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New York: Thanksgiving and Black Friday bargains

By: Maxine Sheppard

November 11, 2015

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Knowing where to find New York’s best Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals can be something of a guessing game. Many stores don’t reveal their opening hours and offers until nearer the time, leaving those planning a shopping trip from afar with little time to plan.

But if you’re flying to JFK on business this November, we can help you with a spot of bargain hunting before you return. Though the city’s biggest markdowns have yet to be unveiled, we’ve got some tips for making sure you know about it when they are…

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving; a federal holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It’s regarded as the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season, and recent years have seen opening hours become earlier and discounts more extreme, resulting in snaking queues and even some overnight campers. The name, which originated in Philadelphia due to the snarled-up traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving, has an alternative explanation too: it’s the point in the year at which retailers traditionally begin to turn a profit and head back into ‘the black’, after operating in the red for most of the year.

Fifth Avenue and Thanksgiving © Maxine Sheppard.jpg

Holiday season crowds on Fifth Avenue © Maxine Sheppard

Who are New York’s big players?

Department stores, big fashion brands, electronics chains and tech stores tend to offer the best deals, sometimes reducing prices by as much as 80%. A strategy often used by these big-name retailers is to announce limited quantity, ultra cheap ‘doorbusters’ with extravagant discounts for those who are first to arrive, fuelling the levels of anticipation and – some say – desperation seen in the last few years. Over the last one or two years, things have gone even further, with some stores opening on the evening of Thanksgiving Day itself. After bringing forward their opening hours from 5am or 6am on Black Friday morning to midnight on Thanksgiving, this – rightly or wrongly – was probably an inevitability.

Macy's Thanksgiving © Maxine Sheppard.jpg

Festive Macy’s and Empire State © Maxine Sheppard

Macy’s is one such department store due to open at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day, as it did last year. Expect to find major discounts on everything from jewellery and watches to designer handbags, sunglasses and shoes, not to mention all men’s and women’s fashion lines and home goods. Bloomingdales, on the other hand, is far less gung ho, only offering sale prices from 7am to 1pm on Black Friday last year, and only on selected lines. Other department stores worth keeping an eye on include Barney’s New York, who offered 40% off selected designer goods last year; upmarket Lord & Taylor who had some lines up to 65% off, and Nordstrom, who took 20% off their clearance lines, plus other specific deals on accessories, shoes and cosmetics.

Still to announce its 2015 hours, last year everyone’s favourite affordable fashion chain Old Navy opened its doors at 4pm on Thanksgiving Day, leaving superkeen shoppers barely enough time to finish their turkey. If it follows suit this year with a blanket 50% off everything in store, plus a chance to win a million dollars in its Overnight Millionaire sweepstake, it can expect to see huge numbers once again at its four Manhattan locations. Hip favourite Urban Outfitters have seen some insane crowds outside their midnight openings in recent years, and along with sister brand Anthropolgie, you should be able to find 50% off thousands of items the entire Thanksgiving weekend.     

Urban Outfitters NYC © Maxine Sheppard.jpg

Urban Outfitters NYC © Maxine Sheppard

Best Buy‘s multiple Manhattan locations are the best place to head for deals on electrical items, gadgets, tablets and phones. Last year’s offers included massive savings on items such as iPads, Kindle Fires and Samsung Galaxys, and – as with Macy’s – its Thanksgiving Day opening hours meant those prepared to sacrifice their holiday dinner were first in line for a bargain. Keen photographers should also check out B&H Photo Video, the largest non-chain photo and video store in the USA, for exceptional deals on cameras, lenses and video equipment. They also stock computers and mobiles and have previously had some of the cheapest deals around on Apple products over Thanksgiving weekend. 

How to find the best deals

As many retailers play their cards close to their chests in the run up to Thanksgiving, the best way to be in the know is to sign up to the email newsletters of those stores you plan to visit. Many brands give their email subscribers advance notice of offers before the big TV ads go out on air, and some include further discount codes or coupons for extra savings. Check out company websites in the days leading up to the big weekend – last-minute bargains are added all the time – and don’t forget to pick up a couple of local papers once you actually land in New York, for details of any exclusive deals or one-off opportunities.

If you’re stuck for gift ideas or want to discover stores you may have never heard of, then keep an eye on some of the dedicated websites who track everything under one roof. TheBlackFriday.com is one of the most comprehensive, and you can also try BFads.net, and the Black Friday section of SlickDeals.net.

Heading to the Big Apple? Book a seat in our Premium Economy cabin and take advantage of some brilliant extras like priority boarding and laptop power in every seat. And don’t forget, our partnership with Delta Air Lines means we can connect you to over 200 onward destinations from hub airports across North America, bringing you closer than ever to your American dream. 

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

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