Before you had a chance to put away Halloween decor, retailers were already promoting deep discounts on holiday goods to woo shoppers before Black Friday. Optimistic predictions about the holiday shopping have made stores eager to capture consumer dollars. As the National Retail Federation estimates the holiday season accounts for up to 40 percent of annual store sales, it’s no wonder retailers are pulling out all the stops to get us to spend our money now and maximize profits.
Learn how to save more this holiday season, whether you shop now or wait until after Thanksgiving, by reviewing this six new retail trends.
Black Friday Starts Now
Black Friday Creep isn’t new, but the degree to which it’s creeping is at an all-time high: Both Amazon and Walmart kicked off Black Friday-like deals this past weekend. Amazon’s “lightning deals” are two weeks earlier than usual, and Walmart’s 24-hour online deals are about a month earlier than last year. To take advantage of these deals, monitor these websites as often as you can, or set up price alerts on products you want usingPoachIt.
Stores Stay Open on Thanksgiving
For those waiting until the big shopping weekend, retailers have started announcing their Black Friday — er, Thanksgiving — opening times. Macy’s made headlines when it announced a 6 p.m. Thanksgiving opening, with Kohl’s, Sears and Best Buy following its lead. Kmart will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, and stay open for 42 hours straight. Meanwhile, Costco, TJMaxx and Nordstrom made their own headlines by refusing to open on Thanksgiving, offering customers a more traditional Black Friday experience.
Price-Matching Gets Fierce
Many retailers are taking their price-matching policies a step further this season with aggressive price adjustments offerings. In addition to giving price adjustments on their own sales, they’re offering adjustments when a competitor’s price drops, too. This means you may qualify for a price adjustment or store credit if you notice a recent item you purchased goes on sale or becomes available for less at another store. This is why it is important to compare prices, track price drops and ask store associates about their policies on meeting competitors’ pricing.
Free Holiday Shipping – Is It Really Free?
Target’s recent offer of free shipping on all orders through Dec. 20 is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to delivery options from stores. In most cases, shoppers must meet a minimum order threshold to get the perk. To avoid delivery fees, consider ship-to-store options from stores like Sears and Walmart, or check sites like FreeShipping.orgfor available coupon codes. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for Free Shipping Day on Dec. 18, as this year’s event offers free shipping with no minimum order requirement and delivery by Christmas Eve from hundreds of online stores.
Free Online & No-Money Down Layaway
While layaway programs arent exactly new, many stores are waiving start-up fees to encourage participation. Walmart, Kmart, Sears and Toys ‘R Us are all offering free layaway this holiday season. Kmart is offering a No Money-Down Layaway for in-store and online purchases with no minimum order required, and provides Shop Your Members with extra five percent off of toys, sportings goods and more. Review program details to ensure you can pay everything off before the deadline or you may incur a cancellation fee.
Extended Return Policies
TJMaxx announced an extended return policy for the 2014 holiday shopping season, with stores accepting returns through Jan. 23, 2015, for items purchased between Oct. 19 and Dec. 24, 2014. Extended return policies are common for retailers to give gift recipients time to consider exchanges and returns, it’s always wise to check for deadlines, exchange options, potential return shipping and restocking fees before making a purchase. For frequent online shoppers, a new service from Return Saver offers a $49 subscription-based return shipping service with FedEx to alleviate those return shipping costs.
Guest post by Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized shopping expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.