Target occupies a unique position among the big-box retailers, in that it usually drops one of the first major Black Friday ads. This circular sets the tone for the season, as competitors often rush to beat Target's prices. That said, there are plenty of deals worth shopping at Big Red in this upcoming holiday season.
Read on to learn more of the best and worst things we expect from Target's 2016 Black Friday deals.
When Will the Ad Be Released?
November 7. Last year, Target's ad leaked about three weeks before Black Friday, and we expect similar timing this year. That would put it on or around November 7.
Though it won't be the first Black Friday circular to arrive on the scene, that's still pretty early in the ad-drop cycle. (And early enough to have many of its deals beaten by competitors' ads as we get closer to Black Friday!)
Doors Open at 6pm on Thanksgiving
Target has a history of opening at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day and staying open straight through to 11pm on Black Friday (with some stores staying open until midnight!). And if last year's much-lauded movement to stay closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday (spearheaded by REI et al.) didn't shift Target into changing its ways, nothing will. Nope, we expect the same store hours this year.
Don't like the idea of rushing through Thanksgiving to go shopping? The good news is that Target has established a pattern of offering its Black Friday prices online, starting the day before T-Day, so you can have your deals and eat your turkey, too.
When to Score Deals
The Day the Ad Leaks
Last year, on the same day it released its ad (November 9), Target opened up "early access" to several of its Black Friday deals online. Unimaginatively dubbed the "Target Black Friday Early Access Sale," it offered the same pricing on select toys, tablets, headphones, Blu-ray movies, and household items that it would later offer online and in-store on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. It also offered a unique STEM toys sale that cut 40% off science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-based toys (like robots).
Since Target is usually one of the earlier ads to appear, there's a good chance that these prices will be beaten by a competitor's ad a few days later.
Though offering their Black Friday deals on the same day their ad "leaks" is a neat idea — and one it's likely to repeat this year — we'd caution you about taking advantage of such an early sale. Since Target is usually one of the earlier ads to appear, there's a good chance that these prices will be beaten by a competitor's ad a few days later, or by a random discount on Amazon. (Last year, many of Target's initially-exciting deals became just so-so as more ads were released.)
Online the Day Before Thanksgiving
The day before Thanksgiving in 2015, Target rolled out another online-only "Early Black Friday Sale" which included a similar selection of items from the first Early Black Friday Sale. Many were now marked up to 50% off, but were also joined by a stacking 20% off select toys coupon and a $5 off purchases of $50 or more coupon, too. Top all of that off with free shipping on all items sitewide, and you have yourself a sale that attracted attention.
Though it's pretty obvious that Target is likely to reproduce a similar "event" in 2016, we again advise caution. Yes, because of that coupon, most of the toys you could snag during this sale were fantastic discounts, but overall it was just OK and unworthy of our Editor's Choice label (meaning the deals were only okay compared to expected Black Friday deals).
Free Shipping, All Season Long
One of our favorite holiday traditions is Target offering free shipping on all but the largest items (like furniture with oversized handling fees). For the last two years, the retailer has eliminated delivery fees starting in early November and continuing right up until a few days before Christmas.
Expect a similar offer from Target this year, but remember that just because shipping is free, it doesn't mean it's a great deal! It does mean, though, that you might want to hold off on buyinganything at Target in early November, and wait for the 2-month free shipping promotion to begin.
A Brief Wait for Phone Deals
Weirdly, even though the brick-and-mortar locations open at 6pm on Thanksgiving, these deals don't kick in until 9pm. We're unsure why there's been a 3-hour delay the past two years, but it does mean you have time to scarf down a second slice of pumpkin pie before you have to be at the store.
Black Friday In-Store-Only Perks
Target is one to offer special perks for those who brave the Black Friday crowds. In 2014, it cut 10% off Target gift cards. Last year, it gave shoppers who spent $75 or more a 20% off coupon applicable to a future shopping trip.
Since there's no consistency, we can't accurately speculate about what the discount will be, but we're pretty confident that some kind of special bonus for in-store customers will happen. It'll probably be related to Target purchases though, so don't get your hopes up for a free iPad.
Holiday Items Discounts on Saturday
For two years now, Target has made a point to offer discounts on holiday items on the Saturday after Black Friday. In 2014, it was 40% off select light strings and buy one, get one free on wrapping paper. In 2015, it blew the doors off Christmas Creep by offering $50 off a holiday purchase of $100 or more. If you shopped carefully, that would have worked out to a 50% discount!
For two years now, Target has made a point to offer discounts on holiday items on the Saturday after Black Friday.
Our best guess is that this year's post-Black Friday holiday item sale will be a large discount on a wide range of items, more akin to the $50 off $100 sale of last year, rather than a piecemeal sale. Even at 50% off, it won't be the best deal we've ever seen on holiday items (those usually come right after Christmas), but it's a solid way to bolster your holiday decor and save a few bucks.
