There’s no doubt that some serious shopping happens every November. Not only can we see it via our own analytics (we luv data), but based on the sheer number of Black Friday articles already published…retailers all over are gearing up.
Even Nordstrom who, once upon a time, insisted on waiting until after Thanksgiving to pull out holiday decor, has published a Holiday Gift Guide already. And while I may have complained about the holidays coming so early (again, once upon that same time), now…I feel differently.
After almost two full years of pandemic living, I’m throwing no shade at anything that can spark some freaking joy. So drink those pumpkin spice lattes if you wanna, turn on that holiday music now [S rubs hands in glee, ignoring the groaning of her children] and don those sequins, Scotti!
2021 is also the year of The Great Supply Chain Disruption (to quote the NYT). Shipping ports are more backed up than ever, leading to massive product shortages. Car prices are surging, driving up prices on both new and used cars. And this situation is sufficiently complex to assume that the port backlogs won’t likely get better by the holidays.
So what does this mean for black friday?
Black Friday 2021 Shopping Strategy
If you are someone who typically waits until Black Friday to buy big home purchases — appliances, TVs, etc., — this might be a tough year. Retailers are having a hard time keeping many of these products stocked, and if there ARE Black Friday deals, it’s likely that the inventory will be so low hot ticket items will either sell out immediately or won’t actually be available until after the holidays. If you were hoping to have that new appliance installed before guests arrive Christmas morning…I suggest buying it now.
Video game consoles will be even harder to come by; I wouldn’t even bother waiting for a sale. The new Nintendo Switch (OLED model) was just released (Oct 8) and sold out in minutes. And Oculus is having a hard time keeping their Oculus Quest2 VR headset in stock. (As I type this, it is in-stock, and I can’t recommend it enough — the Oculus Quest2 was my boys’ favorite gift of all time. Mike and I love it, too, and our VR family nights are seriously fun.)
As for the rest of it…the toys, books, clothes, etc.,… I think it’s going to be very hit-or-miss. Retailers are both running out of inventory, and also having massive sales to move the inventory they do have.
The result? A series of flash sale periods — starting now — as things pop in (and out) of stock.
I do think the traditional Black Friday weekend will come with the usual sales this year, but I think it’s going to be a very random mix of pieces, and I think the most covetable items will be very poorly stocked (while being very well publicized — retailers do love to draw us in with lofty promises). If you love looking for hidden treasure, and are prepared to pounce, this is your year.
The rest of us, however? We could be pleasantly surprised…or horribly disappointed.
What To Buy Now Instead Of Waiting Until Black Friday
1. Home & Kitchen Appliances
As I mentioned before, these items are already having stock issues. If there’s some kitchen gadget or home appliance you need before the holidays, grab it now. And if you happen to see one that’s actually on sale before Black Friday? Snap it up (and let us know about it, too). That’s not to say these pieces won’t go on sale for Black Friday (they probably will), just be aware that availability might be an issue.
A few of our team favorites:
- Nespresso coffee machines (I love this one),
- Breville’s Toaster Oven/Air Fryer (Laura seriously won’t stop talking about this thing),
- KitchenAid’s Stand Mixer (even Em, our kitchen minimalist swears by this…and a few other pieces)
- Instant Pot (Laura, Em, Linzi and Lex all use theirs on the regular)
- Crock Pot Cook & Carry (I swear by this for get-togethers)
2. Video Game Consoles & Other Tech
I suspect that all hope is lost for the new Nintendo, but someone might get lucky (and Linz still stands by her Nintendo Switch pick for the reasons mentioned here). My top recommendation is — by far — the Oculus Quest2 VR headset, but if you want a broader list of consoles (and games) check out the recommendations from our resident gamer, Syd.
While I typically wait until Black Friday to stock up on my most-used favorites (Colleen Rothschild Cleansing Balm and Biossance Rose Oil specifically)…I am worried that the supply chain disruption could cause shortages during the big sale periods. And while I do happen to have plenty of Rose Oil left, my Cleansing Balm is getting dangerously low. Typically I’d scale back how much I use and wait for the Black Friday deals, but if Colleen doesn’t have a sale before mid November (oh haha — there’s a sale on now, whew!), I’m just going to pay full price, rather than be stranded without.
4. LED Face Masks, Specifically
I know this is oddly specific…but gang: I have been waiting over a year for these LED face masks to come back into stock. They are bizarrely effective for banishing wrinkles, and they also work wonders for acne. Scotti and I both need to do a full review on these masks, but I suspect they’ll sell out before we can get that far. I have The Light Salon’s LED Mask (10 min, 4 times per week, lays flat for travel) and Scotti has Dr. Dennis Gross’ Facewear Pro LED Mask (3 min per day, doesn’t lay flat).
