Holiday sales began earlier this year, as retailers attempted to get an edge over the competition due to a shorter holiday shopping season. The shoppers are also becoming increasingly aggressive, as news reports of store stampedes and injuries have made headlines in recent years.
Will this Black Friday be more of the same or will the competition only elevate the mayhem? Here's what to look for as Black Friday 2013 draws near.
Earlier store openings. More retailers than ever before will open on Thanksgiving night. These include new entrants J.C. Penney and Macy's. Stores will also open earlier this year.
While the earliest store openings were at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving in 2012, Best Buy and Walmart plan to open at 6 p.m. this year. Toys R Us is one-upping both and opening at 5 p.m. Kmart shocked the retail world by announcing it would have its stores open 41-hours straight, from 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning to 11 p.m. Black Friday night.
As with any Black Friday, it's best to be an early bird. However, be aware that rival shoppers will snatch up the best deals Thursday night, which could leave bare shelves by the time you hit the stores on the actual Black Friday.
Cheaper video games. Video games go on sale every Black Friday, but expect bigger deals this year. That's because PS4 and Xbox One are hitting the market, which will naturally reduce demand for PS3 and Xbox 360 games.
Also, look for deals on PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. For instance, Walmart is offering Xbox 360 for $99.99 versus the usual price around $179.
One strategy to consider is to purchase newer PS3 or Xbox 360 games to hold you over if you can't land a new console. And then wait a few months for demand to wane.
Gamer madness. A few years ago, particularly with PS3, madness ensued at the intersection of limited supply and overwhelming demand. Not only did gamers scamper from store to store and wait in massive lines for the chance to own the latest high-tech console, but opportunistic resellers entered the mix and made a hefty profit – with at least one eBay bidding war eclipsing $10,000.
Now, as PS4 and Xbox One reach store shelves just in time for Black Friday, the same situation appears likely. Supply is expected to be limited for both consoles. With the chance to cash in on expected bundle deals and pound new controllers into oblivion, or the opportunity earn thousands in profit, expect fierce competition for the grand prize.
You'll want to be the first in line if you hope to purchase either on Black Friday this year.
Cheaper TVs. Televisions were a huge hit on Black Friday 2012, and it appears there will be even better deals this year. Walmart is offering a 32-inch Vizio for $98, which is what a low-end computer monitor costs these days.
For a big-screen TV, you can't go wrong with Best Buy's 55-inch LG LED for $499 or Walmart's $688 offer on a 60-inch Vizio Smart LED.
Unmatched one-hour guarantee. Walmart will again offer a one-hour guarantee on certain items. If you're in the store between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving, you're guaranteed to get that item or you'll receive a "guarantee card" that requires the company to ship it to the store before Christmas for pickup. There are exceptions, including the fact this perk doesn't apply to shoppers in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
It appears no other retailer is offering this deal, so consider making Walmart your first stop. That said, confirm your desired items are eligible for this promotion before braving the cold.
Matthew Ong is a retail analyst at NerdWallet.com, who specializes in sorting out good deals from bad ones for consumers. See his review of the best and the worst of Black Friday.