SOHO — The idea of diving headfirst into shopping in New York on Black Friday may strike fear into the hearts of many, but it is not an impossible task — especially when you arm yourself with a bit of inside information.
DNAinfo New York spoke with professional shoppers to get tips for knocking out your holiday list as painlessly as possible on Black Friday.
1. Dress strategically: Wear sneakers and dress in layers in order to stay comfortable while going back and forth between cold weather and warm stores. Also, make a careful choice of overcoat, as personal shopper Rebecca Frey of Seek New York advised. Avoid wearing a “giant, bulky parka that can be kind of a pain to take off and carry around the store,” she said.
2. Pack a distraction: Long lines are unavoidable on Black Friday so Frey suggests lowering the irritability factor by packing something to do while you wait. “A Kindle or a book — just something to keep you occupied,” she said. “It’ll make the time go a lot faster.
3. Take your own shopping bags: “More and more stores are going bag free and so they want you to buy one of their shopping bags,” Frey said. “It’s also nice to have a big bag that you can put over your shoulder like a tote bag. If you go in a bunch of stores and have a bunch of tiny little bags, you can condense everything into one so that your hands are free.”
4. Browse ahead of Black Friday: Cut down on the crazy by knowing what you want to buy ahead of Black Friday, advised stylist Natalie Decleve of NattyStyle.com. It may even save you a trip to the store.
"Check online and find out ahead of time what stores might be doing things online also because a lot of places to online Black Friday and that way you don’t have to actually go to the stores," she said.
5. Take advantage of store loyalty: If you're familiar with the clerks at one of your favorite shops, it's worth chatting them up ahead of time to get the scoop on top-secret Black Friday sales. They may even facilitate some special savings for you.
"A lot of times sales associates will know ahead of time what’s going to be on sale and if you have a relationship with someone, they can often keep it aside for you and ring you up on Black Friday," Decleve said.
6. Avoid the hotspots: Herald Square, Broadway south of Houston Street in SoHo, the intersection of 59th and Lexington — these areas, which are packed with chain retail stores, will draw enormous crowds. If you need to hit those big-name shops, head to their quieter locations.
“SoHo is obviously one of the best places to go shopping but I may go to Flatiron for the same stores,” says Valerie Halfon, of Shop With Val, a self-described "premier affordable personal shopping service." “If we’re going to more mainstream stores, I try to take my clients off the beaten path.”
7. If you must you go to a department store, try Lord & Taylor over Macy’s: “I think it’s underrated,” Halfon said of Lord & Taylor. “I get great deals there.”
Halfon added that attentive customer service at Lord and Taylor keeps her coming back with her clients. “If you go into Macy’s, you’re not going to get that individualized attention,” she said.
8. But Macy’s is great for some things: “Some of the stores have a coat check where you can go and leave packages,” Frey said.
“I know that Macy’s does — that’s every professional shopper’s secret — if you’re out and you’re buying bags and bags of stuff, you can go and stash your stuff there as you’re adding to your pile. It’s down in the basement."
9. A word about bathroom breaks: If you need to visit the bathroom in the midst of your shopping frenzy, seek out hotels and large stores instead of cramped coffee shops.
“I usually suggest department stores, the public library,” said Frey. “Hotels usually have bathrooms in the lobby that you can use even if you’re not a guest. Starbucks is always good in a pinch, but if you can go to a hotel or a big department store, it tends to be a little bit easier and they’re nicer and there’s no having to buy a drink.”
Frey even pinpointed two of her favorite powder rooms where you can catch a break: “The Lord & Taylor women’s bathroom on the lingerie floor has couches and there’s a sitting area — same with the one on the second floor of Bloomingdale’s — so if you need a place to sit down and regroup, that’s a good place.”
For a handy guide to the city’s best in-store bathrooms, check out Racked’s guide here.
10. Or, hey! Skip Black Friday!: Are the bargains really worth dealing with the crowds? Shop on Saturday or Sunday morning instead.
“Most places during the year don’t open on Sundays until 11 or 11:30 a.m. but during the holidays a lot of them are open longer hours,” Frey said. “If you can get into a store first thing when they open, the lines tend to be shorter. Also if they’ve just opened for the day, they tend to be better organized. People haven’t had a chance to come in and root through things."
Check out more of DNAinfo New York's shopping coverage here.