The Single Best Day for Target Black Friday Deals Online
Looking at our data from last year, we saw a spike in the volume of Target deals on Thanksgiving. Not only will there be more deals overall, but the quality will be greater, with an estimated 42% getting our Editors' Choice label. Target will continue to crank out deals through Black Friday and Cyber Week, but we don't expect to see the same volume of quality deals that we will on Thanksgiving itself.
What Will Be the Big Doorbusters at Target?
Target Apple Deals Are Consistently Great
Fact: Apple doesn't have to discount its own products at the Apple Store. People will buy them no matter what. Even Apple's "big" Black Friday sale is a joke, offering at most 10% off on select items.
Where you will find Apple deals is from third-party merchants hoping to get attention. And boy, did Target get our attention with Apple discounts these last couple of Black Fridays!
Firstly, it looks like Target has made a tradition of offering the latest iPad Air bundled with a $140 to $150 Target gift card. If you're a Target shopper, that's as good as cash to you and an easy "discount" for the store to offer. Other stores will offer iPads for less up front, but no one's been able to beat the net value of Target's Black Friday iPads in two years. This year, we expect to see the iPad Air 2, bundled with a $150 gift card again. (Because if the promotion ain't broke, don't fix it!)
Secondly, look for similar bundled-with-a-gift-card deals on an Apple Watch. Last year Target paired the technical timepiece with a $100 gift card. This year, with Apple already having dropped the price of the base model Apple Watch Series 1 to $269, we're expecting a more meagre $50 gift card bundled with it. Still, at a net $219 for an Apple Watch, we're not complaining!
Also, be careful of deals on the discontinued "first generation" Apple Watch. It is identical to the Series 1, but with a less powerful processor. If you can get this for around $175 or less, it might be a worthwhile deal; just check carefully, as stores might try to be vague about which Apple Watch they're offering.
Big TVs, Small Prices, Off-Brands
Unsurprisingly, big-box stores like Target are where you're going to find most of the amazing TV deals during Black Friday. But the TV niche where Target excels over Best Buy and Walmart is in off-brand TVs.
Last year, Target's 55" TV deals from Element and Westinghouse were the ones to beat: $250 for a 55" TV and $400 for a 55" 4K TV, respectively. So if you're looking to spend next to nothing on a huge TV, check out Target's Black Friday ad — there'll probably be something in there worth your attention.
What ELSE to Expect From Target's Black Friday Deals
Home and Garden
Target loves to discount home and garden items and housewares. In fact, almost half of their Black Friday deals last year were for home items like griddles, cookware, and more. So if you're in the market for some small kitchen electrics, like a Crock Pot or a toaster, Target is a good place to start looking. Typical discounts run up to 40% off.
Coffee drinkers have even more to be thankful for. During Black Friday, the store has been known to offer a Keurig or two at best-of-the-year prices.
The other thing Target excels at discounting during Black Friday is toys. We all know that toy deals tend to get better in the run-up to Christmas, but Target has been laying down some pretty hard-to-pass-up deals.
Take last year's sale, which was buy one, get one 50% off with an extra $5 off orders of $50 or more. Oh, and don't forget the free shipping on top of it all! Target will probably tempt you with a similar sale this year, but only be lured in if it includes one of the make-or-break items on your holiday wishlist. Otherwise, just to repeat, there will be more and better toy deals in the weeks before the holidays.
Lastly, you can expect Target to turn in a decent, general clothing sale at some point during the Black Friday time period. Discounts of 40% off a selection of men's, women's, and kids' apparel and accessories are typical.
Since the weather will be turning cold, you might think about picking up a sweater or two, as they'll be priced from around $6 to $8 from store brands like Mossimo and Merona. (And don't forget there'll be free shipping to boot!)
Special Tips for Shopping the Target Black Friday Sale
Unlike other stores that give you special perks for liking them on Facebook, subscribing to their newsletter, or Snapchatting about them (we have not heard of any company using that platform on Black Friday, but we're sure it's just a matter of time), Target hasn't historically gone in for gimmicks. Even those customers who sign up for Target's REDcard get no additional benefits come Black Friday, other than the 5% off all purchases that the card usually entitles you to.
However, Target does push their Cartwheel shopping app pretty heavily. Download it to access exclusive app-only deals, including plenty on the aforementioned kitchen appliances.
And What About Cyber Monday?
Last year was the first time Target "brought it" for Cyber Monday. Yes, it always offered a higher volume of deals, along with every other store, but in 2015 it pulled out a 15% off sitewide coupon. We know that one occurrence does not a pattern make, but as Cyber Monday continues to grow into a juggernaut all its own, bigger discounts will become more likely, as stores try to stand out from the crowd.
Though you could apply that coupon to anything on Target.com, the items that yielded the best prices were mostly toys and a few electronics (like a NEST thermostat or Norelco Shaver)
This article first appeared in DealNews.