Ready, set ... Best Buy started Black Friday 2009 prep in August

Think your ever-prepared colleague who's already bought and wrapped all her gifts has an impressive jump on the holidays? Consider this: electronics mega-chain Best Buy started prepping for Black Friday, the official, chaotic start to the holiday shopping season, in August.

That's when the company sends out a Black Friday "Toolkit" to each of its stores, summarizing the company's ticketing and security procedures, according to company spokesperson Scott Morris. The Toolkit is followed by several autumn "rehearsals," which simulate the day's events, he said.

And now, with the big day just weeks away, the company is tanned, rested and ready, and looking forward to what it hopes is a bright spot in a dark retail year

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(Best Buy shares have been up, near its 52-week highs of late. Although the company did recently decide to lease part of their Minnesota headquarters).

And because it's prepared, Best Buy is turning up the hype as well. Today it announced its second annual Black Friday VIP contest, which invites shoppers in 25 markets to submit essays on why they love Black Friday. Win the contest in your area, and the store will issue you a $1,000 gift card, send a limo to your house before dawn on Black Friday and grant you early access to the goods.

The recession, says Morris, doesn't negatively affect Black Friday, because die-hard customers look forward to it every year -- and justify their purchases as bargains.

"Our customers who love Black Friday view it as a family tradition," says Morris. "It's such a unique day that it doesn't really fit into the context of the normal sales cycle. It's not immune [to the recession], but in the current economy, it's a great chance to look at great deals, and I think that stimulates people to participate even more."

Morris expects laptops and mobile devices to be especially sought-after this Black Friday -- not surprising, since the store will likely still be experiencing huge demand for the splashy new Droid and HTC Hero phones.

For the company, the main benefit of Black Friday is obvious -- it's a sales bonanza -- but there's also less-obvious bonuses. "We know that it's a day we get to interact with our customers in an intimate, meaningful way," says Morris, who will visit several stores on Black Friday. "At our stores in colder climates, we hand out scarves and hot cocoa. At our Minnesota store, we had someone actually propose to his wife. There's always a lot of excitement, and we try to ensure that they have a great experience."

So what should you do if you'd like to take part in this great experience? Keep an eye out for the store's Black Friday circular, out the week of Thanksgiving. And make sure to check out Best Buy's official Black Friday tip sheet for pointers on pre-shopping prep and smart wardrobe choices (long johns encouraged!).
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