Holiday bargain shoppers can expect to find more deals than ever this year — but they better be quick about it, according to a USC professor who tracks consumer behavior.
“Because competition has grown tremendously, merchants try to run down their inventories before Christmas,” said Lars Perner, assistant professor of clinical marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business. “Consumers have so much more choice today that retailers are usually better off trying to discount before the holidays, rather than run the risk that people will already have bought what they wanted and will be running low on money after the holidays.”
While merchants haven’t abandoned post-holiday blowout sales, being stuck with inventory in this new era of commerce is risky business, Perner said. Consequently, “the sales seem to get pushed back earlier and earlier.”
Many retailers got a kick start on Black Friday by opening on Thanksgiving night, luring customers with coupons and the promise of door-buster deals on televisions, electronics and other popular items. At the same time, online retailers have offered free shipping on their own sale-priced wares.
For many retailers, offering too-good-to-be-true sales is also a chance to sell nonsale merchandise, Perner said. There’s another equally compelling reason: “If a shopper hasn’t been in your store before, you try to draw them in with a sale and, if they like the store, they can potentially become a long-term customer.”
Bargain hunting has little to do with a shopper’s income level, said Perner, adding that the adrenaline rush that accompanies finding a good deal can’t be understated.
“Research shows that if you get a bargain that other people were not able to get, you feel as if you have a special skill,” he said. “It’s much like any other type of competition. Some people get involved in sports, other people get involved in bargain hunting as a way to one-up people.”
That presents its own pitfalls. An economics phenomenon known as transaction utility suggests shoppers get as much or more satisfaction finding a deal as they do acquiring the actual product, Perner said.
“In many cases, we go shopping and the things we buy end up in closets,” he said. “The deals are just too good to pass up.”