It’s the same scene year after year: people standing in line for hours, braving the cold, hoping to score big discounts on Black Friday.
“We usually get up at like 3:30 in the morning," said Black Friday shopper Alisia Burch. "We go out there about 4, stand in line.”
But this year, shoppers like Burch may have to wake up even earlier, because Black Friday sales are getting a head start.
Toys “R” Us is opening at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and Best Buy and Walmart are opening an hour later. Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney will begin offering their Black Friday sales at 8 p.m.
With so many retailers adjusting their hours, how can customers be sure they’re coming out ahead? Jim Wilcox of Consumer Reports says every shopper should have a plan.
“Prepare a list and just stick to it," Wilcox said. "It’s really easy to just get caught up in the excitement of being in a store with a lot of people and the frenzy of shopping, but you don’t want to wind up with your third toaster oven or your fourth toaster."
Wilcox also said shoppers should research products online before they spend.
Here’s another tool for shoppers: show-rooming. That’s when you visit a store to check out a product and buy it online. Amazon Price Check, Flow, Google Shopper and Red Laser are just a few of the free apps that allow customers to compare prices. Scan a product’s bar code with your smartphone and you've got instant access to a range of competitors' prices.
Wilcox said those interested in electronics might be better off waiting until the dust settles.
“We did a survey a couple of years ago and about 40 percent of the TVs that we tracked were actually cheaper after Black Friday,” said Wilcox.
And if you’d rather stay inside on Friday, you can always shop from the comfort of your home on Cyber Monday.