One topic that keeps coming up — whether at work or in my personal life — can basically be boiled down to “holidays already?!”
Depending on to whom I’m speaking, it’s either, “holidays….ALREADY???” or “holidays already!!!” and while the tonal inflection varies, the element of surprise is the same.
Ready or not, here they come.
The specific question I get the most — since shopping is, quite literally, my job — is almost always Black Friday-related. “Will we even have a Black Friday this year?” asks one friend. “When will it start?” And, the most often asked one: “What should I get????”
Well, well, well. Like most things in life…I do happen to have some strong opinions on the topic.
Will 2020 Black Friday Sales Start Early?
As you can imagine (given the nature of this job), we have been watching Black Friday trends verrrrry closely over the last five years. And every year — for the past 5 years or so — Black Friday sales have started earlier and earlier. First Black Friday started bleeding into Thanksgiving…and then, the next year, the sales started a day or two before that. The following year brought us Black Friday sales on the Monday before Thanksgiving, with late-comer retailers frantically jumping on board all that week. The next year retailers were better prepared, so Black Friday sales started in earnest a solid week before the real Black Friday.
And last year?
Last year was nuts — many Black Friday sales started a solid two weeks before Black Friday.
Even without the pandemic, we were planning on Black Friday sales coverage starting mid-November.
It might be as early as Halloween. (Talk about scary.)
Will Everything Be Sold Out By Actual Black Friday?
I’ll be honest — if real sales start happening late October / early November, I am worried that real Black Friday (and, therefore, Cyber Monday) will function more like a clearance sale — with deep discounts on whatever is left. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just changes the game for us shoppers. However, understanding the maximum percentage a retailer has taken off in the past could help us assess how seriously to take these late October / early November sales.
In years’ past, the big fashion chains (Abercrombie, Banana Republic, Gap, LOFT, J.Crew, etc.,) usually offered 20-30% off in October (maybe early November) to make room for holiday merchandise…and then offered 40% off everything the week (or two) before Black Friday. A small handful would up their discount to 50% on Cyber Monday.
So…yeah. Sell out risk by actual Black Friday?
Keep in mind, however, that the cycle of fast-fashion is exactly that: fast. Many of these retailers do have a holiday collection (in addition to their fall collections) that will likely drop sometime in November. The question is: will they hold their Holiday collections until right before Thanksgiving? LOFT did exactly that last year — they dropped new, exciting, holiday merchandise either days before Thanksgiving, or right on Black Friday Not a bad plan for tempting shoppers back on real Black Friday.
At the risk of being a downer, however, I’ve gotta mention that these frantic, fast-fashion cycles are problematic for our Earth and our wallets. (More on this point later.)
My 2020 Black Friday Game Plan: Start With A Shopping List
My approach this year — in order to not get caught up in Black Friday craziness, sales fatigue, yet still get the best deals possible — is to be more organized than usual. I’m making lists, and anything that I consider a ‘must-have’ that is brand or style specific…I’m going to snap up at the first sale opportunity. More generic items (or pieces that aren’t absolutely necessary) can wait.
Example: Both of my boys need really warm winter boots this year, and they are usually the happiest with these Sorel boots. Since I do care about the brand and the style, that’s one item I won’t wait on. As soon as those boots go on sale for….[she checks last year’s sale price]…at least 25% off, I’m going to pull the trigger. (Um. They’re ALREADY 25% off. Good grief.)
In general, I find that I buy less — and use a product more — when I purchase exactly the item I want, regardless of sale. So when I get caught up in sale prices and end up compromising on color or style or brand…that is typically the product that doesn’t survive my next closet clean-out.
My shopping mantra?
If you aren’t willing to buy a product at full-price…then think twice before buying it on sale.
So. Make a list of what you need, then do your homework. Note which items you are willing to compromise on, and which items must be a specific product or color or brand.
Identify The Pieces With The Highest Sell-Out Risk Before Black Friday
So. We have a list and…now what?
Next, identify which items on your list have a high sell-out risk. This is where we can help. Based on our years of blogging (geez — more than a decade), we’ve found that the same sort of pieces do tend to sell out quickly, regardless of trends — especially if a sale is involved. And, of course, there are always a few trendy pieces (they change every year) that have a high tendency to sell out quickly.
Women’s Fashion With The Highest Sell-Out Risk Year After Year
- Cashmere sweaters in neutral colors (black, oatmeal, gray, camel)
- Marled sweaters (whether gray — like this one — or brown— like this one — or shades of cream…marled doesn’t stay in stock for long)
- Boots in a really pretty shade of tan or caramel
- Denim with a good, broken-in wash (this could be perfectly faded black denim or perfectly faded blue denim)
- Patched denim (yes, still — like these)
- Cozy Free People tops (oversized thermals, sweaters, etc.,)
- Anything that is both off-the-shoulder and oversized (like this)
- Fur-lined Birkenstocks or boots
- 100% silk pieces, deeply discounted
- Zella loungewear pieces
- Express’ sequin leggings (actually, we find that their sequin pants in general go quickly)
- Pretty black bralettes (by the time these go on sale, the black is usually gone)
- High-quality, real leather jackets (All Saints, Madewell, IRO, even Banana Republic) — sales on these pieces are very few and far between, so when they do go on sale, the middle sizes sell out almost immediately, especially in black.
Women’s Fashion With The Highest Sell-Out Risk This Year Specifically (obviously, we’re guessing)
- Shirt Jackets (that ’90s trend of thick, flannel shirt jackets? Often plaid? We’ve been trying to cover it, but they keep selling out.)
