The Black Friday forecast is in: Experts say Florida shoppers are poised to spend 4.5 percent more this holiday shopping season than they did last year.
Ahead of the year's biggest shopping weekend, retailers are fiddling with their formulas to combine brick-and-mortar shopping with improved online options. The biggest players are starting their main sales on Thanksgiving evening, shortly after dinnertime, and then closing overnight before reopening early Friday morning. Major retailers are also vying for a slice of the toys market by advertising big sales on Hatchimals, Legos, Disney dolls, Nerf blasters and every other "it" plaything. This Black Friday will be the first since Toys 'R' Us declared bankruptcy and closed all of its U.S. stores.
"We're continuing a strong trend over the last few years," said Florida Retail Federation president Scott Shalley. "With high consumer confidence, people tend to spend more."
The Florida Retail Federation predicts Florida shoppers will mirror the national prediction and spend $637.67 on gifts, $215 on food and decor and another $154 on themselves. In total, that's more than a grand per shopper — a new record. For the 12th year in a row, gift cards are expected to remain the season's most-purchased gift.
Stores such as Walmart and Target are heavily marketing pre-Black Friday sales online, following the lead of dominant online retailer Amazon, which has had specials since Nov. 1. But many shoppers still like to touch, feel and see certain items. The vast majority of shoppers — 93 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers — will spend money this season at retailers that have both a physical and digital presence.
If you're looking for the biggest savings, leading big-box retailers have special in-store-only sales and limited quantities of big-screen televisions and other pricey tech items. To combat long-line woes, both Walmart and Target have started giving employees mobile checkout devices and extending deals to items purchased through in-store pick-up.
Here's a breakdown of where, and when, you can shop over the holiday shopping weekend:
Black Friday sale: 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22.
Online sales: Begin at 11 p.m. Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Store hours: Stores have regular operating hours in Tampa Bay leading up to, and after, Black Friday.
Hot-ticket items: Sixth generation iPad, $250; PlayStation 4 (Spider-Man bundle) $199; XBox One S (Minecraft bundle), $200; 65-inch smart Roku TV, $398; 40-inch Hisense TV, $99; Eight-quart Instant Pot, $59; Google Home Mini, $25; Roku Ultra, $48; iPhone 6s Plus, $199; Samsung GS7, $199; Beats wireless earbuds, $75; $300-$400 gift cards with purchase of iPhone 8 models and Galaxy S8 model phones.
Black Friday sale: 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Online sales: Specific Cyber Monday deals, ongoing online deals with free shipping.
Store hours: Doors will be closed until 5 p.m. on Thursday. The store will close that evening at 1 a.m. and then reopen Friday at 7 a.m.
Hot-ticket items: Six-quart Instant Pot for $69.95 with $10 store gift card; $24 Google Home Mini; 55-inch Element smart TV, $200; Nintendo Switch (Mario Kart bundle), $300; PlayStation 4 (Spider-Man bundle), $200; $300 Beats Solo3 wireless headphones, $180; Fitbit Alta HR, $80; iPhone 8, X models with $150 store gift card; Samsung Galaxy S9/+, $300 store gift card; Sixth-generation iPad, $250; iPad 4 mini, $250; Apple Watch GPS, $299; Apple Watch GPS + cellular, $300; App Store/iTunes gift cards, buy one, get one 30 percent off; iRobot Roomba 690, $250; KitchenAid mixer, $220.
Black Friday sale: The online retailer has deals leading up to, and after, Black Friday for the holiday shopping season. There's also free-shipping specials for non-Amazon Prime users. Its site has an "early Black Friday deals" tab for items you can buy today.
Hot-ticket items (starting Nov. 21): Blink XT single security camera, $79; Blink three-camera system, $230.
Hot-ticket items (starting Nov. 22): Echo Dot, $24; Echo Spot, $90, Echo Show, $180; Kindle Paperwhite, $80; Fire HD 8 tablet with hands-free Alexa, $50.
Black Friday sale: Doors open 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Online sales: Ongoing on website as part of a "warm-up" to Black Friday. More Black Friday deals will be added as stores open.
Store hours: After 5 p.m. opening, store will close at 1 a.m. Friday and then reopen Friday at 8 a.m.
Hot-ticket items: 43-inch Toshiba Amazon Fire TV, $130; 55-inch Sharp 4k Roku TV, $250; Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $110; Google Home Hub, $99; Apple HomePod, $250; Google Home, $25; Beats wireless Powerbeats, $99; Keurig k200, 70; KitchenAid pasta-maker bundle, $100.
Other department store hours:
Kohl's: Opens 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and sale ends 1 p.m. Friday. Ongoing online sales.
Macy's: Online Wednesday at 3 p.m. Stores open 5 p.m. Thanksgiving to 2 a.m. and then reopens 6 a.m. Friday, but times can vary.
Sears: Most locations will be open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving and remain open all day Friday.
J.C. Penney's: Opens 2 p.m. Thanksgiving and sale ends 10 p.m. Friday.
Kmart: Opens at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving and then closes at midnight. Reopens Friday at 6 a.m.
Contact Sara DiNatale at email@example.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.