Smartphones and tablet computers also are poised to be popular gifts this holiday season, with 50 percent of shoppers planning to buy one of those products, according to Bankrate.com, but don’t expect great deals.
When it comes to Apple’s market-leading iPhone and iPad, the company usually offers discounts of about 5 percent to 10 percent. Apple’s competitors, such as Amazon’s Kindle, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows phones and tablets, already are priced at the bottom of the market.
“They are already cheaper, so they can’t make them cheaper,” Ms. Patel said. “They were already marked so low to try to get them out on the market.”
Digital cameras, however, may be a good buy.
“There’s usually not a camera that goes as fast as a $200 50-inch flat screen,” Ms. Grannis said.
Other good buys are DVDs and video games, which stores use to boost profits by drawing in customers and getting them to buy other, more expensive items.
So customers who are on budgets should remember to “skip the odds and ends,” Ms. Patel said. “You’ll see them and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, $5, this is a great deal.’ But do you really need that great deal? Will you use it? Probably not.”
The worst goods
Toys are also in high demand on Black Friday, which makes them “terrible, terrible to buy,” said Ms. Patel, who advises price-conscious shoppers to wait until the two weeks before Christmas but before the last few days.
“That’s when all the deals will come into play when retailers want to sell,” she said. But in the last couple of shopping days “people are then in a scramble and the demand gets super, super high [with] all the people who run around on the 23rd, looking for presents, you’re not going to find that deal.”
Waiting, however, also could mean missing out on the toys you want, particularly with the hottest “must-have” products of each individual year, such as Tickle Me Elmo or the Cabbage-Patch Kids in years past.
“Toys also happen to be one of the items that go the fastest,” Ms. Grannis said. “Getting into December, we’ll continue to see discounts, but the problem is that the discounts on popular products won’t be around anymore. So it is a bit of a game of chicken. If you don’t commit to what you want on Black Friday, and you wait until mid-December, then you may not get what you’re looking for.”
Watches and other jewelry are also bad buys during the Christmas season and Valentine’s Day.
“Stay away from them during those seasons,” Ms. Patel advised, saying consumers should buy those items in spring or summer. “There’s no reason for the stores to discount the costs, [around Christmas] because they know people will buy them no matter what. You can pick up a better deal when people aren’t as interested in buying jewelry.”
She also cautioned that luxury items, in general, have such high price tags that even large-looking discounts don’t really make much of a difference.