Your Must-Read Agenda For Black Friday Success, From 4 Savvy Locals

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Today's Black Friday goings-on promise to be crazier than ever — especially since so many big-box stores having opened their doors last night, putting even more pressure on the Friday crowd to find those awesome deals. Think widespread sample-sale-type mania here, people. But hey, it's the only time of year that "shop 'til you drop" takes a literal turn — so far be it for us to run from this type of challenge.

In fact, we’ve enlisted the savvy locals behind three of our favorite D.C. blogs to create a one-of-a-kind survival guide to help you face Black Friday, head on (even if you weren't camped out at the doors at 5 a.m.). From making your plan of attack to choosing the best shops (and snack spots), our team of experts dished their tricks for conquering the day — and winning. Click through for strategies, tips, and real-life stories from the gals (and guy) behind A Loyal Love, The Spendicate, and Necessary & Proper. Heed their clever advice, and you'll have the smartest, least stressful mother of all shopping days.

tammy2
Who she is: Tammy, A Loyal Love

Black Friday usually means a lot of people, a lot of sales, and a lot of stress. How do you tackle the day?
"I definitely need a plan. I make two lists — one of the stores I want to check out based on their advertised sales, and one of the people I want to buy gifts for. I also set a budget per person and an overall budget for myself."

What’s the best neighborhood in the area to hit on Black Friday? Best shop to visit?
"Georgetown. It has it all — local boutiques like Hu's Wear, and popular stores like H&M and Zara."

For those who don’t want to venture outside and deal with the craziness, what’s your favorite online destination for great holiday deals?
"I've already found some great gifts on Fab.com, and am looking forward to seeing what they feature for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Be sure to check out your favorite brands on all the social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for special deals and discount codes. Last year, Net-A-Porter had a 50% off sale on it's Facebook page."

Speaking of craziness, any tips for not getting too caught up in the shopping frenzy?
"Don't buy stuff you can't afford just because it's on sale! This goes back to having a plan and a budget. Though I know from experience how easy it is to get caught up — so hang on to those receipts just in case."

What’s your biggest Black Friday regret?
"My biggest Black Friday regret — not taking home a gorgeous pair of nude Miu Miu mary-jane heels. They were the very last pair at Saks, in my size, and marked down to $200 from $1000. $200 is still a lot to pay for a pair of shoes, so I convinced myself to let them go. To this day, I still think about those beauties. They're the shoes that got away."

What about malls and outlet stores? A Do or a Don’t, and why?
"I would only go to the mall or outlets if you already shop there regularly and you know they're going to have deals on items you want. Otherwise, the crowds, traffic, and digging for treasures can be frustrating."

Any last words of advice for eager shoppers?
"Have fun! Get some friends together, make a day of it, and include brunch and cocktails. Dress comfortably and pack some snacks in your purse."


Photos: Courtesy of A Loyal Love, Georgetown BID
laurenvan2
Who they are: Lauren and Van, Necessary & Proper

Black Friday usually means a lot of people, a lot of sales, and a lot of stress. How do you tackle the day?
Lauren: "Admittedly, I am a Black Friday ingenue. I used to avoid it at all costs, but in the last few years I have come to love the deals and steals, as well as the festive feeling of it all. Now on Black Friday, my mom, sister, and I hit the department stores first — almost as soon as they open, and then move on to the specialty boutiques. I always start with the shoe rack at Saks Fifth Avenue."

Van: "A plan is a definite plus. This is not amateur hour — people spend time preparing their shopping schedules. Don't think you can just stroll into Best Buy at 10 a.m. and grab a flatscreen! If you aren't feeling up to it, just stay at home — there are great deals to be had online, too."

What’s the best neighborhood in the area to hit on Black Friday? Best shop to visit?
Lauren: "Year-round, I shop at small boutiques, but during the holiday season, I am a sucker for department stores — and that starts on Black Friday. I love the decor, music, holiday deals, and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and I really feel that vibe at my favorite department stores. That said, Chevy Chase and Tysons Corner get my vote."

Van: "You can't beat the charm of Georgetown this time of year. It's got a lot of my favorite staple brands: Jack Spade, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, Barbour. There's also a lot of wonderful independent stores, like Sterling & Burke for beautiful luggage and silver; stores we don't have anywhere else, like Suitsupply; and vintage stores, like The Lantern Bookshop and the Christ Child Opportunity Shop. Vintage is a great option for holiday gifts — you know they won't have it already!"

For those who don’t want to venture outside and deal with the craziness, what’s your favorite online destination for great holiday deals?
Van: "Iomoi has fun personalized gifts online — especially the iPhone cases and lacquer trays — and I love Travelteq's fun leather and canvas bags for frequent flyers. That said, if I'm looking for myself, I'm all about the deals on eBay. As long as you know what you're looking for and know your size in a given brand, it's a great way to snag a gift or two for yourself at a great price."

Lauren: "Ah, yes — when no one could live without Uggs, I found a pair for my sister on eBay. The stores had sold out completely."

