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Anyone hoping to do a bit of Black Friday shopping this year might want to get started as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey has been consumed; that way shoppers can take advantage of the best deals during the 5-day span between Thanksgiving Thursday and Cyber Monday. But where will you be able to find these most amazing, brag-worthy bargains, which we dub Editors' Choice?
Below, we've listed the top five stores that offered the best online deals and sales during Black Friday in 2012. These stores dominated the competition last year, so it's likely that they'll strive to succeed yet again this year. So as you start constructing a Black Friday game plan for 2013, make sure to keep this list close at hand.
The Top 5 Stores with the Best Black Friday Deals
Amazon: 157 Editors' Choice Deals
Amazon is in a familiar spot: The top. For the past three years now, Amazon has offered more Editors' Choice-worthy deals than any other merchant we've listed during Black Friday weekend. Last year, we saw the most top-level deals from Amazon on Black Friday (57), but Thanksgiving was far from boring as Amazon rolled out 42 such deals on Turkey Day.
By far its most popular (and also rarest) deal last year was a 32" LCD HDTV (brand unknown) selling for $97 shipped on Black Friday; the deal lasted less than five minutes! All weekend, Amazon featured a bevy of promotions on DVD and Blu-ray movies, with prices dipping to as low as $1 — an even greater treat for those with unlimited free shipping via Amazon Prime. As with years past, Amazon was aggressive in matching or beating prices from Best Buy and Walmart, undercutting the retail stores' prices on TVs and video games.
Walmart: 77 Editors' Choice Deals
Walmart ranks second in our list of the best Black Friday weekend merchants, and well behind Amazon. But consider this: Between Black Friday 2011 and Black Friday 2012, the big box store's Editors' Choice offerings experienced a 208% increase! Walmart was most aggressive on Black Friday proper, as 30 of its very best deals were live that day. For further comparison, only 10 of Walmart's Editors' Choice-level bargains were featured on Thanksgiving.
In 2012, Walmart was the place to shop for anyone seeking toys and other kid-friendly fare, as it showcased strong discounts on those items. In fact, we saw the Ematic FunTab Mini 4.3" 4GB Google Android Tablet for $59 with free shipping, a low by $81. Smartphone deals were also plentiful at Walmart thanks to a promotion that included a $100 Walmart gift card with the purchase of a phone (and a new 2-year contract); the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 for AT&T went for a net profit of $30 after the $100 credit.
Best Buy: 72 Editors' Choice Deals
While Walmart saw a surge in Editors' Choice deals year-over-year, Best Buy experienced a 51% decline. This is particularly noteworthy as the Yellow Tag had nipped at Amazon's heels in past years. In 2012, Best Buy got a head start on its doorbusters, offering 37 of its very best deals on Thanksgiving; on Black Friday, that number shrunk to 11.
Best Buy lacked quantity, but not quality, in its Editors' Choice deals. Its most popular Black Friday weekend deal appeared on the eve of Cyber Monday, when it offered a super rare $25 credit for in-store pickup orders of $250 or more. Weeks after its release, Best Buy cut $60 off all 4th-generation iPad with Retina models, yielding best-ever prices at the time. Video games, movies, televisions, and laptops also saw heavy discounts.
newegg: 59 Editors' Choice Deals
The number of newegg's Editors' Choice offerings dipped slightly between 2011 and 2012, as the online electronics store featured 73 such deals in 2011. However, it remains a trend for newegg to showcase a majority of its very best deals on Black Friday: 25 were tagged Editors' Choice that day, while only 13 such deals made an appearance on Thanksgiving.
As with Black Fridays past, newegg relied on mail-in rebates to yield all-time lows on a variety of consumer electronics, computer parts and peripherals, and software. Such rebate-friendly deals included Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac bundled with an 8GB USB 2.0 flash drive for $0 with free shipping (the software alone was $44 more elsewhere) and a Patriot 32GB USB 3.0 flash drive for $15 shipped (a best-ever price at the time). One of newegg's strongest non-rebate deals included an all-time low for a dual-core-equipped 16" laptop with Windows 8.
Fry's Electronics: 40 Editors' Choice Deals
Fry's Electronics is a newcomer to this list but not to DealNews readers, who have seen consistent savings from this primarily West Coast-based electronics store all year. Black Friday 2011 featured a paltry 10 Editors' Choice deals from Fry's. It followed that performance up with an astounding 300% increase in these offerings in 2012. Unlike its competitors, most of Fry's best deals were showcased on the Saturday after Black Friday, as 13 deals were tagged Editors' Choice. We saw 11 such offers on Thanksgiving and only eight of them on Black Friday.
For anyone who lived in proximity to a Fry's retail store, this was the place to shop for televisions, as shipping costs were otherwise substantial. For example, picking up an LG 47" TV on Thanksgiving cost shoppers just $449 — a $251 savings over having it shipped, and a best-ever price for a television of that class. Plus, laptop deals were hot, as a 13.3" Apple MacBook Air went for $999 via pickup, still the all-time low for that model outside of refurbs. Additionally, like newegg, Fry's featured several items at substantial lows after rebate; most of these deals qualified for free or low-cost shipping nationwide.
The Best Black Friday Deals Breakdown
Throughout the year, the DealNews staff will label the site's best deals as Editors' Choice, and an item or sale marked as such on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, in particular, means it's the cream of the crop. Therefore, in creating our list, we decided that the top Black Friday vendors should not be judged based on the volume of all deals, but rather on which offered the greatest number of Editors' Choice-caliber bargains.
During the 5-day Black Friday Weekend of 2012, we posted 2,276 deals. Of those, 855 were marked as an Editors' Choice — roughly 38% of all deals published on DealNews in that span! It should be noted however that many Editors' Choice deals sold out almost as soon as they hit our site. Moreover, some vendors, such as Walmart and Best Buy, made it a challenge for consumers to avail of these offers, which landed them on our Black Friday Jeers list.
Wait, What About ...
... Kohl's, which rounded last year's list? The significant increases in Editors' Choice deals from Walmart and Fry's push the department store off of this year's list: it only featured 15 marked deals in 2012. Still, Kohl's did offer a rare combined sitewide discount of 20% off with free shipping.
... Staples just missed the cut as well. It trailed Fry's with 24 Editors' Choice deals last year. The office supply store's no-minimum free shipping offer helped consumers score excellent deals on items such as markers, pens, and batteries — inexpensive items that are usually crippled by high shipping costs.
What to Expect from 2013 Black Friday Weekend Deals
Yes, it's likely that Amazon will maintain its reign as king of spectacular Black Friday deals. However, as 2012 Black Friday weekend data has shown us, beyond Amazon, there are plenty of other retailers that will be aggressive in their discounts. Fry's Electronics was the relative unknown that joined the ranks last year, and this year we may see other "unknown" vendors — those stores that are not "Amazon-popular" outside of the online deal-seeking world — make names for themselves by offering stellar markdowns on coveted items. On the other hand, this could be the year big-box stores like Best Buy and Walmart up the ante and offer a plethora of stellar deals to give Amazon a run for its money.
But whatever happens this year, the deals — and impulse buys on behalf of our staff — will be plentiful. Stay in the loop this holiday shopping season and sign up for email alerts for deals on all your wish list items. Until we post such deals, you can educate yourselves on what to actually expect this Black Friday season by reading our 2013 Black Friday predictions.