Black Friday isn't necessarily the best day to do your holiday shopping, especially if you have an aversion to waiting in long lines or fighting through hordes of shoppers. But there are certainly some great deals to be found for those willing to brave the crowds.
And the good news for consumers -- if not for retail employees -- is that Black Friday hours have been expanded more than ever to fit our schedules. Want to be bail on Thanksgiving dinner early, grab some bargains, and still be back home in time to get a good night's sleep? Walmart and Sears, among others, are opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Want to see how the New York Jets fare against the New England Patriots first, then shop? Other stores are opening at midnight. And if you're an early riser, plenty of retailers are following the traditional course of opening bright and early Friday morning.
We scanned the various Black Friday circulars that have been released so far to give you the scoop on who has the best deals and what time you should get in line. We'll update this article and gallery as new ads are leaked and posted in the coming days.
The Big Guide to Black Friday 2012
Black Friday Sales: The Big Guide to Deals, Stores and Opening Times
Hours: 24 hours a day, but deals are often short term
Amazon doesn't have any doors to bust, but as usual, it has a bunch of outstanding deals on Black Friday and the days leading up to it. Many of the deals during this "Black Friday Deals Week" are of the lightning variety, which means that they're available for only a few hours, and they usually sell out even faster than that.
Fortunately, Amazon is helping you prepare by providing a schedule for its upcoming deals. This schedule of its movie and TV deals, for instance, shows the Blu-ray/DVD combo of "Brave" for just $8.96 starting at 12:20 p.m. PST on Thanksgiving; on Black Friday the deals are even more numerous, including the Blu-ray of "The Dark Knight" for just $3.96 starting at 12:20 p.m. PST.
You can also find a schedule of upcoming video game lightning deals, and check out the main Black Friday headquarters for quick links to all product categories.
The Thursday night deals will come in two waves. The first wave, starting at 8, will consist mainly of toys, games and home goods. One big deal is the Nintendo Wii console for just $89, a good $40 below MSRP. Just keep in mind that by that point, the Wii will be the last-generation system: The next-generation Wii U comes out on Nov. 18. You can also get a six-quart crock pot for just $9.44, or an air hockey table for $29.86.
10 p.m. is when the big electronics go on sale. The iPad 2 -- again, a last-generation product -- is at its usual price of $399, but Walmart will give you a $75 store gift card with your purchase. There is also an Emerson 32-inch TV for $148, as well as an LG Blu-ray player for $38. All three products come with a guarantee -- if any are sold out by 11 p.m., you can purchase a "guarantee card" that you can redeem for the product online.
Hours: Kohl's will open at midnight on Black Friday.
Kohl's is charting a very similar course to fellow department store Macy's. The deals will start at midnight and last until 1 p.m., though some deals will be available online starting Wednesday. You can also get $15 in Kohl's Cash for every $50 you spend from Wednesday through Sunday, whether in store or online.
Deals include the Fisher-Price Imaginext Pirate Ship for $19.99 on Black Friday, marked down from its current sale price of $35.99. There are also several deals on small kitchen appliances, though Macy's appears to have the price advantage in many cases; the Black & Decker two-slice toaster will sell for $22.99, for instance, but Macy's will have it for $10 after a mail-in rebate.
Hours: Doors open Thursday at 8 p.m.
Sears' circular features some big appliance and electronics deals. On Thursday night there is a 32-inch TV for just $97, marked down from $250, as well as a Kenmore fridge for $1,299.99, a savings of $1,000. There is also a 55-inch Samsung LED TV for $879.99, marked down from $1,399.99.
Quantities are limited, of course, but if you aren't able to get there Thursday night, you can wake up early and grab one of the deals reserved for Friday's early risers. Deals that morning include TVs, washing machines, tools and apparel.
While Sears doesn't offer an in-stock guarantee like Walmart, it says that members of its Shop Your Ways rewards program will gain to access some of the doorbusters online starting Sunday, Nov. 18.
"Members get the privilege of shopping doorbusters on Sunday from the comfort of home and picking up in store," Sears chief marketing office Jim Kunihiro tells us.
