Tips | October 17, 2011

Four tips for shopping in sales

Putting items on special can help retailers trying to shift stock and shoppers wanting to snap up a bargain.

But research shows there can be more to these discounts than it first seems.


1. Do a double take: We see a price tag marked down and immediately think it’s a good offer. But beware. As far back as 1981, academics at Princeton University in the United States were asking why stores have sales. One conclusion was that marking down prices made it look as if an item was cheap – but that shopping around would show whether that was true or if a better deal could be found elsewhere.
 

2. Keep perspective: Our minds can play tricks on us when we weigh up whether a discount is good value. Thinking traps mean we might be more inclined to travel an hour to get €20 off a €50 calculator than to travel an hour to get €20 off a €1,250 laptop. For this reason, it might pay to consider the size of the discount itself rather than comparing it to the cost of the product.
 

3. Go off centre: Research of actual price data finds shops in the centre of cities tend to have fewer sales promotions than those in the outer areas. The theory goes that retailers in the city areas know that people will shop more often because of space constraints of inner city homes, so these stores do not need to encourage shoppers with sales.
 

4. Consider opportunity cost: These studies suggest it’s helpful to compare prices and shop off centre but remember to value your own time when sniffing out a good deal. In economics terms, the “opportunity cost” of comparing prices or travelling to a store to pick up a good deal can be high. After all, it might mean sacrificing time that could otherwise be spent doing activities that are highly valued, such as spending time with friends and family.

eZonomics team
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