Frank G. Zarb School of Business Marketing Top Stories

Dr. Joel Evans’ Holiday Shopping Tips

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time for marketing guru Dr. Joel R. Evans’ holiday shopping tips for 2016. 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.

  • Set a budget (total and for each person for whom you are buying a present) and stick to it.
  • Do not be overeager! Be patient in seeking the best price.
  • There will be sales every day leading up to Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Pancha Ganapati, and other December holiday celebrations
  • You do not have to wait until Black Friday for sales. Know that many stores (including online ones) have a 30-day price matching policy AFTER purchases. And some retailers will honor price matches when you can in-store prices with your phone app and find items selling for less elsewhere!!
Marketing Professor Joel Evans
Marketing Professor Joel Evans
  • Try not to buy ANYTHING full price. Almost anything you want will be on sale between now and the holidays. 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. Retailer’s 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 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 to avoid a late delivery fiasco.
  • Look online for customer reviews. Sites like show customer reviews 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.
  • Trading down is OK, such as buying a digital camera with few pixels or an Amazon Kindle Fire vs and IPad. There are big bargains on technology.
  • Don’t be snobbish about shopping at mass merchants such as Wal-Mart; less ambience often means lower prices.
  • Look for AAA, AARP, student, and other discounts.
  • For the best selection of items, shoppers should NOT wait until the last few days before the Christmas to chop. Popular products and brands will be gone before then. It is a tradeoff between this point and the next one.
  • Understand what 0% financing really means. (know when 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 retunes. Best Buy stopped doing this a while back after many customers complains and the competition from online firms such as
  • If shopping online, look at the total price (including shipping).
  • More sites are offering free shipping this year which low or no minimum purchase amounts. Amazon Prime includes free two-day shipping. Some retailers are now even offering FREE return shipping.
  • AFTER the holidays, many retailers will run sales to clear out seasonal merchandise that has not sold. January is a good month to redeem gift cards because retailers off sales to clear out remaining holiday merchandise.

These tips are only helpful if you use the

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