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Black Friday Shopping vs. December Shopping: Comparing the Sales

Dec. 3, 2014
Holiday Tips & News, Shopping
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Black Friday 2014 has come and gone. If you missed out on the shopping bonanza or simply have more items to purchase, don’t worry, because major sales are coming up this month.

As Christmas approaches and retailers rush to meet their end-of-year goals, you’ll see a range of price drops throughout December, with great deals on everything from dolls to blenders and electric drills. In many respects, you may actually be better off shopping during December than on Black Friday.

Here’s a look at how the sales stack up.

Late November or December? The Story Behind the Sales

Known as one of the biggest shopping events of the year, Black Friday is characterized by extreme store hours and major markdowns attracting masses of shoppers.

Traditionally following Thanksgiving, the shopping holiday has inched earlier in recent years, with many sales kicking off as soon as Thursday morning and lasting through the following weekend. Since Black Friday sales begin at the end of November, they mark the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season, which continues through December.

Right on the heels of Black Friday come December savings. If you’re looking to save this month, you won’t have to cram all your shopping into one or two days. Although sales abound on specific dates, like Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas, falling this year on Dec. 20), you’re more likely to find bargains spread over the whole month.

Depending on the type of product you’re searching for, the best discounts might fall in early December, the middle of the month, the last days before Christmas or even after Dec. 25.

You’ll also see ups and downs in the store traffic. Besides Super Saturday, the most popular days for shoppers this year will also include the first Saturday in the month (Dec. 6), the second Saturday before Christmas and last Saturday before Hanukkah (Dec. 13), the last Friday before Christmas (Dec. 19), the last Monday before Christmas and first day off for many (Dec. 22), the last day before Christmas Eve (Dec. 23) and Christmas Eve itself (Dec. 24).

Timing Your Purchase: What to Buy When

While both Black Friday and December sales feature some of the best deals of the year, most discounts are restricted to specific types of products. If you’re looking to save, shop strategically: Know when you’ll find the deepest discounts on particular items and hit the stores accordingly.

Best of Black Friday

Black Friday sales are best known for their deals in the electronics department. You’ll find the deepest discounts on budget laptops, ultraportable computers and other electronics. Tablets and TVs also feature major markdowns, and you can grab bargains on appliances big and small.

Typically, December and January are the best months for deals on name-brand HDTVs, but this trend has been slowing down in recent years, with an increasing number of deals on brand-name items during Black Friday sales.

Black Friday also offers great prices on kitchenware, and it’s an especially good time to pick up specialized kitchen appliances such as coffeemakers and fondue fountains.

Deals in December

To determine whether Black Friday deals are really worth the hype, the consumer-price research firm Decide tracked the daily prices of popular products at 50 retailers for at least two years. The research, done at the request of the Wall Street Journal and published in 2012, found that shoppers were better off buying a number of items in December compared with during Black Friday sales.

A KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer bought in mid-December, for example, cost 20% less than it had in November, according to the study data. Small appliances aren’t the only products for the kitchen you’ll find marked down in December. This month is also the perfect time to pick up new cutlery sets, cookware and bakeware.

Toys rank high among the best deals you’ll find when you’re shopping in December. Although Black Friday sales also feature markdowns on toys, those discounts don’t compare with the price drops you’ll see in December as Christmas approaches.

For the best bargains, go toy shopping in mid-December, but don’t wait too long. Not only will you find a far slimmer selection if you tarry, you might actually see price hikes on the most popular toys, especially from online retailers carrying a limited supply.

Tools are another area for savings, and you can expect to see discounts from 20% to 40% off. And whether it’s athletic shoes or yoga pants you’re after, you’ll also find major December deals on fitness apparel and equipment, before new year’s resolutions roll around in January.

After a flood of electronics sales in November, you won’t find the best deals of the season on televisions, speakers, cameras or computers this month. There is one exception when it comes to computers, however: You may find major markdowns on high-end laptops, such as those equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor and at least 4GB of RAM.

Although you might have seen some deals on gift cards during Black Friday sales, prices drop much lower in December, when you’ll see the best deals of the season, especially on iTunes gift cards.

And, finally, if you can wait until after Christmas, you’ll find the best deals on decorations, lights and Christmas trees. It’s a great time to stock up if you celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6 or 7 per the Armenian and Eastern Orthodox calendars, or just want to plan ahead for next year.

Sizing Up the Savings

Despite some overlap in bargains, the two shopping periods each offer a broad selection of discounted items. Although December sales don’t come with the same kind of hype and extreme hours that Black Friday is known for, for many products you’ll be better off heading to the stores in December. And even better, you’ll have more days to do your shopping. With some luck, you can grab the best deals of year.

Written by Melinda Szell




Shoppers at mall image via Shutterstock