- Vuori joggers
- White or cream joggers
- Some patterned joggers (there’s always one pattern that’s better than the others…and it always sells out first)
- Good leopard print anything (dress, shoes, bags, joggers — it all sells out fast)
Compare Current Sales To Last Year’s Black Friday Discounts
Whether it’s a sale going on now or one that pops up over the next few weeks …it’s helpful to compare current sales to the retailer’s Black Friday markdowns from 2019. I find that last year’s price provides a really good level-set. For example, if a retailer’s best Black Friday – Cyber Monday sale was only 25% in 2019…I’m not going to hesitate when I see an early November sale of 25% (especially if it’s a piece I’m not willing to compromise on).
If you don’t have your own list of the 2019 Black Friday sales handy (har har blogger humor)…feel free to use our 2019 Ultimate Guide to Black Friday as a point of comparison. We’ll be updating it for 2020 eventually, but the discounts currently shown were what the retailers offered last year.
Now. For those chain retailers who typically offer discounts of 40-50% off…I do think the Black Friday / Cyber Monday discounts will be even deeper. If April 2020 taught us anything, it’s that some retailers can go as low as 60-70% off.
People are shopping, Gang, so don’t get too excited about those big discounts. Based on our analytics…sell-out risk is high. So while I do predict deeper-than-usual discounts on Black Friday…it’s likely you’ll have to dig pretty deep to find the good stuff.
Retailers To Stalk On Actual Black Friday (or Cyber Monday)
There are a handful of retailers who have — in years’ past — held out against the madness and not posted sales until actual Black Friday. And while 2020 is a funny year, these are the retailers who I think are worth watching on Black Friday itself.
Parachute – They make the best sheets and towels on the planet. Parachute only goes on sale twice per year, and the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is one of them. I literally wait all year to stock up on their linen sheets. They’re impossibly strong (they’ll last forever), get softer and softer with each wash, and are a dream on your skin: cool in summer, cozy in winter. Even my boys have started asking for Parachute’s linen sheets on their beds.
Nordstrom – Nordstrom held out for years…but did start their Black Friday sales before Thanksgiving the last two years. That said, Nordstrom tends to drop new, exciting pieces (or a ton of designer stuff) into the sale on actual Black Friday, so it’s always worth checking back day-of.
Athleta – In years past, Athleta pieces rarely went on sale. The pandemic seems to have changed their strategy a bit…but I suspect Athleta may wait until Black Friday (or at least the day or two before) to mark things down. And even then, based on past years, it may only be 20-25% off.
Everlane – Instead of a Black Friday sale, last year Everlane donated $10 to Oceana for each purchase made during Black Friday. Then…on Cyber Monday, Everlane had a pretty epic sale. Definitely worth checking out.
Don’t Overlook Retailers Who Are Committed To Doing Things Differently
Like Everlane (mentioned above), there are a handful of retailers who don’t want to feed into the Black Friday madness — including the day-of. They just…bow out altogether. And while I do appreciate a good deal, I also recognize that a good deal for me means purchasing something I will actually use, for years to come. Not to mention that this frantic sale cycle is, ultimately, bad for our planet.
Here are a few retailers who have been walking this talk for years:
Patagonia – This company is the real deal. They’ve always had sustainability in their business ethos, and once — famously — took a Black Friday ad out in the NYT asking people not to buy.
ShopBURU – Morgan, the founder, recently went on Instagram to explain why BURU doesn’t participate in frequent sale cycles (and wouldn’t be participating in Black Friday sales). She talks about how hard frequent sales are on her business, and how these frequent sales ultimately devalue a brand (which is why, I suspect, we see the big chains’ quality go down over time — they’re constantly trying to make more money with pieces that are worth less and less). And for a small business like hers — where each product is made in the US — this frequent sale cycle would ultimately drive her out of business. The entire thing is totally worth a watch, and I love how she does plan to reward her customers — ones who would love a little financial incentive to invest in a piece they’ve been coveting. In one example, Morgan will be creating a special collection from leftover fabrics in the warehouse. This collection will be sold at a lower price. She’s also going to DM her Instagram followers special codes from time-to-time, especially if they’ve responded to one of her polls about upcoming products. I’m a huge Morgan fan, and love what she’s done with her business.
Printfresh – This is the same team that brought us Voloshin, and if you aren’t yet familiar with their insanely gorgeous pajamas…whoa. Get ready. They’re Philadelphia based, and a solid example of small batch, slow fashion (their prints are all hand-screened onto 100% cotton by skilled artisans in India). Last year, instead of a Black Friday discount (for the same reasons Morgan mentions above) they offered a gift with purchase. I suspect they’ll do something similar this year (I have my eye on this set or unicorns — how to decide??)
NINOBrand – One of my longtime favorites (these cool, edgy pieces are completely wearable and timeless) doesn’t usually participate in Black Friday sales, but Bela, the woman behind the brand, always has some sort of fun up her sleeve. Rumor has it that there may be some store credit with purchases made on Black Friday….
Lunya – Last year I was waiting…and waiting…and waiting for these gorgeous silk PJs to go on sale. Nope. This is the only brand I’ve never seen go on sale.
Don’t Forget To Shop Small
While you’re making your list…don’t forget to take a look around at your small, local boutiques. They need our support, especially now. We each featured our favorite boutiques in our various communities (you can find our local coverage by clicking Shop Small) last April, and will continue to make that a focus this holiday season. Also, be sure to check out our Black-Owned Business Directory, as well as our Shop Sustainable page. Many of the businesses featured are smaller ones, as well.
Our bottom line? Be picky. Only buy things you truly love, things that make your heart beat fast, things you will actually use — for years!! It’s better for our Earth, sure, but it’s also the best way to save money. And if that item also happens to be part of a Black Friday sale? Even better.