A Holiday Buyer’s Market
The most important weekend for retailers and economic forecasters is quickly approaching. Black Friday is only 9 days away. For penny pinchers and deal lovers like me this is our Mecca, our annual trip where we worship at the altar of consumerism. We brave the nightmarish traffic, play “who can find a parking spot” game, and expect to stand in lines thirty people deep while we pay for our one purchase.
And I couldn’t be more excited to do it again this year. It’s become an annual tradition at the Patterson house to venture out on the weekend after Thanksgiving to get great deals and begin our holiday shopping. Obviously I am not alone in my endeavors, a report from the National Retail Federation states that 195 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend in 2009.
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This year retailers are expecting even more people on their websites and in their stores on Black Friday weekend. They are rolling out the red carpet and putting sales stickers on everything in the store to lure us in. But not every sale and deal is on the up and up. Companies across the board are employing every marketing trick known to man to get us to spend more than we want to and to buy their merchandise.
My best advice when attempting to wade through the marketing b.s. that every company puts out for Black Friday weekend is to do your homework! While the turkey is in the oven peruse the sales flyers you’ve received the week prior and check out your favorite retailers websites. It’s important to make a list of items you want to buy BEFORE you head out shopping that weekend. There are going to be deals at every turn no matter what store you visit.
Don’t let yourself believe that you’re going to be able to run into Best Buy real quick just to snap up that great deal their advertising on a new printer. The printer will be in the back of the store and undoubtedly you’ll walk by a thousand other things that are on sale too on your quest to pick out the one item you stopped in to buy. You are not going to be able to resist when you see all the flashy sale stickers with the words “Lowest Price of the Season”, “60% off”, “Discount If You Use Store Credit Card”, and “Free with Purchase”. Don’t fool yourself. Make a list before you head out on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and stick to it!
There is a rhyme and a reason to why retailers use bold colors and glossy paper to advertise sales and deals. These companies have paid millions to research every aspect of our shopping and buying experiences. They are really good at getting you to buy their merchandise.
You know that grocery stores put their milk way in the back corner of their stores for more of a reason than to piss you off. Their research found that if they use milk as a “loss leader” in which they price it very low and put it in the back, shoppers will pass by hundreds of other products they make a bigger profit margin on. They know you are much more likely to buy more than just milk when they do this.
Retailers do the same thing. Doorbuster deals often work like this. Retailers will advertise a much coveted item and price it at a too good to be true price. But they’ll place it in limited quantities at the back of their store. This way you’ll browse their other merchandise that they make a higher profit margin on before you get to the item you came in for. Doorbusters are always some kind of marketing ploy to lure you into their store. While they can provide some great deals remember what they’re used for when you pick up another item.
And before you tell me you’re just going to peruse the sales at the mall Black Friday weekend to get gift ideas, let me just say one thing, PUH-LEASE! These companies have been planning these sales for the last year and are throwing every trick they know at you to get you to buy. You have to have a game plan and that means doing your homework and being prepared. If you’re not sure what to get dear old Aunt Millie before you go shopping try out websites like findgift.com to find the perfect gift. We all have those people in our lives we have no idea what to get. Findgift.com allows you to search for gifts by occasion, gender, age, interest, even relationship. The website is easy to navigate and great at finding gifts for the people who are hard to buy for on our list.
I really cannot stress enough how important it is to do your homework before you head out shopping. Not only will it save you time, but it will also keep you on budget too! Those of us who are on some kind of a budget usually have a dollar figure in mind we’d like to not go over when deciding what to get everyone on our list. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American is expected to spend $688.87 this year on their entire gift giving list. That’s figure is slightly higher than last year’s expectations of $681.83. To help us stay on budget it is important to know what is a good deal and what isn’t. You absolutely must research what the going rate is for each item on your list. This has become easier to do with the invention of comparison shopping websites out there. Long time readers will remember my letter a few months back that focused on this topic. Favorite comparison websites include pricegrabber.com, fatwallet.com, pricewatch.com, and slickdeals.net. With just a few clicks of the mouse these websites will compare the price of the same item at three to four different stores at a time.
The main objective is to know a good deal when you see it. Retailers have been caught red handed in the past jacking up prices in the days and weeks before Black Friday then lowering them the weekend of just so they can call it a sale or discount. Don’t beat yourself up over it, these companies spend months planning their sales and dreaming up marketing ploys to get us to buy. The trick is to just know a good deal when you see it.
With the popularity of smartphones rising there is a veritable army of apps out there to aide you in your hunt for the best deal. Check out the Red Laser app if you have a smartphone. Red Laser is very handy and super useful. Let’s say you are out shopping, you come across an item you want, but don’t know if the sale price is a good deal or not. Now you can use your phone to find out. Red Laser app turns your phone into a barcode scanner. You scan the barcode on the bottom of the item, no matter the store you found it in and it will scour the internet to see if there is a better deal at another store. It can even tell you where the closest store is to you that has the best deal! And to boot, the app is free!
If you don’t have a smartphone don’t feel left out. I suggest you check out blackfriday.info next week before you shop. You can see every retailer’s sales flyers and check out which ones offer the best deals. It’s also helpful when checking out deals for Cyber Monday. The first Monday after Thanksgiving when a lot of Americans go online to purchase the gifts they did not get at the brick-and-mortar stores.
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Don’t freak out if you don’t get a deal on an item you wanted on Black Friday or online. The deals offered this weekend are not necessarily the lowest prices you’ll see all year. Many deals are matched or even beaten later in the holiday shopping season. Electronics are some of the most purchased items during the holidays. It’s a great time to buy them next weekend if you are in the market for a no name piece of equipment. Hold off on buying high end, name brand electronics until the end of the year or January when the prices on these items are even lower. The same goes for clothing purchases. Unless you’re buying clothing for a gift, hold off until mid to late January when everyone’s already spent the gift cards they received and the discounts are even bigger.
Good luck and happy deal hunting! Maybe I’ll see you at the mall.
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