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Black Friday deals: Bargain or bust?

McClathcy-Tribune Information Services

November 23, 2015


Attention, holiday shoppers: Before you dart away from the Thanksgiving table or drag yourself out of a turkey coma in the wee hours Friday morning, you may want to pause. Many Black Friday deals are a bust, according to a report.

An analysis of 21 Black Friday advertisements found that 95 percent of retailers plan to repeat some deals from last year, according to financial education website NerdWallet.

And some major retailers, including Sears and Sam’s Club, offered the same, or even lower prices as their Black Friday deals — earlier this month, NerdWallet said.

So if you planned to line up outside Sears on Thursday to get the $398.99 sale price for the Kenmore 4.2-cubic foot gas range with five burners, just know that was last year’s sale price too, NerdWallet said. Sears could not immediately be reached for comment.

Or if you missed out last year on snagging the Razor E175 24-volt electric scooter for $90 at Target, the chain is advertising the same deal this year. "Each year we consider a number of factors in planning for what items to feature on Black Friday," said Lee Henderson, a Target spokesman. "These include consumer trends, new/emerging items, demand based on past years, exclusives, and owned brands."

But NerdWallet counters that the scooter is another year older and the sale price hasn’t decreased. "The fact that the deal has been repeated shows that … it wasn’t exclusive to the Black Friday sale, since it’s back again this year," said Jessica Ayala, a spokeswoman at NerdWallet.

At Macy’s, 60 Black Friday deals are identical to last year’s, according to NerdWallet’s report.

NerdWallet said the deals are indeed "sale" prices. That gas range at Sears carries a regular price of $499, and the scooter usually goes for $129.99, according to the retailers’ websites.

But what a retailer calls a "sale" price might not necessarily be a deal, NerdWallet warned.

Consumers should also be aware that retailers can make the discount seem larger by listing an inflated "original" price that shows the manufacturer’s suggested retail price instead of the price it was selling for before Black Friday, according to the report.

"It’s important for shoppers to ignore the Black Friday percent-off claims, as it’s very likely that the advertised amount of the discounts may be inflated," Kristina Chan, NerdWallet’s shopping manager, said in a statement. "Instead, shoppers should look at the sale price of the item and determine if it’s a price they’re willing to pay."

"Just because a retailer promotes a certain product as a ‘deal,’ consumers shouldn’t take that at face value," she added. "Shoppers still have to do their homework early."

Knowing they might not get the best deal is unlikely to deter the estimated 135.8 million consumers planning to shop online and in stores on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the latest figures from the National Retail Federation. The anticipated turnout is about 1.5 percent higher than last year’s shopping crowd, the trade group said.

Shoppers are also expected to splurge a bit more, according to NerdWallet. On average, consumers plan to spend $529 on holiday gifts this season, up from $440 in 2014, according to NerdWallet.

The NerdWallet survey of 2,052 U.S. adults was conducted by Harris Poll online over four days in October.