Shop Now or Later?

I plan on giving my wife an MP3 player as a gift in February. I had originally thought to wait until after the Christmas holiday for demand to subside, figuring that I would get a lower price then. My sister, OTOH, seems to think that the sales are on now and that after Christmas prices will rise.

Which of us is correct?

Zev Steinhardt


Seriously, there’s no good way to tell ahead of time. Both theories are good ones and work with different products in different years depending heavily on what sales were like, whether and when new models are being introduced, and whether the price of the product is trending up or down.

The same advice is good for the stock market, too. :smiley:

It’s still supply and demand tho.

I’m pretty sure I read that there is a shortage iPods, and I suppose there would be an echo of a shortage of knock offs as well. It’s a sellers market for them now, but after the holidays, things should go back to normal. Yeah, a google search turned up this.

I suppose I would wait until AFTER the holidays for all those little punks to put their MP3 players/whatnot on E-Bay “New in Box” so they can buy what they really want for whatever they can get. It should be a buyers market if you are patient, and you have 2 months.

I can’t guarantee anything other than I’ll be looking for one for myself after Christmas, but since it’s for me I’ll buy a returned item for additional ~20% with the warranty. I gotta be me :smiley:

Thanks for the info. Actually, I wasn’t looking at an Ipod (I think they’re a bit overpriced and I have a native distrust for anything from Apple [yeah, it may be irrational]). I was going to go with one of the Creative Labs Nomad models.

Zev Steinhardt

Check the various stores’ return policies. In the past you could buy an item before the holidays and keep the receipt. After the holidays (when prices come down to clear stocks and induce buyers to return to the stores), one would return the pre-holiday purchase, obtain a refund and buy the item all over again at a reduced price.

However, many stores now put in place special pre-holiday return policies limiting the time you can return a holiday gift item so as not to get screwed. They also delay selling the same items at discounted prices until after the pre-holiday return date has passed.

Check into your credit card price guarantees as well. Again in the past, if you purchased an item and found a lower price for that same item within 60-90 days, the credit card company would refund you the difference. Now, many of those price guarantees only apply to published special prices, but still within the 60-90 day grace period. A smart store will not advertise in print lower prices for hot items, but will sometimes still sell a hot item at a discounted price after the holidays. The catch is because the hot item was not advertised in print the credit card price guarantee does not apply. So if you buy a hot item before the holidays, then find it at a lower price after the holidays, chances are the pre-holiday return window already expired (no refund), but because the discount price is not advertised in print, your credit card price guarantee also does no apply (no price difference payout).

(Some retailers may even hedge their bets with limited return windows, even though the state’s consumer protection laws does not allow for limited return windows. Those retailers are betting the majority of their customers do not know the law so they will not complain, and of those that do know the law and complain, the actual number will be insignificant that retailers will refund the price difference just to placate the customer and shut them up from telling eveyone else.)

This year, holiday shopping may be down compared to last year. All that means is retailers may discount prices before the holidays to clear stocks. Waiting until later may mean there is nothing on the shelf. Ironically, while retailers are claiming sales are very slow this year and may be down, overall holiday gift sales continue upward, according to a recent CNN news story I watched. What retailers appear to be complaining about is retail sales are not matching their internal sales projections, as opposed to actual sales. So while ZZZ Stores may claim they will only sell 100,000 units, they are basing their dismay on internal projections of 115,000 units sold and will not tell you that they sold 85,000 units the previous year. They will still sell more than the previous year, but not as much as they projected for this year. Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Buy it now. Suck it in. Make her happy.


In the first couple of months of any year, large stores will hold inventory reduction sales that can net you a good deal. This is done for tax purposes. So you may be able to score a good price either before or after Christmas.

The “boxing day” sales period between Christmas and New Years is another time for sales, because many retailers have their Fiscal Year (or sales quarter) ending December 31st; sales made before January go into their financial statements for the year/quarter, and better sales make for better statements. But once you get into January, it could be a whole new ballgame. A new fiscal period is just starting, and there’s less pressure to inflate the sales figures, so fewer bargains on the retail front.

Of course, there is also the “out of stock” problem that comes with the pre-Christmas rush. The post-Christmas sales period often pushes the items that did not do well in regular sales - the “leftovers”. If you have a specific brand/model in mind, and if that is a popular item for Christmas giving, you might be better off to buy now rather than risk disappointment later.

Something my wife and I engaged in for quite a few years:

We exchanged gifts with family and friends at Christmas, and got each other one small gift for Christmas proper. Then we hit the post-Christmas sales, and bought each other our major gifts, which we exchanged at Epiphany (Old Christmas, January 6).

It had the effects of saving money on the post-Christmas sales, avoiding the “post-Christmas depression,” and having a special custom that was our own.

I think that you will get great deals just after Xmas. I would wait. But that is just my opinion.