As if doorbusters, early-bird specials and earlier store hours aren't enough to lure customers, retailers are about to wave the magic wand that works almost every time: free stuff.
That's free merchandise. Free entertainment. And free food.
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What better marketing move for retail giants - from J.C. Penney to Sears to Old Navy- than flaunting the term "free" to draw even a smidgen of the Black Friday weekend's 152 million shoppers?
"Consumers expect more than great prices this year," says Mike Gatti, executive director at the National Retail Federation.
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Among the Black Friday freebies:
•Digital cameras. Old Navy will be handing out Kodak EasyShare Sport digital cameras and other goodies - worth about $100 - to a very limited number of shoppers at its 1,100 U.S. stores who purchase at least $40 in merchandise. Spokeswoman Cacky Rhoades won't say how many will be distributed.
•Snow globes. J.C. Penney will, again, hand out snow globes to shoppers. Some 1.9 million Disney snow globes - showing Mickey Mouse with a wreath - will be distributed, says spokesman Tim Lyons. "Hopefully, it gets customers into our store first."
•Ornaments. Sears will hand out free Thomas Kinkade collectible ornaments to the first 200 shoppers who make purchases of clothing, intimate apparel or accessories. Each store also is giving 13" Craftsmen tool bags (retail value $9.99) to the first 60 customers who buy $20 worth of tools.
•Coffee. Seattle's Best is offering freebie coffee to Black Friday workers. The first 100,000 who reach out via its Facebook page will be sent free samples.
•Film showings.Best Buy is hoisting giant screens in parking lots at 123 of its stores where, at 9 p.m. (local time) on Thursday, it will show Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to those waiting in Black Friday lines. It also will feed folks popcorn and Coke. "Why not make an event of it?" asks chief marketing officer Barry Judge.
•Skin showings. Abercrombie & Fitch is back in the skin game. At midnight as Black Friday begins, it will place its famed, shirtless male greeters at every U.S. Abercrombie and Hollister store. "They are iconic symbols of our brand," says spokesman Eric Cerny. "They generate buzz whenever they're out."
•Customers signed up for the Kangaroo Express "Roo Club" text rewards program will receive a text message redeemable for a free Bean Street Coffee on Black Friday, redeemable at any Kangaroo Express convenience store. Customers can sign up by texting ROOCLUB to 67777.