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October Prime Day is officially here, opening to eager shoppers at a sleepy 12:01 a.m. PT. What’s the early verdict on Amazon’s Oct. 10-11 sale, actually called Prime Big Deal Days? It’s right there with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and July Prime Day as one of the best times of the year to shop.
NerdWallet monitored prices on a handful of popular products at Amazon, Target and Walmart during every major sale period of 2023, plus Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving) of 2022.
Bottom line: Depending on what product you’re buying, October’s Prime Big Deal Days is just as good as Prime Day (July 11-12) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28 last year). Three of the 10 items we watched hit bottom dollar last Cyber Monday, three reached their lowest price during the July Prime Day and three dropped to the lowest price today during Prime Big Deal Days.
It’s also not uncommon to see price parity on popular items during sales. For example, Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) regularly go down to $199 (from Apple’s price of $249) at all three retailers during a sale period like Prime Day or even Father’s Day. Amazon dropped the ubiquitous buds to $189 today.
Check the data below for the complete price comparison.
How to approach October sales
Sales seem to be Amazon’s and other sellers’ answer to a challenging retail landscape.
“The consumer is more constrained and the market is competitive, so they have to pull out the stops to get the consumer spending and get the consumer spending with them,” says Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, a market intelligence company.
Enter an early October that feels a lot like late November, with bargains galore.
Good deals on appealing products make sales worth a look
Saunders says it wouldn’t be worth Amazon’s (or other retailer’s) time to offer deals that are duds. “So they do put in a lot of effort to ensure that the deals are really meaningful to the consumer,” he adds.
Everything from electronics and toys to batteries and light bulbs are on markdown, with some better than others.
Good deals on in-fashion and in-season items make it a good time to take a gander if there’s an item you need, have been saving for or want to buy for yourself or someone else.
The hard part is avoiding the ever-threatening impulse buy. Consider what you need (or really want) first, and open the Amazon app with a purchase plan and budget in mind. And keep in mind, good deals tend to come back around if you’re not quite ready to buy.
November deals could be a reason to hold out
Despite the deals in October, there may be merit in waiting for a better price on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, says Lars Perner, assistant professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California. Historically, holiday sale prices tend to be better than Prime Day sales, he adds.
As noted above, three of the 10 products tracked by NerdWallet had better prices on Cyber Monday 2022 than all the major sale holidays so far in 2023. Items included a KitchenAid stand mixer, Nespresso coffee maker and Ninja Foodi oven that air fries. It’s a small sample size, but it could be a reason to watch for deals on kitchen gadgets around Thanksgiving.
By the time late November arrives, retailers may be motivated by the peak of the season to offload as much merchandise as they can. Maybe that motivates you to wait.
Be skeptical, but buy when comfortable
Then again discounts can be difficult to predict.
Contrary to what you’d expect, Target’s prices on three of the items we tracked were considerably lower after Target Circle Week (Oct. 1-7) than they were during the big sale.
And during Amazon’s October Prime Day sale, we found one price changed by $10 in a matter of 30 minutes.
Saunders says to let your budget be your guide. “Really monitor prices and decide at the level of pricing which you’re comfortable buying the product, and then commit to buying it,” he adds.
Otherwise, you might be chasing the right price all year. Check price matching policies, too.
Make the internet your first stop
If you are shopping this week, don’t settle on a purchase until you compare prices elsewhere.
“The competitive market and the fact that retailers know that they've got to put in that extra effort to get the consumer to open their wallets or their purse is a great thing for the consumer,” says Saunders.
That means Target, Walmart and others are ready to compete with Amazon’s October event. Target’s sale is over, but Walmart’s event overlaps with Prime Big Deal Days, and Best Buy is running a 48-hour flash sale on Oct. 10-11.
Internet shopping makes it easy to gather intelligence before spending your hard-earned money. A couple of extra clicks could turn up a deal difference of just a dollar or two, or a lot more during holiday sales.
Last Cyber Monday, for example, Amazon was selling the KitchenAid Classic Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer for $320.99. But a quick check of Target’s site at the same time revealed a discount that put the same model at $100 less.
Grab gifts now, but know your return options
Retailers play these sales up as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season, and that may work for some. Target, for example, advertised $25 off $100 or more spent on toys during its Circle Week sale. Amazon and Walmart have good buys on toys and tons of other things at the moment as well. It’s a situation where it may be worth scoring an early deal on a Christmas gift for the kids to avoid stress later on.
But be mindful of the return windows if you have any hesitancy about the gift you’re buying now, says Saunders.
Maybe your kid moves on from Ninja Turtles to Transformers or pivots from Peppa to Bluey in a matter of a month or two. Can you return the Leo and Mikey action figures?
Amazon and most of its sellers will take returns within 30 days of delivery. Walmart offers extended holiday returns, allowing most in-store and online purchases between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2023, to be returned until Jan. 31, 2024. Target has an extended return period that applies only to electronics and entertainment products purchased now through Dec. 26.
But if the stars don’t align now, or if your budget doesn’t allow for early holiday shopping, the next big sales are closer than you think. There’s Black Friday and the whole Cyber weekend next month.
“Consumers have to make judgment calls about when is the best time to buy. But also the deals in October are pretty good,” says Saunders.
How we tracked prices
For 2023, NerdWallet tracked online prices on 10 products at three of the biggest nationwide retailers — Amazon, Target and Walmart — focusing on major sales (to include Black Friday and Cyber Monday of 2022). We selected a range of items, including electronics, home goods, baby gear and toys that tend to be popular with shoppers year after year.
Some products have upgrades or a new model introduced in a given year. In these cases, we continued to track the original item and not the newest generation.
Pricing can vary based on color. When possible, the most basic and/or universal color (black or white) was selected. If this color or model wasn’t available, we tracked another color and noted it in the chart legend.
In-store and online prices sometimes vary. We used online prices to reflect changing shopping patterns and get the most up-to-date prices available.