How to predict when it’ll go on sale

by Caleb Reading

The Dec. ’04 issue of Smart Money magazine has an Anne Kadet article called “The Price is Right”. I’m paraphrasing and summarizing some of it here, but I’ve left alot out and I recommend the article to any who want to know more.

The article is about the new pricing software (“yield management” programs), that time sales, set prices, and even raise prices when it’s least likely to be noticed. This software says when demand is most likely to peak or wane on a particular item or style of clothing and sets prices according to algorithms. It also incorporates weather data to predict demand of certain items. It can even change the price of an item according to it’s location (ever wonder why the shirt cost less at the Target on one side of town than the same shirt at the other Target? It’s not a fluke anymore.) The software can even lower prices of very noticible items to give the impression that everything is cheap, while raising the price on other items to more than make up for it. For example, chips could be on sale, but salsa will be marked up more than enough to make up for it.

So what’s a person to do now that many retailers have started using this software to squeeze as much money as possible out of us?

The article gave some tips:

Rebates — Few customers actually mail rebates in, so manufacturers will give very good deals with rebates, knowing that they’ll only have to honor a small number of them. Take advantage of this when you can.

Timing — Stores usually review their sales on Monday, then drop prices on certain items on Wednesday. The best selection of sale items are often available on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Gift Card Discounts — Retailers know that 12% of gift cards are never redeemed, so they will often sell them for a discount. If they sell $100 in cards for $90 or $95, they are still likely to make money on unredeemed cards. Take advantage of this in stores you regularly shop at.

Double check — Retailers will often advertise something, then place it next to higher priced items that look similar. Check to make sure you’ve got the right thing. Pay attention when checking out to make sure the right price is ringing up.

Turn to the business pages in the newspaper — If it is being reported that sales are soft or inventory is high, the sales are going to be good after Thanksgiving and get even better in December. If sales are in line with inventory, don’t bet on the item you want dropping in price; it probably won’t.

Use the internet — Compare prices and search for coupon codes online. I do almost all of my christmas shopping online because it’s less stressful and you can get some great deals shopping around and using online coupons.