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Consumers, stores prepare for busiest shopping days of the year
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According to a National Retail Federation Survey, an estimated 135.8 million shoppers will hit the stores this holiday weekend. - photo by Journal file photo

As families prepare to sit down to a Thanksgiving feast, many will also be browsing through advertisements seeking the best deals on everything from electronics to toys and clothing for the start of the holiday shopping season.

According to the National Retail Federation's Preliminary Thanksgiving Weekend Survey, an estimated 135.8 million shoppers (58.7 percent) definitely will or may shop on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and/or Sunday, similar to the 61.1 percent who planned to last year and more than the 55 percent of holiday shoppers who said they did shop in stores and online over the weekend in 2014.

The NRF expects the total retail sales for the 2015 holiday season to reach $630.5 billion, an increase of 3.7 percent from nearly $608 billion in 2014.

“The importance of Thanksgiving weekend to both retailers and consumers will never change. However, retailers have already given consumers several good reasons to start their holiday shopping earlier,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We suspect early holiday shoppers could still be on the fence about whether or not to try their hand at finding online and in- store deals Thanksgiving weekend.

To help consumers maximize their savings this coming Black Friday, WalletHub surveyed 8,000 deals from 30 of the biggest U.S. retailers’ 2015 Black Friday ad scans and identified the retailers offering the largest advertised discounts for each product category such as “Jewelry” and “Appliances.”

The retailers offering the best deals this year include: JC Penney at an average discount of 68 percent, followed by Kohl's at 66.7 percent discount, Stage (63.9 percent), Groupon (63.7 percent), Belk (59.5 percent), Macy's (56 percent), Kmart (50.1 percent), Panasonic (47 percent), Fred Meyer (45.3 percent) and Office Depot and Office Max (42.8 percent).

National retailers aren't the only ones offering big deals over the holiday weekend.

Envy Fine Clothing in downtown Turlock and Atwater sees hundreds of shoppers come through its doors on Thanksgiving Eve, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, taking advantage of door buster deals and discounts store-wide.

"We open Thursday night at 8 p.m. at out Atwater and Turlock locations. Thursday/Friday combined is our busiest day of the year. We do as much that day as we do in an average week," Envy owner Darlene Dover.

Dover said it takes about a month of preparation for the busy holiday weekend, making sure the store is fully stocked.

"I have to make sure we have enough bags and supplies stocked to get through the storm. We have to fully train all of our girls to make sure people are able to get in and out," she said.

Dover hires around extra 30-40 employees just to help with that day.

Before hitting the stores on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, Patti J. Fisher, associate professor of Consumer Studies in the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, suggests doing a little homework.

"Educated consumers who do their research before shopping can always get a better deal, whether it's Black Friday, Cyber Monday or any other day. Consumers should research the quality and price of items they are looking for when shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, particularly for larger items such as laptops or televisions. Consumers should also understand a store's return policy before making a purchase," recommends Fisher.

In order to prevent overspending, Fisher also recommends only taking the amount of cash you can afford to spend and making a list of items needed, items wanted, and gifts, with price limits on each item listed.

"If it's not on the list and below the maximum price you listed as being able to afford, don't buy it," she said.