Should You Wait Until the Last-Minute for the Best Holiday Deals?

If you missed Black Friday and have hardly made a dent in your gift list, don’t panic, you still have time to get big holiday deals. In fact, many marketing experts say you might have helped your wallet by waiting until the last minute.

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“As a consumer, you don’t have to be completely glazed over by all of the proposed euphoria of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can still wait it out,” says Mark Reino, CEO of Florida-based Merit Mile marketing and PR firm. “Smart retailers are extending discounts - including free shipping - right up until a couple of days before the holidays. Patience a lot of times often does pay off from a consumer standpoint.”

From a retailer perspective, “you don’t want to put all of your promotional eggs exclusively in Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” he adds. “Black Friday is really the starting gun…of a holiday promotional race. Often times in races of any kind, it’s more about how you finish and how you start.”

In fact, Thanksgiving weekend accounts for less than 10%of holiday sales - sales during November and December - while retail sales during the weekend just before Christmas represent about 30% of holiday sales, according to a holiday retail sales forecast by Anthony  Liuzzo, business professor and director of the MBA program at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania.

“The week between Christmas and New Year's now brings in about 10% of holiday sales,” Liuzzo writes. “The Saturday before Christmas is usually the busiest shopping day of the year, replacing the day after Thanksgiving.”

As for online sales, Mondays remain the biggest day of the week for sales and they increase as Christmas approaches. And the tactic of launching holiday sales early might not be beneficial for retailer’s bottom lines.

“They seem to be going after market share rather than financial benefit,” says Janet Wagner, associate professor of marketing and director of the Robert H. Smith’s Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland. Since retailers use sales as one of their most important metrics, “they’re just going to keep starting their sales earlier and earlier. That’s just going to drive traffic, people seem to really like it.”

Although Wagner agreed retailers will do a last-minute sales push just before Christmas to get inventory off their shelves, “I think it’s going to be less significant than the push before Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday.”

Ever thought of doing your holiday shopping in, say, the spring? Don’t totally discount it, experts say.

“Retailers, particularly the online retailers, have algorithms now so the price of the product will vary seven to eight times over the course of a day, let alone one month to another or one season to another,” says Wagner. “So you probably will get a better deal at some other time of the year.”

For example, it’s a well-known secret that the best time to buy furniture is in January and July, when stores make room for new product. For linens, January and the end of each season are the best time to take advantage of “white sales,” while October and November are best times for toys. January and February are key markdown months for last year’s digital camera models, and TVs can also be bought at steep discounts right after New Year’s Day and in May and June. Diamonds for the lady? Wait until summer.