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It's all in the timing

Find out when savvy shoppers buy certain items

Created date

November 23rd, 2010

The days of going to the small general store to purchase tools, dry goods, and groceries are long gone. Shoppers today have choices, a limitless cornucopia of luxuries and necessities to suit every conceivable lifestyle. The selection of things that we need and just plain like to have is overwhelming: televisions, stereos, computers, cameras, cars, clothing, appliances, school supplies, foodstuffs. And amidst this dizzying variety stands the modern consumer, his or her mind flooded with different brand names and vendors, perhaps the foremost considerations in the shopping process.

Seasonal shopping

But there s another decision, sometimes overlooked, that makes a big difference in how much you pay, and that s when you buy. Every product has a season or period in which its demand, and thus its price, is at its highest. Of course, what goes up also must come down, and as journalist Kevin Purdy learned, this law holds as true in consumerism as it does in physics. For several years, Purdy covered business for The Buffalo News in New York, tracking the newest and hottest products for sale. Now he does quite the opposite as contributing editor with, a consumer and technology news website.

Avoiding big price tags

His feature, The Best Times to Buy Anything, All Year Round, instead seeks to give shoppers a way to avoid the big price tags that come at a premium to those who operate with a Gotta have it now! mentality. To do this, Purdy combed the Internet for financial advice, retail reports, and gadget blogs, then organized his findings and laid them out in a consumer calendar that neatly shows the best times to buy specific items. Some of the products listed in January, for example, include furniture and sporting goods, and in April, luggage, boots, and winter wear. A lot of people normally think of buying something, whether it s outdoor furniture, winter gear, or spring clothes, right when they need it, says Purdy. The problem is that you re going to spend more on a sweater in December and more on a grill in July. The trick is to get a seasonal item when it s out of season. To the savvy shopper, seasonal can mean two things depending on the product sought. First and most obviously, it applies to items in high demand at specific times of the year. Retailers push folders, notebooks, and knapsacks more aggressively during the back-to-school rush than they do two months into the school year. Likewise, more people think about grilling burgers in June and July than in the dead of winter. These seasonal desires affect the ease with which stores are able to move specific merchandise. Second, seasonal can apply to a manufacturer s production schedule, which is especially true for things like cars, televisions, and furniture. Timing plays a huge role in getting a good deal largely because manufacturers are eager to release their newest models and retailers are eager to make room for them on their sales floors, Purdy explains. The best time to buy a car is right as the new model year approaches. Televisions, too, undergo substantial markdowns once a newer model comes out, and furniture stores typically look to switch out their displays in January and July.

In the stockroom

In addition to thinking seasonally, however, Purdy insists that it never hurts to ask a salesperson what s lurking in the store s stockroom. Retailers don t like to appear as though they can t move merchandise, he says. Call a store like Target or Walmart and ask about inventory from old sales and promotions. If they haven t sent their unsold items back to the warehouse, they may open their backrooms and give you access to deals that aren t on display. That s when you, the smart consumer, can swoop in and pay less. To see the full consumer calendar,