Sweeten the deal, and they will come – even at the crack of dawn

The secret to Black Friday shopping promotions seems to be this: Make the deal good enough, and you'll get people through your doors even during the crazy-early morning hours.

Garden State Honda in Clifton, N.J., found its sweet spot with a 6 a.m. opening the day after Thanksgiving and an iPad giveaway with a new-car purchase. More time-sensitive offers were staggered throughout the day. The earlier the customer showed up, the bigger the incentive.

“We had people right here at 6:15 a.m., so it definitely brought people out early in the day,” said Tim Hlavenka, general sales manager at the dealership, located just six miles outside of Manhattan. “It's amazing how many husbands came in and said their wives told them they better come home with an iPad.”

New-car buyers had the choice of the iPad or a $500 Visa gift card. Garden State Honda added iPad giveaways to its promotions rotation back in August, and the devices always seem to bring about an extra spike in business, Hlavenka said.

On Friday, Garden State sold 27 new cars and 12 used cars. That compares to a typical Friday of 12 new and 7 used. The dealership sells about 3,000 new Hondas a year.

It was the first Black Friday sale at the dealership, but Garden State is already planning a repeat next Thanksgiving. Sales representatives don't mind showing up early if they can book sales in return, Hlavenka said: “My guys were here to make money.”