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NerdWallet Study: 90% of 2012 Black Friday Ads Contain Exact Same Items and Prices as 2011’s

Nov. 14, 2012
Black Friday
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While doorbusters and other deeply discounted items steal the headlines, consumers should actually expect to pay the same or even a little more for Black Friday items this year.

In a NerdWallet analysis of 22 Black Friday ad scans, 20 listed at least one product at the same exact price in 2012 as in the retailer’s 2011 Black Friday ad. Here is the list of such items:

Black Friday Retailer Black Friday Item Repeated for Same Price in 2012 as in 2011? Which Item? Price in Both 2011 and 2012
Stein Mart No N/A N/A
Dell No N/A N/A
AC Moore Yes 4-Loop Red Velvet Bow 2 for $1
Ace Hardware Yes Stanley Sawhorse 2/Pk. $9.99
Costco Yes Aria Ladies 2-Piece Sueded Microfleece PJ Set, Item No. 576077 $13.99
Dick’s Sporting Goods Yes The North Face Womens Osito Fleece Jacket $99.00
Fred’s Super Dollar Yes 3.5ft. Pre-Lit Porch Christmas Tree $15.00
Harbor Freight Yes US General 11 Drawer Roller Cabinet Lot No. 67421 $149.99
Ikea Yes Ikea 365+ 7 piece cookware set $19.99
Michael’s Yes Artist’s Loft 108-pc. Art Set $19.99
Modell’s Sporting Goods Yes Nike Men’s Dart 9 Running Shoes $39.99
Navy Exchange Yes The North Face Womens Resolve Jacket $54.99
OfficeMax Yes Brother HL-2240 Laser Printer Item No. 2238-1879 $49.99
Olympia Sports Yes Bearpaw 10-in. Emma Ladies Casual Boots, #854250, #854251 $52.49
Pep Boys Yes Pennzoil Motor Oil (5-qts or 5.1-qts. Container) & Purolator Classic Filter $8.00
Petsmart Yes Grreat Choice Plastic Carrier or 36″ Wire Crate $34.99
RadioShack Yes Toshiba Canvio 500GB USB 3.0 Portable HDD Catalog #: 25-3244 $49.99
Rite Aid Yes 100-Count Mini Christmas Light Sets (w/ $1 +Up Rewards) $2.97
Sam’s Club Yes Wolfgang Puck Stainless Steel Salt & Pepper Mill Set $9.98
Sports Authority Yes ProForm 18.0 RE Elliptical $799
Staples Yes Brother MFC-7860DW Laser Multi-Function Wireless Printer $199.99
Walgreens Yes Cottonelle Bathroom Tissue 12-Large Rolls $3.99

The study also revealed some Black Friday deals will have consumers paying more. Modell’s Sporting Goods will be selling the Timberland Men’s Padded Collar Classic Boots for $79.99 this Black Friday. This is $10 more that the $69.99 price Modell’s sold the Timberland Men’s Padded Collar Classic Boots for on Black Friday 2011. The 2012 Timberland boots deal can be found on the first page of the Modell’s ad.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well, will be selling the Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Plus for $119.99 on this year’s Black Friday. The retailer sold the Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Plus for $114.99 on the Black Friday of last year.

Other NerdWallet Black Friday Study Findings:

The median item price at Walmart, Target and Best Buy increased from 2011 to 2012.

Consumers should prepare to spend more on Black Friday at three of the most popular Black Friday merchants.

Black Friday Retailer 2011 Median Black Friday Item Price 2012 Median Black Friday Item Price
Walmart $12.73 $15.00
Target $12.99 $14.99
Best Buy $29.99 $35.00

One possible qualitative explanation for this rise in median prices is the strengthening position of retail. Merchant confidence is soaring due to the most optimistic predictions on holiday buying since the recession. This means that merchants have less incentive to drive sales at the expense of profit margins. Less desperation to get merchandise off the shelves means higher prices for consumers.

Methodology: In order to accurately compare across 2011 and 2012, we only selected ads for which the ad scans for both years were readily available. We chose to analyze medium sized ad scans (defined as ad scans between 3 and 16 pages long) to eliminate the bias inherent in small sample sizes and overly large data sets.

Note that this study tracked which retailers had at least one repeat item. Many retailers have multiple repeat items in their 2012 Black Friday ads; however, only one repeat item is listed  in the above table for brevity’s sake.

We also limited our conclusions to comparable pricing. For example, a Dell 20″ Flat Panel LED Backlit Monitor (IN2030M) selling for $78.99 this year is not comparable to the same monitor selling for 50% off in 2011 if the final 2011 price after the 50% off is not known. 


Best Buy Black Friday image from Shutterstock.