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From Boston Globe: Black Friday Shopping Bargains May Not Be Bargains at All

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From Boston Globe: Black Friday Shopping Bargains May Not Be Bargains at All

Old 12-28-07, 11:12 AM
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From Boston Globe: Black Friday Shopping Bargains May Not Be Bargains at All

Thought this article from the Boston Globe--Home of the World Champion Red Sox--was interesting. It won't deter me from going out next year, but it may make some other people think twice, and people who like to complain that there are no real bargains on Black Friday will feel vindicated.

(Mods feel free to move if you don't think this belongs in the Store Forum)


For shopping early birds...
Black Friday bargains may not be after all, a Globe survey finds
By Jenn Abelson and Rebecca A. Fitzgerald, Globe Correspondent | December 28, 2007

Merchants long have tried to lure shoppers into rising at ungodly hours to snare blockbuster bargains on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. But are the deals actually better?

Turns out that often they are not.

Of 52 items the Globe tracked over the five-week holiday shopping season, only five items were cheapest on Black Friday. The vast majority of the products either stayed the same price or fluctuated above and below the Black Friday price from week to week. Seven items were actually cheaper the day before Christmas than on Black Friday.

"If you wait it out, you'll often do better," said Joseph Feldman of the New York retail consultancy Telsey Advisory Group.

The Globe tracked prices of items ranging from digital cameras to laptops by checking advertising circulars from stores such as Best Buy, Sears, and Circuit City each Sunday, starting the weekend before Black Friday. To be included in the survey, an item had to appear in the circulars for three of the five weekends before Christmas. Five of the items were cheapest on Black Friday, including a JVC 30GB hard drive camcorder at Best Buy that rose $70 by Dec. 2 to $399, before climbing another $100 the following Sunday. The last time the item was advertised was on Dec. 16 at $399.

The prices for 20 items stayed the same, including a Sony PlayStation 3 from Circuit City that held at $399. On 20 items, the price changed from week to week - meaning some weeks buyers paid more than the Black Friday price and some weeks they paid less.

And late sleepers and the last-minute procrastinators could beat the Black Friday prices on seven items. For example, Circuit City featured a $119.99 AIPTEK camcorder that includes an MP3 player, voice recorder, and webcam on Black Friday. By Dec. 16, it had dropped to $89.99 - a 25 percent savings. And Best Buy offered a Nikon Coolpix navy blue digital camera for $199.99 on Black Friday. It jumped to $229.99 and then $279.99 in the following weeks, only to fall back to $199.99 by Dec. 16. It wasn't advertised on Dec. 23, the Sunday before Christmas.

That is counter to what customers have been told for decades. Each year, merchants spend millions in advertising and promotions, open stores early, and offer so-called doorbusters to attract early shoppers on Black Friday - the day when merchants traditionally have turned a profit for the year. And in recent years, merchants have upped the ante - opening doors earlier than ever and offering things such as gift cards and prizes along with the Black Friday deals: This year, JC Penney, Mervyns, and Kohl's all opened at 4 a.m., and some merchants even welcomed customers on Thanksgiving, with CompUSA serving pumpkin pie to holiday shoppers angling for electronics deals.

Many shoppers hungry for bargains have bought into the retailer-generated frenzy, braving the sometimes long lines, cold temperatures, and crowded parking lots on Black Friday to take advantage of discounted prices on everything from DVD players and flat-screen televisions to Barbie dolls and cookware. ShopperTrak, a Chicago research firm, estimates that $10.3 billion was spent at stores on Black Friday, up 8.3 percent from 2006, driven by an increase in foot traffic that day of 6.5 percent.

The strong sales on Black Friday this year were not enough to dramatically boost the entire holiday shopping season, though: The International Council of Shopping Centers said its index of retail chain-store sales rose just 2.8 percent last week, putting merchants on track for a more modest sales gain than the trade group originally expected. Still, for some people, Black Friday shopping has become a ritual, a way to get deep discounts on gifts and maybe even snag bargains on items they want for themselves. Although Janatte Rymer concedes that shopping on Black Friday means tolerating large crowds and "bumping into" shoppers, the 46-year-old Dorchester resident said the deals are worth it.

There are some unbeatable deals on Black Friday. Darrell Rigby, head of retail practice for the consulting firm Bain & Co., said merchants do offer an unusual breadth and depth of discounts on Black Friday and frequently have the merchandise freshly stocked. Brian Lucas, a Best Buy spokesman, said Black Friday deals are "traffic drivers" intended to jump start the holiday shopping season. "Our goal is to always have exciting sales," he said. "The sales depend on the products and the week."

Jennifer Sills, a Circuit City spokeswoman, said, "We encourage our shoppers to compare the sales advertised on TV and in circulars to see what is a better deal for them."

Stephen Persson, a training officer for the Cambridge Fire Department who was accompanying his son on a last-minute shopping trip at the CambridgeSide Galleria the day before Christmas, said he never seeks out Black Friday bargains. "It's just too hectic, and most of the deals are still available after that day," he said. Besides, Persson added, "A lot of time you get in the store and there are 100 people looking for the same thing but there's only 10 of them, or the store doesn't even have the item."

Sacha Pfeiffer contributed to this report. Jenn Abelson can be reached at [email protected].
Old 12-28-07, 12:27 PM
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Old 12-28-07, 05:09 PM
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Well, there's always price protection.
Old 12-28-07, 05:19 PM
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I think this may be true for electronics, but not for the things I shop for. I got a pair of $30 earrings at Bergners that had been marked down to something like $17, then the Black Friday 40% off all jewelry sale & the $10 coupon off anything $10 or more got me those earrings for 85 after tax. I get the $2.99 DVDs. I get long sleeved tops for the winter that, in the style I like, usually are about $15 & I get them for $7 or $8. I scored some free makeup. Oh, and the James Bond Collections at Circuit City, we all know about those. So, to me it's completely worth it. Oh, and the ring I got at JC Penney for something like $4 after all the sales & discounts & coupons, but that ring was $30 normally priced. I'll still go Black Friday shopping every year. I love it. Oh, and another pair of earrings normally $17 I got for a little over $1 !

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