Hours: Macy's will open at midnight on Black Friday.
Macy's headlines its circular with a coupon for $10 off purchases of $25 or more, but take heed: "Specials" are excluded, which means you're not getting an extra $10 off doorbuster items. But pages 2 and 3 of the circular feature a litany of 20%-off coupons that can be applied to various categories of specials.
There are a variety of specials to be had early on Black Friday (from midnight to 1 p.m.), including small kitchen appliances for $10 each. There are also deals on bedding, toys, clothes and jewelry. The deals will also be available in the same time frame on Saturday, though obviously some hot items may sell out.
Hours: In a rare display of restraint by a retailer this season, Best Buy won't open its doors to Black Friday shoppers until midnight.
Best Buy has released what it's dubbed a "preview" of its Black Friday sales, but the 20-page ad is actually the full circular for that week. Deals include a WiFi-ready Toshiba Blu-ray player, which can be used to access Netflix and Hulu Plus, for just $39.99, a 50% markdown.
The circular also includes a number of online-only deals that will be available for purchase on BestBuy.com on Thanksgiving Day. You'll have to check back on Thanksgiving for the actual prices, but discounted item promised for that day include the Canon EOS Rebel T3 camera. A spokesperson says that the doorbusters in the ad will also be available online, but that supplies will be limited.
Hours: Target will open at 9 p.m. Thursday, except where prohibited by law.
A leaked copy of Target's Black Friday circular had been kicking around the internet for a while, and the retailer finally got around to confirming it with an official announcement on Monday morning. One of the marquee deals in the circular is the Nook Simple Touch marked down from $99 to $49, the best deal we've seen on the e-reader. There is also a 50-inch Westinghouse 1080p TV for just $349, one of the lowest prices we've seen for a TV that size.
There will also be bonus doorbusters starting at 4 a.m. on Friday, including the Fisher-Price Doodlepro Classic for $9.99, marked down from $18.99.
Hours: Doors open at 8 p.m. Thursday, where permitted by local laws.
Status: Sort of confirmed
Scans of the toy retailer's Black Friday circular appeared online earlier in the month, and while an official ad hasn't yet appeared on the official site, the company more or less confirmed its contents when it announced its Black Friday plans Monday morning. Shoppers who buy the fourth-generation iPod Touch for $199.99 will get a free $20 Toys R Us gift card, plus a $30 iTunes credit. When you buy a full-price Wii U game you can get a second for 40% off. And a second set of deals starts at 5 a.m. Friday on baby products, including high chairs and clothes.
If you'd rather shop from the couch, the doorbusters will also be available online starting at 8 p.m.
Hours: Kmart will open at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, close at 3 a.m., then reopen at 5 a.m. As always, local laws might prohibit a Thanksgiving Day opening. Some Massachusetts residents, for instance, won't be able to get in the door until midnight.
Every retailer's Black Friday ad seems to have a super-cheap TV deal on the front page as a way of attracting customers. On price alone, Kmart wins this battle with an $88 Seiki TV on the front of its circular, but note that it's only 24 inches. A better bet might be the 50-inch Proscan LCD TV for just $288, which it says is marked down from $699.99. As you might expect, quantities are limited for both items, so if you're not in line on Thursday night, you're probably out of luck.
Hours: Doors will open at 6 a.m. Friday
J.C. Penney has already begun to backtrack a bit on its new no-sales policy, so it's not surprising that it's staying in the Black Friday game (especially in the wake of its dismal third-quarter sales figures). The retailer announced its "only sale of the year" Monday morning, promising additional savings with no coupons required. It also promises that you can shop online on Thanksgiving to get sale prices early.
For now the retailer hasn't released an official circular for Black Friday, though it has announced another kind of promotion. Over the course of the holiday season, sales associates will give out tens of millions of buttons to shoppers, with each button bearing a code that can be entered at JCP.com for a one in four chance at winning a gift. Prizes will include vacations, gift cards ranging from $5 to $500 and select merchandise. You can get your hands on the buttons in stores starting on Black Friday.