Frank G. Zarb School of Business Marketing

2017 Holiday Shopping Tips

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time for marketing guru Dr. Joel R. Evans’ holiday shopping tips for 2017 to help shoppers avoid overspending their budgets. 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.
  • 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
  • Many stores (including online ones) have a 30-day price matching policy after purchases. Some retailers will honor price matches when you scan 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 at full price. Almost everything you want will be on sale between now and the holidays. Virtually every major retailer – in-store and online – will be running 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) feature 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.
  • 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 few pixels or an Amazon Kindle Fire vs and IPad. There are 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 the Christmas to shop. Popular products and brands will be gone before then. It is a trade-off between this point and the next one.
  • Read online customer reviews. Sites like show customer reviews for virtually every product.
  • There are comparison sites that show several firms selling identical items so you can get the best prices. See 10 comparison sites
  • 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.
  • 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 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 leads to a restocking fee for returns. Best Buy stopped this a while back after many customer complaints and competition from online firms such as
  • When shopping online, look at the total price, including shipping.
  • More sites (and stores) are offering free shipping this year with low or no minimum purchase amounts. Amazon Prime always includes free two-day shipping. Some retailers now also offer free return shipping.
  • After the holidays, many retailers run sales to clear out seasonal goods that have not sold. January is a good time to redeem gift cards, because retailers often run sales on remaining holiday merchandise.

These tips are only helpful if you use them!

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