Shoppers are seen outside a shop on the first day of Black Friday in New York on November 27, 2015.
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By Martha C. White
November 2, 2016

If you’re not one of those people not motivated enough to set your alarm for midnight or stand on line outside a store to snag a Black Friday deal, don’t worry — there’s always next year.

As it turns out, many of those exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime sales aren’t quite as rare as retailers would like you to believe.

The website BradsDeals.com, which tracks holiday discounts and other product sales or markdowns at major retailers, compared Black Friday sales circulars from big retailers like Target, Walmart and Best Buy from different years. The findings?

While the limited-quantity doorbusters like $100 TVs and the newest electronics do vary from year to year, most of the items in your average Black Friday circular don’t really change from year to year. “Never is this predictability so obvious as when you actually compare the ads side by side,” BradsDeals said, pointing out that often even the photography and layouts are recycled from year to year.

One retail consultant quoted by the Wall Street Journal said the practice is akin to a band reprising its greatest hits. That article also noted that 80% of products and more than 40% of prices in major chains’ Black Friday circulars were identical from 2014 to 2015, according to price data from Market Track.

If this sounds like stores pulling a fast one on customers who don’t remember how much that cashmere scarf or crock pot was last year, BradsDeals pointed out that there’s actually a big advantage to this repetition. “If we know that certain items and categories will be marked down by the same amount every year, it makes it a lot easier to make up a holiday shopping list,” they pointed out.

You don’t need to wait for Black Friday; just search online for last year’s circulars, and go from there. “Reference previous ads to back your way into a Black Friday budget,” BradsDeals suggested.

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