Both yield amazing results, and I’ll bet that neither will be in stock by Black Friday.
5. Boots, Birkenstocks & So Ugly-They’re-Cute Footwear
If there’s one thing the team has been constantly complaining about, it’s the fact that footwear is NOT staying in stock. We literally can’t share our favs fast enough. Cute boots? By the time we order them and try them on…they’re on sale, and selling fast. And if you have your eye on the reallllly comfortable, so-ugly-they’re-cute stuff (Birkenstock mules, or shearling-lined anything), don’t hesitate. They’re gone in a blink.
Even restocks — which are happening — only seem to restock a few units which, in turn, sell out almost immediately again. If you have your eye on special pair of shoes, I wouldn’t wait for Black Friday.
This is also true of winter boots. If you just want something warm and are flexible on style, you’ll probably find a good deal on Black Friday. If, however, you want a specific boot, I’d jump on it early, sale or no sale.
6. Neutrals & Classic Clothing Pieces (Tailored Wool Coats, Cashmere Sweaters)
If you are in the market for a classic wool coat in camel or black…I’d start looking now. If, however, you’re willing to go for outerwear that’s a little more ‘fun’ (pretty colors, fun prints) Black Friday will likely yield some seriously good deals.
Cashmere sweaters are another item that I would start shopping now, especially if you are looking for something neutral. Many retailers exclude cashmere from their Black Friday deals (or make them ‘final sale’), so I wouldn’t wait for Black Friday to shop. (If you really want cashmere on sale, it’s the end-of-season sales in January that sometimes have better cashmere discounts.)
While there WILL be jeans on sale for Black Friday…the discounts on denim don’t really seem to get above 25-30%, unless you are shopping directly from the brand’s own websites, rather than the big online retailers (Nordstrom, Saks, etc.,). Brand sites like rag & bone, FRAME (if history repeats itself) will have really good Black Friday discounts. My issue, however, is that when I’ve bought directly from denim brands in the past, I either missed the “final sale” note OR waited weeks for delivery OR (most often) had my order cancelled because they couldn’t fulfill it.
My best bet for denim on sale (since I tend to like the high-end brands) is to shop one of Saks’ sale events. Saks’ denim selection is hard to beat, and this retailer often includes much of their new denim in sale events (or offers a gift card for future use with purchase). Here’s our coverage of a recent sale event, as an example.
If you know exactly what brands, styles and sizes you are looking for, the other way to snag discounted denim is to shop Saks OFF 5TH, Nordstrom Rack or eBay. Saks OFF 5TH is my top choice because the denim styles tend to be really current; they even have RE/DONE on major discount right now.
But eBay, in particular, is interesting because you can set up a search and add it to your ‘watchlist’. eBay will then email you whenever a new listing pops up matching your search terms. I’ve found that this strategy works best for denim styles that are NOT brand new. MOTHER Tomcat size 27 is one eBay search I have saved, for example.
8. Matching Sets
If you’re in the market for two pieces that match…don’t wait until Black Friday, especially if you’re looking at athleisure. Vuori, who I swear by for foolproof gifts (for both men and women), hasn’t had a Black Friday sale in years. Last year, they did offer a free beanie with purchase on Black Friday…but then ran out almost immediately. Even Athleta (who does have a Black Friday sale) usually only has mismatched pieces marked down.
Case in point? During the last Athleta sale (mid-September) I bought a matching set: this top in ‘seaweed snack’ and these matching bottoms. I’m still waiting for the bottoms; they’re already backordered until mid-December.
9. Small Businesses & Businesses Who Don’t Do Black Friday
If supporting small, independent businesses is important to you, then now is a great time to start. They’re being impacted by the shipping backlogs just like the bigger retailers, so shopping now (and checking back frequently) is a solid strategy this year.
A few of my favorite small businesses that are especially great for gifts:
- PrintFresh – the most beautiful printed pajamas (women and men – see my original feature, here)
- Lunya – the silk pajamas are unbelievable (see Amy’s review, here)
- Mantra Mugs – you can even do custom mugs if you start now
- The Little Market – started by Lauren Conrad and every purchase gives back
- Suprise Powerz Dolls – these diverse, STEM-inspired dolls are SO freaking cute
- Moop shop – highly recommend the canvas clutch bags
- Brother Vellies – the shoes are gorgeous (obvi), but I’m verrrrrry intrigued by their ‘something special’ subscription service. Only $35 a month, too.
