Frank G. Zarb School of Business Marketing Top Stories

Dr. Joel Evans’ 2015 Holiday Shopping Tips

‘Tis the season, which means it’s time for marketing guru Dr. Joel R. Evans’ holiday shopping tips for 2015. Evans is the RMI Distinguished Professor of Business at the Frank G. Zarb School of Business.

  • Set a budget (total and for each person for whom you are buying a present) and stick to it.
  • There will be sales every day leading up to Christmas. You do not have to wait until Black Friday for sales. Know that many stores have a 30-day price matching policy AFTER purchases. And some retailers will honor price matches when you scan in-store prices with your phone app and find items selling for less elsewhere.
  • Try not to buy ANYTHING at full price. Almost anything you want will be on sale between now and Christmas. Virtually every major retailer – in-store and online – will be doing sales. Stores such as Macy’s run specials almost continuously.
  • Do not do all of your holiday shopping in one trip, no matter how convenient. Buy each item on the wish list as it goes on sale. Retailers run specials to attract people to the store/site and then entice them to buy other full-priced items.
  • Understand what the word “sale” means (a discount from the REGULAR price not the LIST or SUGGESTED price).
  • Some stores (in-store and online) will be featuring time-of-day sales to lure shoppers during non-peak hours.
  • The best “sales” days are typically December 10 to December 24, not Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Retailers want to sell merchandise before the holiday to avoid even bigger markups thereafter.
  • Shipping companies such as UPS are encouraging retailers (especially online) to set earlier dates to guarantee a Christmas delivery and avoid a late delivery fiasco.
  • Look online for customer reviews. Sites like Amazon.com show customer reviewers for virtually every product.
  • Comparison shop for big-ticket items, including online. Online retailers have much more dynamic pricing. They are less bound by day and time. They can monitor competitors and their own sales rates, and more quickly adjust prices.
  • Don’t be snobbish about shopping at mass merchants such as Wal-Mart; less ambiance often means lower prices.
  • Trading down is OK, such as buying a digital camera with fewer pixels or an Amazon Kindle Fire vs. an iPad. There are big bargains on technology.
  • Look for AAA, AARP, student, and other discounts.
  • For the best selection of items, shoppers should NOT wait until the last few days before Christmas to shop.
  • Look online for customer reviews. Sites like Amazon.com show customer reviewers for virtually every product.
  • Comparison shop for big-ticket items, including online. Online retailers have much more dynamic pricing. They are less bound by day and time. They can monitor competitors and their own sales rates, and more quickly adjust prices.
  • Understand what 0% financing really means. (Know when the full price must be paid off without incurring high interest charges which may accrue from the date of purchase.)
  • Be careful in buying gift cards. Understand their terms, especially regarding unused balances. Some retailers only give a store credit if any balance remains on a gift card after a purchase.
  • Don’t succumb to sales pressure for extended warranties. (For some retailers, the profit on these warranties can be larger than the profit on the sale of the items themselves.)
  • Know each store’s return/refund/exchange policies.
  • Be aware of an “open box” policy which results in a restocking fee for returns. Best Buy stopped doing this a while back after many customer complaints and the competition from online firms such as Amazon.com.
  • If shopping online, look at the total price (including shipping).
  • More sites are offering free shipping this year with low or no minimum purchase amounts. Amazon Prime includes free two-day shipping. Some retailers are now even offering FREE return shipping.
  • AFTER Christmas, many retailers will run sales to clear out seasonal merchandise that has not sold.

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