Black Friday shopping statistics. (Photo Credit: MCT Campus)

People can tell that the holiday season is upon them when families gather to eat turkey, boxes of decorations are uncovered from attics and when plenty of frantic shoppers stampede into stores like savages.

For some people, Black Friday is as much of a holiday as Christmas. However, it has a not-so-jolly history. Avid shoppers have been known to get violent and aggressive towards others when rushing through stores looking for good deals. Black Friday is an iconic day for shoppers as it marks the beginning of winter holiday shopping season.

For those who plan on taking part in the shopping madness but have no idea how to plan, certain tips about stores and products that are hot this season may be helpful.

This year, stores are taking dramatic new lengths to bring in customers. Typically, Black Friday meant waking up at the crack of dawn to get to the stores when they opened. This changed last year, and it continues to this holiday season because Walmart and Kmart announced they would be opening their doors to the public at 8 p.m. the night of Thanksgiving. This early opening could either help cut down the massive crowds or attract even more people. By allowing shoppers more time to arrive and to browse the store, it may cut down on the urgent need to be there first. It could also make things worse by attracting a larger number of people who are available to shop at a more reasonable time of day.

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It may be worth the risk since Kmart and Walmart have substantially lower than normal prices on potential holiday gifts. Kmart may be better for those looking to get the most with their money as they have numerous buy-one-get-one (bogo) deals.

Walmart may be the better choice for parents looking for toys since the store prepared a list of the 20 hottest toys of this season.

Target is another store that is mainly marketed toward parents; a week ago, the store sent out its enormous toy catalog to draw in families. However, unlike other department stores, Target is doing something very interesting this year. Under the Black Friday section of Target’s official website, users are asked to enter their zip code after which the website lists “select deals” taking place in the store nearest to the user. And, as if that was not helpful enough, Target also shows users a digital map of the layout of the store and pinpoints all the locations where doorbuster items can be located.

For those who have outgrown the allure of children’s toys, technology is the biggest thing to look out for this holiday season. Big names like Best Buy and Newegg.com are best bets for gadget-loving shoppers. Best Buy significantly reduced the prices of television season DVDs and recent releases of movies on Blu-ray. There are also big price cuts in TVs and popular smart phones.

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But for those unsure of which new gadget to buy this season, sites like decide.com (by Decide Inc., a consumer-price research firm) can reassure technology lovers if the product is worth the buy or if it can be sold cheaper at a different time.

Unlike Best Buy, Newegg.com has been prepared for Black Friday for a while. For starters, the website is referring to this month as “Black November” and has been offering deals on merchandise since the beginning of the month. For gamers looking for deals, this site may be the preferred choice.

The site features exclusive packages of extensively hyped releases such as Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for a reasonable price. The site also provides free shipping on the majority of products and includes an extended return policy for anything bought before Christmas. But aside from that, the biggest perk is the simplicity of being able to do all of one’s shopping from the comfort of home.

Online shopping is definitely something to consider. For many big department stores, shipping on products is free and the same offers in store are offered online. Not to mention shopping from home eliminates the risk of getting trampled. Shopping from the internet has become so popular that in 2010, Hitwise, a site that studies online consumer behavior, found that for the second consecutive year, Black Friday was the highest day for retail traffic during the holiday season, followed by Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

If online shopping seems like a good idea, Amazon would be a good site to check out considering there are countless products sold on the site. The site is not geared towards a specific demographic and carries practically everything. Amazon is also offering deals during the week leading up to Black Friday and includes free Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25 and free returns on any of its marked-down products.

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But for those who would rather get the full adrenaline-inducing experience of going out to crowded stores in the middle of the night, some final tips may be useful. Make sure to know exactly what stores have to offer before going. Showing up to a store with no idea of what to get can mean less of a chance of leaving with anything. For impulse shoppers, be sure to use cash as an easy way to realize how much money is being spent. Lastly, be safe.

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