History in the Making

6 Smart Ways to Shop Black Friday Emails, Style File Friday

I think that in 2018, all of us receive more retail related emails than we could ever hope to read in the rest of our life, and they still keep coming. That only multiplies when Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Week, and everything else rolls around. While I think that all of us need to work on becoming conscious purchasers- me, included!- and need to reframe our ways of thinking, cheap shouldn’t be the only factor. These promotional emails can help you save some money on what could otherwise be quite an expensive item. However, these emails can quickly become overwhelming and enticing, and can really cloud your shopping judgement if you let them. These are 6 easy ways to shop sale emails the smart way for Black Friday!
6 Smart Ways to Shop Sale Emails

1. Know What You Are Looking For
I say this is probably 90% of my style posts, but I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should maintain a short list of items that they are looking for in their wardrobe. Unless you are going through a huge life change, this list should not be pages long- maybe a handful of items that you are looking to fill holes in your wardrobe. Black Friday and sale emails are wonderful at convincing you that you need these items because of how much a deal it is!!!!, not because you actually need it in your wardrobe. Break the habit of buying things simply because they are on sale, buy pieces that will work in your wardrobe and actually serve a function for you! And if you are looking for sweaters, filter the site to show you sweaters. It will save you time, energy, and money to only look at what you are specifically looking for!

Now, I know that probably half of you are saying “But Historian, I was looking for X and then I stumbled on Y, and Y is one of my favourite pieces of clothing!”. Yes, I have a couple of those pieces as well, but those are few and far between for most of us. If you truly do stumble over every piece of clothing you like, you might want to take a few hours to look at your wardrobe and assess what it is you like vs. don’t like, and why you are shopping for things you don’t like! If you are anything like me, you will spend the week after your purchase arrives wondering if you actually like what you bought, or if you just thought the 35% off for Cyber Monday was “too good of a deal” to pass up…

Marks and Spencer Patchwork Pocket Blazer
It took 15 months of searching, but I finally found a red blazer!

2. Get to Know Stores’ Patterns

I know that Banana Republic/the Gap/ Old Navy will be 20-60% on sale roughly 3-5 days of the week, they send emails THAT often. However, Lululemon maybe sends out two promotional emails with discounts a year (and those are really for Cyber Monday and Boxing Day/Week). Sign up for emails from the stores that you are interested in, and get to know their patterns! Do they tend to offer small promotions throughout the week and then once or twice a month, offer a larger percentage off? Do they exclude specific items or groups of items from all promotions? Do they have larger quarterly sales? Do they send a code specific to you or a generic “40STORENAME” code? (A code specific to you is probably linked to a previous purchase, or your birthday, as a gift.) Or are they trying to compete with Amazon to offer free shipping for everything?

I personally don’t advocate shopping based on these emails BUT if you are planning to purchase something in the near future, knowing how often they send out promotions (and what is excluded) can help you save some money! Because shipping isn’t always free in Canada, I do like to check during the holiday season to see if there is free shipping from any companies who normally charge. However, I do stick to a specific list of items I’m looking for rather than whatever happens to be on sale.

Screenshot 2018-04-29 at 09.09.05 - Edited
3. You Can Unsubscribe! 
Now, I know that anyone who owns a store that sends out promotional emails will want to throttle me for saying this, but if you have signed up for a newsletter to receive a certain promotion, and in the following weeks and months, you just skip over the emails and don’t shop there, unsubscribe. If retailers want to grab your attention, they will- they will offer different discounts or pre-shop events or whatever else they have at their disposal.

While consumers should be thoughtful in purchases, retailers need to continually work to keep us customers. You can always resubscribe later, but why have yet another store clogging up your email if you just aren’t shopping there? (Retailers: if you want people to stick around on your mailing list, maybe try offering a slightly larger promo code if they stay for x amount of time. Ie, if you offered a 15% discount for signing up, maybe a 20% off code after 2 months for one item!)

This is especially key for all of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals that you sign up for- go back in next and unsubscribe! (Unless you are really set on having those continue on a daily basis for the next 3 months until the retail realm calms down…)
Unsubscribe from emails
4. Don’t Shop From the Email Directly 
Something that I have noticed is happening more and more frequently is that although the email is for “40% Off Everything!!!!! ** Exclusions Apply”, many of the pieces shown in the email are in fact excluded. (I think that advertising has a long way to go in the truth department, as everything is not everything if there are exclusions.)

