Black Friday brings about the start of the Christmas shopping season in grand fashion.

But shoppers beware. Black Friday is not a day for the casual shopper.

To serve as a complement to the annual Holiday Shopping Guide, Consumer Reports are offering a few friendly tips and advice that shoppers should observe to cope with the most hectic shopping day of the year.

  • Shop early. “Black Friday” can be the most challenging shopping day of the holiday season. Shoppers should be prepared to deal with heavy traffic and packed stores — which mean more time on the road and less time to shop — more so during the afternoon and into the evening.
  • Dressing in layers can also make for a better shopping experience. A long walk from the car to the stores can really slow a shopper day.
  • Remembering to get gift receipts can save a shopping season.
  • Don’t assume that the best deals are on Black Friday. Yes, many retailers will offer huge discounts the morning after Thanksgiving. However, the reality is that retailers typically offer even steeper discounts as you get closer to Christmas, as a means to ensure that the inventory will be sold.
  • Check out the retailer’s Web site. Visiting a retailer’s Web site offers many options for shoppers. First, shoppers can check the Web site and see if the product is stocked and available. Around the holidays, many stores suspend shipping charges, so you could order online and save a trip to the store. Second, most retailers offer shoppers the opportunity to purchase the item online and allow for a pick-up at the store, which can also save time. Third, retailers may offer coupons that shoppers can print out and bring with them for bonus savings to the store. Fourth, shopping online means you don’t have to deal with traffic.
  • Be mindful of return policies and restocking fees. Retailers are becoming stricter when it comes to enforcing return policies. Consumer Reports advises shoppers to ask for gift receipts. If there are no receipts, shoppers should be prepared to get issued store credit for the lowest price the item actually sold for, not what you might have paid.
  • Get extra savings through instant charge cards. If you plan a big ticket purchase consider opening up an instant charge card to receive the extra 10 percent off at the point of purchase. Disciplined shoppers are then urged to pay the balance and cut up the card.

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