The only thing more exciting than becoming comatose after an absurdly large turkey meal on Thanksgiving is rallying at 4 a.m. Friday to stand in line outside your favorite department store. After all, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about: being grateful for our stomach capacity and saving money? If so, you’re going to need to strategize — not only in terms of how you’re going to get that extra helping of pie without needing to cut the elastic on your stretchy pants, but also how you’re going to game the capitalist system and make the most out of your shopping extravaganza. And here to help is traffic data from Google Maps.
This new font of wisdom from the great Google marks the first time the Internet giant has ever shared seasonal location data, and provides some pretty incredible insights as to when to shop, where to shop, and of course, how to plan ahead. So without further ado, here are a few pro tips from the folks at Google to help you do Black Friday better than you’ve ever done it before.
Tip 1: Shop in the morning
As it turns out, there’s a method to the madness of those people willing to brave the dark and cold of the wee hours of the morning. They know that few people are insane enough to join them in stores before the light of day, and that the early bird really does get the worm. According to Google’s data, Black Friday store traffic tends to peak in the afternoon for most stores, typically between 2 and 4 p.m. So in order to beat the traffic, consider an early morning trip, or better yet, a late-afternoon or even evening jaunt around the mall.
Furthermore, with a number of stores now opening their doors on Thanksgiving day, many shoppers appear to be pregaming their enormous dinners (or exercising post-huge lunch) by making a trip to various outlets. Google notes an increase in foot traffic on Thursday evening that actually trumps the activity they see on Fridays. So to avoid getting mobbed by crowds, avoid Thanksgiving evening between 6 and 7 p.m.
Tip 2: Black Friday is less busy than Christmas
If you think you’re being clever by skipping out on Black Friday altogether and postponing your holiday shopping until the days immediately before Christmas, you’re wrong. Don’t do it.
According to Google’s mobile traffic data, many stores don’t see their biggest store traffic spikes until the Saturday before Christmas, making Black Friday look like child’s play. Especially when it comes to dollar stores, Christmas Eve is by far the busiest day, as the ultimate procrastinators emerge from their dens to hunt for truly last-minute deals.
That said, if you’re in the market for gadgets and gizmos, then Black Friday really is your heyday. Google data shows that electronics stores and cellphone stores have their highest foot traffic of the season on Black Friday. How much higher than normal? Twice as high, in fact, than other weekends during the holiday season. There’s just something about turkey that screams “You need a flat-screen TV.”
Tip 3: Check store inventory online before you step out
Nothing’s more frustrating than driving all the way to the store only to find that the one item you had your heart set on is sold out. So to avoid that epic disappointment, save yourself the empty-handed trip to and from the store and just check in-store availability online. Most locations will post their inventory on their websites so that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Of course, things change at the drop of a hat on one of the busiest retail days of the year, so be vigilant in your checking!
For more information, check out Google’s blog on the subject, and happy shopping!