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4 Things to Know Before You Start Your Black Friday Shopping

If you're after the best stuff, you'd better start shopping this weekend.
It's that time of year. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It's that time of year. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

For many Americans, Thanksgiving Weekend is a time for family. For retailers, it's the most important time of the year — bar none — for shopping.

Historically, retailers kicked off the holiday shopping season by offering deep discounts on Black Friday, but a growing number of major retailers — from Macy's to Walmart — now open their stores as early as Thursday afternoon on Thanksgiving Day to draw shoppers into stores. (Not everyone is happy about it.) Meanwhile, more Americans are opting to shop from their couches, skipping the in-store frenzy to shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals online.

If you're in the mood for a deal, it's shaping up to be a good season. In recent weeks, executives at Nordstrom, Macy's and Urban Outfitters said they are expecting a tough holiday quarter, and that there will be a great deal of heavy discounting as a result. 

Before you dig down on your holiday shopping next weekend, here are a few things to know.

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The best time to shop online is this weekend

Like last year, the best time to shop for holiday deals — online, at least — is before Black Friday hits. Online prices are expected to be at their lowest on Thanksgiving Day, with an average discount of 26 percent; however, there's a very good chance what you have your eye on will be out of stock by that time, according to Adobe's annual shopping forecast. The best time to shop does vary by category: Toys will get the biggest price drops this Saturday, while electronics will be cheapest come Monday. Make jewelry purchases a priority on Thanksgiving Day.

Apparel sales are, unfortunately, much harder to predict, and discounts will be spread throughout the season. Saks, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are already offering 40 percent off a selection of this season's merchandise, and don't miss Net-a-Porter's biannual sale when it kicks off next Wednesday.

Look for discounts on social media

According to Adobe, you're going to find much better discounts from display ads and social media than through search engines. Thus, be sure to check the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of your favorite retailers before heading to checkout.

More stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day

If you're anxious to get a head start on Black Friday shopping in stores (or if you just want to get out of the house on Thanksgiving Day), you'll have quite a few options. Kmart will open its doors at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and keep them open all weekend. Many others, including Macy's, Target and Old Navy, will open by 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. To see store opening hours over Thanksgiving Weekend, check out this handy chart from Quartz.

Most people will do their online holiday shopping on Amazon

Though brick-and-mortar behemoths like Target and Walmart have invested heavily in their websites in recent years, most online shoppers will be steering their browsers to this season. According to a poll of 3,425 adults conducted by Reuters and Ipsos, 51 percent plan to do the lion's share of their online holiday shopping at Amazon, compared to 16 percent at Walmart, 3 percent at Target and 2 percent at Macy's.