Special Report: Black Friday 2011

Deal Hunter: Top 10 tips for Black Friday shopping virgins

There are few days that elicit excitement, fear and general mania quite like Black Friday. For the veteran shopper, the day after Thanksgiving is a chance to flex some serious deal-hunting muscle.

But for the Black Friday virgin, this big, bad shopping day can be daunting at best and, at worst, downright terrifying.

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Cynthia Groves, head of global retail consulting at Newmark Knight Frank, says there is no reason to fear.

As a former merchandise manager for Mazza Gallerie’s Neiman Marcus and a seasoned deal-hunter living in Washington, Groves knows a thing or two about saving money without sacrificing quality — or your sanity. Here are her top 10 tips for surviving your first Black Friday.

1. Start with a plan and make a list. “There have to be clear expectations on the part of the shopper before starting out,” Groves says. “Am I buying for myself or my family? Am I buying holiday gifts? Do I want the cheapest item I can find, or am I looking for an element of luxury? Some people will want to do all their Christmas shopping. Some want the big-screen TV. Others will just go to the shops and see what’s happening.”

2. Prepare to be enticed. Even with the best-laid plans and most detailed shopping list, you’re sure to encounter deals you weren’t expecting, Groves says. Know your budget and have a plan to deal with on-the-spot temptations.

3. Know what’s on sale — and what’s not. Black Friday is the right time to buy televisions, computers, small appliances, clothing and even food, especially seasonal specialties such as chocolates and nuts. Home furnishings, on the other hand, are better left for after-Christmas sales. “People are out there trying to get the best deal possible,” Groves says. “If it’s not at least 40 to 50 percent off, just leave it behind.”

4. Know your transportation options. Decide whether you want to drive or take public transit to your shop of choice. If you drive, know your parking options. Keep in mind that “traffic will be horrific on the roads, and the parking lots will be even worse,” Groves says. “The traffic alone could make the deals not worth it.”

5. Pack for the day. Recognize that success on Black Friday requires, to some degree, going into basic survival mode. Take along healthy snacks and water to keep your energy up, wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers and, yes, even bring a phone charger. “Retailers are developing a mobile strategy. Macy’s, Sears and Nordstrom will offer Wi-Fi for their customers, and Macy’s is planning a QR code campaign. This is the first year we’re seeing these kind of real-time promotions,” and they’re going to take a toll on your smartphone battery.

6. Don’t feel pressured to line up at midnight. Repeat: “It is not necessary to line up at midnight. There’s going to be enough merchandise, and retailers will want to move it. You can still get a good deal at 6 p.m.”

7. Unless you want that hot toy, in which case go early and prepare to do battle.

8. Stay calm. Groves believes that it’s important for retailers to keep shoppers’ stress levels down by having enough sales clerks and maintaining as tidy a store as possible. That, however, isn’t always (or ever) the reality, so consider it incumbent on you, the shopper, to keep a cool head. Practice deep breathing and general good cheer, and don’t be afraid to take a time out to chill and refocus on the important things in life ...

9. Like having fun! Yes, Groves says — you should be having fun. “Go with friends and make it a social event. Shop, eat, see a movie. Even camping out at midnight can be fun.”

10. And don’t feel bad about just staying home and writing holiday cards. “I’ll probably sit Black Friday out this year,” Groves acknowledges.

THE BOTTOM LINE If you’ve never gone shopping on Black Friday, there are several things to keep in mind, including: Make a list, know your budget and don’t forget to pack some essentials (bottled water, a cellphone charger and patience

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