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October is the new Black Friday.
At least that's the impression some retailers give. Target and Amazon head into the month hot with big discount events this week and next, respectively.
Shoppers may find the early sales a worthy way to save money on gifts now. But don’t panic if you’re not feeling the holiday spirit just yet.
A September study on holiday shopping by global intelligence company Morning Consult notes that "retailers' current aggressive price promotions may indicate an 'always-on' discount strategy through year-end."
That should spell relief for those hoping to skip dawn patrol and avoid shopping cart stampedes the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25 this year).
Companies are competing for your dollars
"While many people say they're trying to spend less this year, their actual spending forecasts are extremely similar to 2021," said Claire Tassin, retail and e-commerce analyst at Morning Consult, in an email. "We'll see people making more trade-offs to accommodate inflated prices."
The frenzy of early holiday sales shows retailers are competing for "a piece of that pie," says Trae Bodge, smart-shopping expert at TrueTrae.com.
"Consumers only have so much to spend, and so retailers are hoping to incentivize them to shop early and spend [at their stores] versus their competition," Bodge says.
Target's Deal Days runs Oct. 6-8, while Amazon’s Prime Early Access Sale — unofficially dubbed Prime Day 2 — happens a week later, on Oct. 11 and 12.
Both retailers tout big savings on tons of products, including home goods, electronics, clothing and toys. Amazon is almost guaranteed to discount its popular Alexa devices and will feature a new Top 100 list with a curated selection of the best deals (if you're worried about how to make sense of it all). Amazon's sale is exclusive to Prime members. The Target sale is open to all.
Be the version of yourself that plans ahead
While these early sales are a good opportunity to get a head start on holiday shopping, Bodge warns against feeling a false sense of urgency.
"Try to stay on task," she says. Going into gift season with a list of recipients, ideas about what to buy and a firm holiday budget is the kind of shopping discipline that helps keep people out of debt.
Planning will set you up to shop more intentionally and avoid the sucker punch of an unnecessary impulse buy.
Do your research to get the best price
Speaking of impulsiveness, there's really no reason to get duped on a bad deal in the age of mobile screen domination. Do your due diligence and compare the price of a product elsewhere before checking out in-store or online.
Bodge says installing a browser extension that searches the web for promo codes is an easy way to save "even more on top of retail sales." She likes CouponCabin. Honey, Rakuten and the Camelizer are a few other popular extensions to try.
Purchase with peace of mind
A longer discount season also means less pressure on you. You can grab a deal or hold out, with less consequence using retailer price matching policies.
"What’s nice is that a lot of the retailers will be offering extended price protection," Bodge says. "If you were to purchase something now, and then you see it for a lower price later, you could ask for a refund for the difference," she says.
Target's Holiday Price Match Guarantee, for example, runs longer this year, from Oct. 6 to Dec. 24.
Errant purchases will be forgiven too. Many reputable retailers are known to extend return windows for gifts bought now into early January.
Be mindful of what you really need
Wondering why the subject of supply chains hasn’t come up yet? In a bit of a twist, some stores may actually have too much stock this year.
A case in point is casual apparel, Bodge says. Retailers doubled down on hoodies and joggers over the pandemic, but with many people now returning to the office (in regular pants, mind you), stores will be looking to offload an excess of sweatsuits, she says. Furniture may be in high supply, too.
"Consumers should be mindful of what they really need to buy, and hold off buying unnecessary things because they happen to be deeply discounted right now," Bodge says.
Spreading some cheer
It's been a tough year for a lot of people, but stores are clearly competing hard for your business, and they’re not wasting time (it's the first week of October).
Even if you miss the early sales at Target and Amazon, there will be more to follow.
"Retailers are going to be competing with each other to create that excitement throughout the holiday shopping season," Bodge says.
It's Black Friday all season long.