plan | The numbers | The gear | The strategy | The apps | The start

Black Friday, the most buzzed-about shopping day of the year, is starting even earlier this holiday season as retailers try to get a jump on the competition. The official kickoff to the Christmas shopping rush, the day after Thanksgiving brings out millions of bargain hunters looking to score new tablets, flat-panel TVs, clothes and toys. Last year retailers raked in an estimated $11.4 billion on Black Friday, up 6.6% from 2010. This year, major retailers including Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are opening their doors as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s too bad for store employees, but good news if you’re a shopaholic who doesn’t mind hitting the shops before the turkey has cooled. For those of you who are planning to brave the crowds, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned veteran, here’s a guide to surviving the Black Friday rush.
-- Andrea Chang

Holiday sales for the combined November-December period are projected to rise about 4% this year, the smallest gain since 2009, to $586.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Consumers continue to spend carefully, and merchants are doing everything they can to lure shoppers their way. Although deals continue to roll out throughout the entire holiday season, diehard fans see Black Friday as a can’t-miss event. Many recruit friends, stake out positions in line hours — sometimes days — in advance and eat their Thanksgiving dinner in folding chairs while plotting the most optimal shopping strategy.
-- Andrea Chang

Preparing for Black Friday means knowing what to wear, what gear to bring and what kind of support you may need.
Sensible clothing is key. If you're camping out overnight, wear layers and keep warm. If you're mainly looking for shoes, wear a pair that's easy to slip on and off, such as flip-flops. Shopping for outerwear and don't want to wait in line for fitting rooms? Wear a tight-fitting tank top and try things on in the aisles.
Carry a water bottle or an energy drink and snacks such as granola bars or crackers.
Charge up your smartphone or tablet. Download Black Friday apps, check retailers' Twitter accounts for updates and consult price-comparison websites while waiting in line.
Store layout maps are crucial if you plan on shopping for a specific item with a limited supply.
A list of store opening times can help you plan the order of stores to hit and not waste time.
Consider using walkie-talkies to communicate with multiple friends and family in different areas of a store at the same time. They're useful where cellphone service is weak or nonexistent.
A patient buddy who isn't shopping can lug your bags around, save a spot for you in line and run to Hot Dog on a Stick to get you a snack.
A detailed shopping list, with specific model numbers for electronics and sizes for clothing, will keep you focused. And, if you're being good, set a budget.
-- Andrea Chang

Where to shop, how to park for free, and other helpful tips for surviving Black Friday.
Higher-end shopping centers, such as the Beverly Center and Westfield Century City, rarely have the kind of Black Friday hysteria that you'll see at, say, the Glendale Galleria and outlet malls.
Hate paying for parking? Some will provide free parking if you spend above a certain amount; at the Grove, for instance, if you bring your receipts totaling $250 or more, you'll get all-day parking validation. The Beverly Center is waiving parking fees all day.
The concierge at the Grove and Americana at Brand provide complimentary package check so you don't have to haul your purchases around.
Can't find what you're looking for in the store? Go to the retailer's website. Merchants sometimes replenish their online supply throughout the day.
Be on the lookout for easy freebies. Malls often give out coffee and refreshments to early shoppers and host children's activity areas and live entertainment. The Irvine Spectrum Center will have free ice skating, carousel and other rides starting at midnight.
If you're not looking for something specific but still want to get in on the action, hit the malls after lunch, when the crowds have thinned a bit.
Didn't get what you wanted? Don't despair. Retailers sometimes roll out their best deals the Saturday before Christmas.
-- Andrea Chang

Here are some free apps you might consider downloading to your smartphone or tablet before heading out to the stores.
Black Friday App by One of the most popular apps for Black Friday, it lets users browse ads from major retailers — including ads that have been “leaked,” or not yet officially released. Users can also create shopping lists, compare prices and receive store alerts. Available for Apple iOS and Android-powered devices.
Shopkick: This app operates like a rewards program. Shoppers can earn points just for walking into stores such as Target, Macy’s, Best Buy and Old Navy and can redeem their points for free coffee at Starbucks and a variety of gift cards. Available for Apple iOS and Android-powered devices.
The Coupons App: Shoppers can get digital coupons to stores, restaurants and gas stations as well as access to Black Friday deals and shopping tools such as price comparison. Users can text and email coupons to others. Available for Apple iOS and Android-powered devices.
Black Friday Survival Guide: Users can get leaked ads in real time, check out store circulars and advertisements, search for deals by store or category and view discounted products. Available for Apple iOS devices.
Daily Shopper: This app provides a roundup of online deals. Discounts from Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon and Best Buy are featured. Available for Apple iOS devices.
-- Andrea Chang

Even though it’s called Black Friday, several major retailers are opening their doors as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. With opening times changing every year, here’s the latest for store and mall schedules.
Best Buy: Midnight
Macy’s: Midnight
Wal-Mart: 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day
Target: 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day
Sears: 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day
JCPenney: 6 a.m. Friday
Kohl’s: Midnight
Toys R Us: 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day
Radio Shack: 6 a.m.
The Grove: 8 a.m.
Americana at Brand: 7 a.m.
Citadel Outlets: 9 p.m Thanksgiving Day
Camarillo Premium Outlets: Midnight; some stores will open at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day
Glendale Galleria: 5 a.m. (some stores will open earlier)
Westfield Century City: 8 a.m. (some stores will open earlier)
Westfield Topanga: First stores open at midnight, with more to follow in the early hours Friday
Westfield Culver City: Mall common areas open at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, nearly all stores open at midnight
Westfield Santa Anita: Midnight
South Coast Plaza: 8 a.m. (some stores will open earlier)
The Outlets at Orange: Midnight
Fashion Island: 8 a.m. (some stores will open earlier)
Irvine Spectrum: Midnight
-- Andrea Chang

Photo credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Seong Joon Cho / Bloomberg

Photo credit: Associated Press


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