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NEW YORK – Shoppers holding out for great deals – and much-needed relief from rising costs on just about everything – may be disappointed as they head into the busiest shopping season of the year.
While retailers are running sales of 30%, 50% and 70% off everything from televisions to electronics, many items will still cost more than they did last year due to inflation and finding a real bargain can be a challenge.
From September to October, consumers paid about 18% more for furniture and appliances than they did a year ago, according to the latest analysis of large data company DataWeave, which tracks prices on hundreds of thousands of items at about a dozen retailers including Amazon. and Target. For toys, they pay about 2% more.
Things are looking better for shoppers — they paid nearly 5% less compared to last fall, according to DataWeave. Meanwhile, shoe prices are stable.
“It’s just a weird time for everyone to figure out what the real value is, and what the real value is,” said Nikki Baird, vice president of strategy for Aptos, a technology marketing firm. “Consumers are very bad at discount math, and sellers are fully aware of it and doing everything they can to take advantage.”
William Wang, 24, who teaches mathematics at a high school, says that it is more likely to notice the increase in the price of everyday things – like his quesadilla that now costs $ 8 at his local deli – than gifts he will spend money on once a year.
The Brooklyn, New York resident said: “I feel like everything is too expensive. But mainly I keep track of it with small things, like food.
The latest government sales report shows retail sales increased last month despite adjusting for inflation. That underscores some resilience among shoppers heading into the Black Friday weekend, starting this season.
But cracks appear.
Third quarter results from major retailers show that consumers are not willing to pay full price and wait for prices. Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s have all been noted Americans have slowed their spending over the past few weeks.
It’s a big change from last year’s holiday season when shoppers started their holiday shopping as early as October fearing they wouldn’t be able to find what they needed amid pandemic-induced supply chains. They were also flushed with money from the government’s stimulus package. Sellers were struggling to deliver so they didn’t have to compromise too much.
Michael Liersch, head of consulting and planning at Wells Fargo, said that during the holiday shopping season, it is possible that things “will look discounted or feel discounted, or it will look like there are big offers” but between the increase in prices and “decrease in prices” – when manufacturers cut back package size quietly without lowering the price – not always.
This trend was played out in DataWeave’s latest search for diversity. For example, the Cuisinart two-speed blender, listed at $59.99 but discounted 25%, was available for $44.99 at the grocery chain Fred Meyer. But it was still more expensive than last year’s blender, available for $39.99, after a 20% discount from the lowest list price of $49.99.
At Kohl’s, shoppers paid more for Nunn Bush Baker Street men’s dress shoes this past fall than last year when discounts were really big, and list prices were lower. The shoes were available for $79.99 after nearly 16% of the suggested retail price of $95; last year, the shoes were available for $59.99 after a 29% discount from the low list price of $85.
Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Consumers’ Checkbook, a non-profit consumer organization, noted that researchers spent 33 weeks starting February 9 to track sales prices at 25 major retailers. They found the sale prices of many stores – even those that promote great savings – fake discounts, and sellers offer the same “sale price” more than half the time. After all, for many sellers, the “standard price” or “range” price listed is rarely what buyers will pay, Brasler said.
However, under-inflationary buyers like Yoki Hanley are willing to take their chances and hold on to the bargain. So far, she doesn’t feel like she’s getting good deals on her eight grandchildren and plans to delay her shopping until the last week before Christmas.
“Everything escalated so much that my little egg disappeared faster than I expected,” said the St. Louis resident. “I will wait until the last minute. They will find it, but it will come late.”
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