- Alexandra Ferguson – throw pillows with clever sayings, like, “There were rules??” and “Call Your Mother”
- Yubi Beauty – Scotti bought me their makeup brush for Christmas last year; it’s GOOD.
- Bookshop.org – all book purchases will be sourced from small, locally owned bookstores. If interested, I’ve started a list of my favorite books to gift.
A few of my favorite small business that are especially great for holiday outfits:
- ShopBURU – if you’re looking for something wildly glamorous AND super comfortable, Morgan (the owner-turned-designer) is your girl. Case in point? This set. And I also swear by this stunning skirt, which happens to be machine washable (see it on me, here).
- Social Threads – if you want a fun little somethin‘ to wear for the holidays, but prefer an under-$100 price point, Maureen & Sara (the two NJ moms who started this online boutique) are your girls. I especially like the dresses that they’ve started designing under their own label. This one has all the Reformation vibes.
- The Tiny Closet – These gorgeous pieces are sustainably made, and have a luxe, museum curator vibe that I love. Truly special pieces. Buy now for the holidays, tho — shipping is currently estimated to be 2-3 weeks (and will grow). This dressis my top pick – such a casual, I-Host-Fabulous-Parties vibe.
- Kiya Tomlin – If a Greek goddess wore athleisure….they’d prob wear Kiya Tomlin. I haven’t personally tried this line yet, but we have tons of readers raving about these drapey, comfortable and ultimately glamorous pieces. Um..like this top and these pants. Wow.
- Emerson Frye – We’ve been fans of this small batch, made-to-order fashion house for years. Laura is a big fan of their caftans (which would make great gifts) and Cam and I drool over basically everything else.
- EBY – Need underwear? Readers turned us onto this ultra-comfy and cute underwear brand (made by a company who creates micro-loans for women across the globe). I find that EBY’s underwear runs a little small…but these are some of the comfiest (and sexiest) underwear I own.
What To Buy On Black Friday 2021
1. Fun, Going-Out Pieces (Dresses, Bags, Accessories, Statement Coats)
I’ve found that Black Friday shopping is wayyyy more fun if (from a clothing perspective) I focus on one or two extra-special bonus pieces, rather than major investment pieces. Outfit-making earrings, a sparkly top for NYE, a quirky bag I never knew I needed…and then, if I happen to come across THE PERFECT investment piece, even better!
As always, if buying something on sale, I like to take a quick pause: would I still be into this piece if I had to pay full-price? If the answer is no, then I usually re-think the purchase.
2. Winter Accessories
One easy way to make that old coat last another winter is to play around with winter accessories. And Black Friday is the perfect time to find something fresh, unexpected, or a little out of your comfort zone.
Or even when cashmere sweaters are excluded from sales, I can often still find deals on cashmere hats, scarves or mittens.
3. Parachute Bedding (& Towels)
Parachute’s linen sheets are a family favorite (as are their towels), but they only do sales twice a year. Black Friday, however, is one of them. This is typically the first place I shop every Black Friday.
4. J.Crew Kids’ Clothes (Crewcuts)
Even when the pieces I’m looking for aren’t on sale (oh hey, J.Crew Cashmere)…J.Crew almost always has a reallllly good Black Friday sale on kids’ clothes. If anyone cares, the two pieces I buy the boys every freaking year are, one, this soft flannel dress shirt, and two, this striped tee.
Whoa! Raines is now in the very last Crewcuts size. Feels like the end of an era.
5. Anything Else You Don’t Mind Waiting On
I guess this is my main point: If there’s a product you don’t need in a timely fashion…then it might be worth waiting to see if it goes on sale for Black Friday.
And frankly, there’s something about this slowdown that feels like a good opportunity to reset, to really think about how much stuff I actually need to be buying. Last year, I remember stalking this absolutely gorgeous sequined blouse, and then snapping it up on Black Friday. Alas, it was backordered and didn’t arrive until….late January? February? In any case, by the time it was about to be shipped out…I was over it, and cancelled the order.
I’m trying to keep that in mind, moving forward. Most of the things I actually need — most of the pieces I will actually wear — are often not part of Black Friday sales. Either they’re exempt from the discount, are already sold out, or are from a retailer who simply decides to pass on the Black Friday madness (like this Patagonia duffle we need — annoyingly — one more of).
Good luck out there, Gang.