If you click directly on the link, many stores will take you to “New Arrivals” or “Shop This Look” rather than the items that are actually on sale, and while it’s not the end of the world, it’s disappointing to go to your cart to check out and find out that the item is not 40%/50%/60% off as promised (because half of the time, it only shows the discount at checkout). If a store won’t actually let you shop the items specifically on sale, I would move on as they are attempting to hide it from you.


5. It’s Not the End of the World to Miss a Sale

I think that there is a big difference between being frugal and cheap, and I think that a lot of society has drifted into cheap, at the expense of other people and the environment. I have seen people become visibly upset because they missed a sale email, or didn’t read it until after the sale ends. I firmly believe that if you aren’t willing to pay full price for the piece, it isn’t a “I can’t live without it piece”. Retailers specifically count on you not being willing to miss the sale (especially on Black Friday/ Cyber Monday), which means you have little choice in the matter.

In the grand scheme of life, missing out on blouse or a dress or a pair of shoes on sale will not send you off onto a terrible path where everyone hated you and animals run away and you never have another good hair day. Put sale emails into perspective and take them for what they are- marketing tools and gimmicks meant to bring you into a store or onto a website to spend money. That’s it!

Blazer Smart CasualI paid full price for this blazer, and it was completely worth it!

6. Make A Separate Email Account

Lastly- for every store that you are kind of interested in receiving their promotional emails but don’t care if you miss it, you can make a separate email account. I do have one that I use for 90% of stores- the 10% that I regularly shop at go to my regular email, as I’m trying to those few holes in my wardrobe and those are the stores most likely to help me get there. The rest go into a secondary account that I look at maybe 2-3 times a month. I would recommend doing this specifically at the holiday season! I find that my email is busy enough at the holiday time without throwing a million more promotion, reminder, and shipping messages.

You can really spot patterns if you do this- you can see just how many emails a company will send in a short period of time… I would recommend using Gmail, as those emails go to a “Promotions” tab, so you won’t actually receive notifications for them and you can check them when you want. It’s a nice alternative for those stores that send birthday codes! You know that you just have to check in the weeks before and you can see what the offer is this year. (Sephora, I’m looking at you!)


How do you shop smart? And is there anything you are looking for during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales? 

The Historian
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4 thoughts on “6 Smart Ways to Shop Black Friday Emails, Style File Friday”

  • I support Black Friday online shopping, but I really hate Black Friday in-person shopping. I’ve never actually done it. The crowds here are INSANE — people are literally trampled at stores by other people trying to get insanely cheap merchandise. Also, many stores here have started opening up on Thanksgiving night or even during the day, which I heartily disapprove of. Americans receive so few paid holidays off, and we’re never going to get more if we keep insisting that stores be open on what is supposed to be a day for spending time with family and friends. I refuse to shop at stores on Thanksgiving, and I honestly look very poorly upon stores that DO open on Thanksgiving and force their employees to spend time away from their families on such an important holiday. Black Friday, I say go at it — open at 5am if you want to! But, I’ll be at home in my pjs, shopping online and avoiding the insane crowds. 😀

    • Stores here are open for limited hours on Thanksgiving- our Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October, but my family only ever celebrates on the Sunday. I’m okay with limited hours on Thanksgiving, because they do get paid time and a half, it’s not terribly busy (so most people who want it off get it), and we have other holidays where stores are closed altogether. I don’t understand the American way of Thanksgiving being the biggie holiday, but that is the fact of it- I’m curious to know if stores actually see a lot of customers on Thanksgiving Day itself! Is it actually profitable to staff your store then, at extra pay?!

      And I placed an online order with the Gap for myself- doesn’t matter when I get it- and Amazon for my remaining gifts! I already had a full cart though and was just waiting to see if anything would drop further. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, because Canada Post has been on strike for a full month, and can’t guarantee that their current backlog will be delivered in time for Christmas, but with Prime, I’m hoping that they are just using a different courier. I don’t get the draw of in-person shopping but I think some people really do get a rush from it!

  • I do most of my shopping online when it comes to techie equipment and apparel and I have noticed that emails almost never truthfully advertise the actual products that will have discounts. I usually wait for the next season sales.

    • That is one of my biggest frustrations- I am waiting to purchase a new chromebook, and I am looking for a specific model. The image of it has been featured in several emails but the model itself is rarely on sale. Seems rather misleading!!!

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