Speaking of craziness, any tips for not getting too caught up in the shopping frenzy?
Lauren: "You have to remember it is just shopping. Hard at times, I know."

Van: "It's only Friday — you have the whole weekend to shop! ...But only if you want to."

What’s your craziest Black Friday purchase to date?
Lauren: "Oh gosh, this is hard. I got a killer pair of Giuseppe Zanotti (my favorite) velvet pumps at Saks a couple years ago. I was hesitant at the time, but am so glad I made the purchase now. I would say the craziest thing about each of my Black Fridays is really in the quantity of purchases."

Van: "One year, my parents and I drove off the lot in a new car on Black Friday. That was pretty crazy."

What about malls and outlet stores? A Do or a Don’t, and why?
Lauren: "I loooove the mall during the holidays — everything is in one place, and since I hate being cold, it is ideal. I am usually in Michigan for Black Friday and hit our mall in Troy — the crowds away from the city are not that extreme or aggressive, which really makes the experience much more pleasant."

Van: "Don't, to both. If you think things get out of hand at the mall, the outlets are exponentially worse. I'd rather enjoy the day than get into a fight over a parking space! I do love outlets — especially the upscale stores in Leesburg Corner — but I think it's a good idea to wait until after Christmas. The crowds are thinner and you can go pick up whatever Santa didn't bring you."

Any last words of advice for eager shoppers?
Lauren: "Have fun, have a plan, and don't go alone — you need an extra set of hands and eyes. My mom and sister always discover things that I gloss over. Drink coffee for extra stamina. Oh, and hide your purchases in the car when you get home, so your dad cannot assess the damage."

Van: "Don't sweat it if you don't find exactly what you're looking for. I've spent many a Black Friday window-shopping and gathering ideas. It's also a great day to burn off some turkey calories or enjoy your time at home with family."


Photos: Courtesy of Necessary & Proper, Tysons Galleria
amanda2
Who she is: Amanda, The Spendicate

Black Friday usually means a lot of people, a lot of sales, and a lot of stress. How do you tackle the day?
"Since the crowds that are out shopping on Black Friday are massive and the shoppers are eager, I think it’s best to go out with a plan of attack, but also with realistic expectations. I think it’s nearly impossible to dive into the frenzy of Black Friday and expect to get all of your shopping done, so I go with the intention to enjoy the excitement of the holidays, and to not get so caught up in making sure I score the best deal."

What’s the best neighborhood in the area to hit on Black Friday? Best shop to visit?
"I’m a Baltimore girl at heart, so on Black Friday, Hampden is definitely where it’s at. With independently owned boutiques and the famous 34th Street Christmas light spectacle, Hampden cannot be missed during the holidays. But as far as D.C. goes, I love National Harbor. There are so many awesome stores (including a Godiva store that serves hot chocolate), fireworks, a tree lighting, and a crazy ice-sculpture exhibit that’s so cold, they give you a special parka to wear. (Totally worth it.) In case you couldn’t tell, I like my Black Friday to be more of a holiday kick-off celebration, rather than a try-not-to-get-trampled shopping stampede."

For those who don’t want to venture outside and deal with the craziness, what’s your favorite online destination for great holiday deals?
"I’m a big proponent of Cyber Monday and online shopping in general, so, of course, I have much to say on this matter. First, nothing beats an Amazon Prime membership. With free two-day shipping on most items, it pays for itself in no time. My second online shopping addiction is Fab.com and the holiday shop that’s organized by the kind of person you’re shopping for (foodies, Mom, etc.). With their crazy-cool selection of everything from art to clothes to kitchen gadgets, there’s no excuse for not finding the perfect gift."

Speaking of craziness, any tips for not getting too caught up in the shopping frenzy?
"My friends and I usually find time to get together and exchange gifts after the holidays, so being able to focus on finding their gifts after everything has died down definitely lightens my shopping load. Also, instead of buying each other gifts, my boyfriend and I plan Christmas trips, which makes the holiday tradition exciting, rather than stressful. So, instead of worrying about spending this time shopping, you can always think of other ways to show your loved ones you care. Although, I do always love the shopping!"

What’s your biggest Black Friday regret?
"My biggest Black Friday regret is from when I worked in retail. Since our sales were so good and I had an employee discount, I decided to go the easy route and basically bought everyone the same gift. That’s not fun."

What about malls and outlet stores? A Do or a Don’t, and why?
"My fondest Black Friday memories are when I spent the day shopping in quaint neighborhoods at locally owned boutiques. While I could never have gotten all of my shopping done, the gifts I found were special and unique. Plus, the malls and outlets will have special sales throughout the holiday shopping season, so even if you miss out on the Black Friday deals, more deals are sure to come."

Any last words of advice for eager shoppers?
"When I worked in retail, my store opened at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Working the 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift was the absolute worst, between having to leave your family on Thanksgiving and having to stay awake throughout the night. So, if I have any words of wisdom, it’s to not take out your inevitable irritation on the sales associates. They’re probably in for a rough day, so take it easy on them."


Photos: Courtesy of The Spendicate, South Moon Under