Black Friday competition seems to get fiercer each year. Practically every retailer has an enticing sale, which can make choosing where to shop difficult. Department stores are popular choices. In fact, they were the top shopping destinations over Thanksgiving weekend in 2017, according to a National Retail Federation survey. But if you neglect other types of retailers, you could miss out on big savings or a better holiday shopping experience. To help you make the most of your time and money, we’ve rounded up some of the best places to shop based on past sales and trends.
1. Big-box stores
Target, Walmart and Best Buy are ideal for “the heavy bargain shopper,” says Ana Serafin Smith, senior director of media relations for the NRF. Big-box stores offer ample doorbusters and deals — including TVs, gaming systems, kitchen appliances and Apple products — at some of the lowest prices every year. They often throw in bonus gift cards, too.
For example, in 2017, Target sold the Xbox One S 500GB console for $189.99 (regularly $279.99) and included a $25 Target gift card with purchase. Best Buy’s sale featured select MacBook Pro computers for up to $250 off.
Big-box stores tend to have more inventory than department stores. Last year, these retailers offered most deals online as well as in store. Another advantage, Smith says, is that big-box stores tend to have more inventory than department stores.
“If you go in at 11 o’clock in the morning and you want to buy a particular sweater, more than likely at a department store it’s no longer available compared to going and shopping at a Walmart or Target at that time,” Smith says.
2. Online-only retailers
Shopping online boasts a few advantages: It’s quick and convenient, and you’re guaranteed to avoid store chaos. Amazon’s sale covers dozens of categories, and Prime members get extra incentives, like exclusive offers and early access to deals. Plus, you can keep an eye on upcoming deals, so you know exactly when certain items go on sale.
Last year, Amazon released new discounts daily throughout Black Friday week. Expect a similar setup this year, with big savings on Amazon devices. In 2017, select Kindles were marked down $30 and the Fire HD 10 tablet was $50 off.
Pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid have Black Friday bargains, too. You’re not likely to find big-ticket items, such as TVs or smartphones, but you’re also less likely to encounter massive lines. The best deals usually include household goods, gift wrapping supplies and stocking stuffers like toys, snacks and beauty products.
Last year, CVS shoppers could get mascara, candy, batteries and other items for free after earning rewards points. Walgreens had a handful of gifts for 50% off. At most drugstores, you’ll need a membership to take advantage of Black Friday prices. However, loyalty programs are free and easy to join.
4. Wholesale clubs
Membership warehouses stand out for home electronics. (No, you don’t have to buy in bulk.) You can find competitive TV, camera, laptop, vacuum cleaner and cell phone deals, among others. If you’re a member at Sam’s Club, Costco or BJ’s Wholesale Club, the Black Friday sales might be worth checking out.
For example, in 2017, Sam’s Club gave customers a $100 gift card with purchase and activation of select iPhones on an installment plan.
5. Office supply stores
Even if you don’t need to stock up on pens and paper, Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax can be great places to shop on Black Friday. In past years, office supply stores have deeply discounted electronics, furniture and more.
In 2017, Staples’ Black Friday sale included the HP OfficeJet 4650 wireless all-in-one printer for $49.99 ($50 off). Shoppers could score the Lenovo IdeaCentre desktop for $379.99 (regularly $599.99) at Office Depot and OfficeMax.
6. Sporting goods stores
Black Friday markdowns at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers often rival those at big-box stores, especially if you’re looking to save money on activity trackers, outdoor gear and apparel. Last year, Dick’s Sporting Goods offered $50 off select Fitbits and 40% off Adidas apparel, plus shoppers could get $20 off a purchase of $100 or more.
Compare retailer ads as you decide where to shop. Smith recommends paying close attention to sale time frames so you don’t miss the deal window for the item you want. Take advantage of price matching, if retailers offer it, and look for stores with generous return policies.
Retailers like Walmart that extend return periods until after Christmas are ideal. That way, if a gift doesn’t work out, “You’re still within that time frame of being able to return everything and get your full money’s worth back or be able to exchange the value of the item for something else,” Smith says.
Lauren Schwahn is a personal finance writer at NerdWallet. Her work has been featured by USA Today and The Associated Press. © Copyright 2017 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved