It goes without saying that everyone loves a bargain. But often, unless a great score is made during a holiday sale event, many people attribute the best deals to extensive research or insider information.
The truth is, retail revolves around sales cycles, which could make your purchases from now on more strategic than serendipitous. A sales cycle involves the different stages of (and philosophy behind) when an item is at its peak price, to when it’s most deeply discounted.
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“There are a couple of rules of thumb when you’re buying things,” says Kerry K. Taylor, creator of Squawkfox.com, a money and finance blog. “Either wait for post-season to buy the item or buy it when it’s at peak demand.”
The reason for buying post-season is pretty obvious: retailers discount items in the hopes of getting rid of them to make room for new merchandise. But buying when an item is in hot demand is more of a counterintuitive strategy.
“It goes against logic, but certain items are priced to sell when they’re at peak demand, like tools around Father’s Day,” Taylor says. “The retailers just want to get you in the store in the hopes that you might buy something else, so they lure you in with sales.”
She points out that the benefit of buying during peak season is that there will be a lot more inventory to choose from. And it’s a kind of logic that tends to spill into many months: gardening tools tend to be discounted 30 to 40 per cent around Mother’s Day, for example, and many toys are discounted in early December in time for Christmas.
If you’re in the market for electronics, it has its own calendar to watch.
“There’s always a lot of hype around Apple releases; they usually launch new products in September,” she says. “Although their products rarely go on sale, that’s when retailers will try to sweeten the deal by offering gift cards or bundles with a purchase. Students can score great education bundles like added software or a free case for their laptop in August and September.”
She also points out that the International Consumer Electronics show takes place in Las Vegas in January, which is when all the major brands release their new gear. As a result, you can expect prices on previous generation items to drop in February. And if you’re in the market for a new television (and can’t wait until Black Friday rolls around) now’s the time to get it as sales kick in just before the Super Bowl.
Taylor does have one warning for those who are dedicated to online shopping: the retailers could be plying you with dynamic pricing.
They could also use your postal code to see where you live and change the price based on the socioeconomic profile of your neighbourhood. She advises shopping in one browser but switching to an incognito browser to buy, or disabling cookies altogether.
Here, Taylor breaks down the best time to buy stuff every month.
Clothing — especially winter clothes and coats
Linens — white sales are a tradition in January
Fitness equipment — these are placed on sale in time for New Year’s resolutions
Humidifiers — it’s the height of winter and most people invested in a humidifier before the season began
Boxed chocolate — leftovers from Valentine’s Day
Travel — especially cruises
Appliances — especially refrigerators, since this is when new models are released
Flatware and dishes
Gym memberships — since people are more apt to workout outside in the summer, gyms are eager to lure people back inside
Home decor and furniture
Kid’s clothing — in preparation for back-to-school shopping
Big appliances — new models are being released, so now is the time to snatch up an older one for less; it could also be a good chance to score a deal on an air conditioner
Clothing and school supplies — retailers are looking to blow out their back-to-school merchandise, and as an added bonus, now everyone knows what’s cool for school and you can stock up
Winter clothing — it’s not at its cheapest, but it will get pricier in November
Halloween costumes, candy and decorations
Electronics — it’s best to wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals
Christmas decorations, trees, cards and wrapping paper — these all dip in price on Dec. 24