Dec 25

Tips on After-Christmas Shopping

AfterChristmas First off… Merry Christmas! By now you’ve probably opened all your presents. If you didn’t get everything on your wish list (or even if you did) the day after Christmas is optimal shopping time – and not just for holiday merchandise like lights, greeting cards, wrapping paper and decorations. Starting the day after Christmas, you can find great deals on pretty much everything. Traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, sales begin promptly when stores open on December 26th. You’ll typically save 50% the day after Christmas, progressing to 75% the week after, then up to 90% in January. But the longer you wait, the more picked over things will be. Some retailing secrets may prove useful in your search for that great After-Christmas, Year-end, or Clearance bargain. Before you hit the stores, check out these helpful hints on the main sources for the biggest sales of the season:

1. Overstock Items – The deals on these items - usually loss leaders, such as those famous US$30 DVD players, $199 27-inch televisions, and $249 budget home theater packages that are still new and in sealed boxes - depends on how desperate the store is to clear out shelf space. They may not be the best known name-brand models, but can still be of good value. Items like these are usually the first to go in an after-Christmas sale, so if you want to get your hands on an overstock item, it’s best to get to the store early the day after Christmas.

2. Soon-To-Be-Clearance Items – In order to beat the competition in placing new products on store shelves, retailers must clear out current products from their warehouses and stores as quickly as possible. This can mean big savings for consumers. If a retailer makes the mistake of over-estimating the demand for a particular AV receiver from last season, for instance, and has lots of stock left, he will often place notice of a “Price Drop", "Instant Discount", "Instant Rebate", "Special Purchase", "While Supplies Last" and/or "No Rainchecks" on the older model, to make room for the incoming new stock. It’s a win-win; the retailer gets rid of a product that will soon be discontinued and the consumer gets a great price.

3. Gift Returns/Exchanges – Stores want to turn these around as quickly as possible, so often they reduce gift returns/exchanges at a 5% to 15% percent discount, depending on whether the product was returned open or closed. Just be sure to check the contents of the box to make sure there is an owner's manual for the product and all accessories are present; if anything is missing or has been used, negotiate for a lower price; you may also want to ask to see the item plugged in and working before you leave the store.

4. Old Display Models - Most display items stay on display from 90 days to six months, but some can sit out for as long as a year. Stay away from products such as camcorders, digital cameras, and televisions. Not only have they been on display, but they have been on and running for twelve hours a day for months, with camcorders and digital cameras being handled and bounced around by everyone. Other display items, such as AV receivers, DVD players, and VCRs don't get quite the same abuse as they are only turned on when a salesperson actually demos them. Again, there are some things to check on before you buy: What’s the return policy on the item? Is the manufacturer’s warranty still valid? Can you purchase an extended service plan for the unit? Are all the accessories and owner's manual included?

5. Product Service Comebacks - There are several types of product service comebacks: products that were never claimed after they were repaired; displays that were damaged; and service plan exchanges, including products that were previously owned by customers, but required several repairs within a specified time period before finally being exchanged. How can you tell if you are looking at such an item? The product should have a service sticker (a sticker which looks similar to a UPC code, but is placed on the unit itself) or several stacked on top of each other if it has been serviced, and/or re-priced several times.