Immediately before or immediately after Christmas. The prices start dropping for last-minute gift sales, and after the holiday, they have a lot of inventory to clear out. HP is always sending me emails about laptop bargains (I've owned a few over the years).
If you're going retail (which I do not recommend), haggle. Consider the price in a store a suggestion. If they want to sell to you, they'll come down.
AG usually has the free shipping codes the week before Thanksgiving and in October sometime. They do not do black friday but they do have Cyber Monday items for sale. These items go very quickly so I suggest ordering in the early morning because they sold out before the afternoon. The dolls themselves are NEVER on sale, the sales are on clothing and accessories for the dolls. As for the doll for 2011, no one knows. Employees didn't find out the name of this year's doll untill December and more details about her were not released until after Christmas. AG reserves several names for dolls at a time because it takes up to 4 years to bring a new doll to market. You will just have to patient like all the rest of us.
Just like last year, there will be tonnes of online stores offering online Black Friday deals to online shoppers. And yes, I agree that it's much safer to buy online if you want to avoid getting into a stampede at the stores and may even end up not getting what you want. You could start doing your research and comparison now on what you want to buy. If you know to look for a specific product, just go to Google and click on Shopping. Search using that feature and you'll see the display of products, pricing and websites offering that item. Hope this helps.