How to be a smart holiday shopper
It’s only October but holiday shopping promotions are here with retailers bringing out the Christmas trees, turning on the Christmas music and dangling sales from now through January.
This month alone features Target (TGT) ‘Deal Days’, Walmart (WMT) ‘Rollbacks and More’, Best Buy (BBY) ‘Flash Sale’ and a new Amazon (AMZN) Prime Day-like event . Soon the much-early Black Friday promotions will arrive weeks before the actual shopping holiday, then the December-long sales events and post-holiday sales.
Navigating through all of these sales can be confusing for customers.
And that’s even more true this year as chains have a high incentive to run promotions on this holiday as they have excess inventory and inflation hits customers’ wallets.
Adobe forecasts that almost a third of online goods across all categories will be discounted. The company uses a combination of historical price trends, its monthly online price index, and price changes leading up to the holidays to forecast discounts for the season.
Smart shopping may feel more difficult in this environment, but retail analysts and researchers have tips for deciding when and what to buy.
First, a tip for all categories: There is evidence that some consumers believe a promotion means a big price drop, so they react and buy without knowing the true typical price. Sometimes stores increase the price of a product briefly before putting it on “sale.”
“Just because it’s a sale doesn’t mean it’s a good sale,” said Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate who founded ConsumerWorld.org, a resource for shoppers.
Dworsky and others recommend using sites like Camel Camel Camel or Honey, free browser extensions that show price histories on Amazon and allow buyers to set price drop alerts to find out what’s actually a deal.
If you can put off buying a new down jacket for now, you’re more likely to find a better deal: Winter items get cheaper later in the season, said Ashok Lalwani, a professor of marketing at Indiana University who studies pricing.
Clothing retailers are offering bigger discounts when they need to clear out one season’s stuff to move into the next – because inventory is costly and fashion trends can change, he said.
Clothing promotions are expected to be particularly strong on this holiday from a year ago. Gap (GPS), Kohl’s (KSS), Nike (NKE) and other brands have clothing surplus and reduce it to attract customers.
“We expect the broader market to see more promotion by the end of the holiday season,” Harmit Singh, chief financial officer of Levi (LEVI), said on Thursday.
The best time of year to shop for new gadgets and toys remains around Black Friday, analysts say.
Retailers have trained shoppers over the years to get hefty discounts on TVs, video game consoles, laptops and other electronic devices on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So unless electronics stores are strong these days, retailers risk disappointing consumers.
“Consumers won’t expect these deals for years to come,” Lalwani said, and retailers will struggle to “lure consumers into their stores on future Black Fridays.”
According to Adobe, Thanksgiving is the best day to find discounts on electronics, while Black Friday offers the best deals on TVs. If you want to buy a computer, Adobe said, shop on Cyber Monday.
Even after you have purchased a product, you may still be able to get a higher discount.
Track prices online, and if an item falls below the amount you bought it for, some retailers will refund the difference, Dworsky said.
Many large stores have extended their holiday pricing policies to a longer period.
For example, consumers can request a price adjustment for items purchased in a Target store or online beginning October 6th if the price goes down on or before December 24th. Purchases made at Walmart on or after October 1st can be returned through January 31st.
So be a smart shopper even after your purchase.