Don’t Buy Into It

Pace’s marketing gurus Larry Chiagouris and Paul Kurnit get down to business when it comes to holiday shopping, consumer trends, and the best time to shop.

“Savvy shoppers understand that full-price spending is for suckers,” says Paul Kurnit, Lubin clinical professor of marketing, “or at least for the very rich.”

As the gift-giving season continues to gain momentum after Black Friday, shoppers are looking for the best bang for their buck. Marketing and consumer behavior experts like Kurnit and Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris, PhD, are here to offer their sound advice and observations about this year’s shopping trends.

“Black Friday had a very, very healthy growth this year over last, to the tune of about 24 percent. Part of the reason for this is because last year, for the first time, stores opened late on Thanksgiving Day. This year, even more stores opened after dinner,” explains Kurnit. “First comes the feeding, then the feeding frenzy.”

Professor Paul Kurnit

With more and more retailers offering across the board discounts of 30 percent off all inventory, shoppers are beginning to take notice of the overall mark-up on items at the store level. A 30 percent discount barely makes a dent in stores’ overall profits.

“Things are going virtual and smaller scale,” says Chiagouris. “Things that are less than 10 dollars are going to be very appealing to consumers. Making that purchase won’t make them feel put-out.”

Chiagouris, who is also an expert on interactive marketing and technology, adds that Facebook’s Gift App, a recent attempt at mobile monetization, may prove to be a great revenue generator for the company. The app allows users to buy physical gifts virtually and now post-Sandy, make charitable donations in lieu of more traditional gifts. Another trend Chiagouris is quick to point out is the use of database marketing and management.

“Harry and David Gourmet Gifts, as well as Omaha Steaks, are beginning to prompt consumers to repeat a purchase they’ve made in the past,” he says. “If you sent steaks to someone last year, then this year you’ll probably receive a personalized message asking if you’d like to send steaks to that person again this year.”

Kurnit believes that it’s these sorts of online marketing tactics that are creating the best in-store deals. “What retailers understand more than ever before is that aside from the state of the economy and sluggish consumer spending, the biggest competition they have is from online—hence, Cyber Monday.”

Professor Larry Chiagouris

Retailers are combating the online sales boom with special in-store promotions, better deals, and longer store hours. A recent development of in-store shopping is the week-long coupon book, which offers different promotions and deals during a specific week. It ensures loyal customers come inside the store, not just once, but many times during the week.

So now that we’ve identified some of the ways retailers are vying for your hard earned cash, when is the best time to actually spend it?

“There’s a bit of mythos surrounding Black Friday,” says Kurnit, “but it’s actually not the best day for deals.”

“Don’t wait until the holiday season to start shopping,” Chiagouris urges. “For the people who really matter, you should be shopping all year long, not putting yourself under stress to get that perfect gift.”

“My advice would be to not wait until the last minute,” Kurnit says. “Stores are going to have less variety and fewer options and you may not be able to get what you want.”

But, if you’re the type that waits until the last minute, fear not:

“There are going to be some fantastic bargains on December 23 and 24,” says Chiagouris, “Trust me.”