Boxing day sales; hold your money.

Boxing day is an annual holiday in nations like Canada.  For those unfamiliar with the holiday it’s the day after Christmas set aside to box away all the presents you received and clean up from the day before.  It is most known, here at least, as the best time to get great deals on the items you didn’t get for Christmas.  Very much like black Friday for our American friends.  Oh, on that note, thanks for that day.  Now we get two big sales days in Canada!  This isn’t a soapbox sermon about the commercialized nature of this holiday.  I know deep down we all recognize that.  What it is about, however, is consumer advice.

Boxing day is not the best time to buy.  Particularly the big ticket items you think are great deals.

I’ll let that sink in a bit.  The thought is counter-intuitive I know.  For the purposes of this article I’m going to be concentrating on electronics.  I follow the consumer electronics market locally very closely (guilty – gadget geek) combined with years of experience consulting and buying for people some trends have been noted.  The biggest thing that’s stood out of late is that boxing day, and by extension boxing week, aren’t as cheap as they seem.

The whole is the sum of its parts

Door crashers, however, are a different beast entirely.  Many stores offer door crashers to reward consumers willing to brave the elements and line up earlier than the staff are required to show up to start the day.  These rare items are often great deals and certainly worth the hype.  Worth 5 hour waits in below freezing temperatures?  Well, what’s your time worth?  The big downside with many of the items on door crashers is they are often items I wouldn’t ever recommend friends or strangers to buy.  These are either cheap alternative to mainstream brands or discontinued cheaply made items at the bottom end of a mainstream brand’s line.  Printers are common items on the door crasher piles.  Avoid these at all costs if you can.  An extra $50 on a printer will save you hours of frustration and ink in the long run.  With items like TVs retailers will often up sell the main features of the product to distract you from the fact that you’re buying technology that’s a few years old.  You might find a 55 inch plasma TV for less than $700 but you’ll probably miss the fact that it’s only 720p with one HDMI input.  They hide these specs in the small print and make the “55 inch High Definition Plasma” as big as the space allows.  Other examples are LCD TVs (LED TVs have been out for a couple years now) and LCD/LED TVs at 60Hz refresh and without internet connectivity.  These are all features readily available in any mainstream line of TV that you won’t see for more than $100-200 off their sticker price.

Essentially the TVs you want to buy will not be a great deal and the ones you want to avoid will be slashed.  There may be a reason for that.

When to really buy

Boxing day shoppers miss the prime time, from the electronics perspective, only by a narrow margin.  If you ask any IT or electronics sales rep when the cheapest times to buy they’ll always say the beginning of the year.  I’ll go as far as to specify mid January to the beginning of February.  There are a few simple reasons for this.  Firstly stores have a lot of last year’s inventory left over.  They stockpiled popular items they hoped would sell during the holiday season and now their warehouses have to be purged for the new stuff.  TVs are particularly prone to this.  The technology that goes into a TV display is evolving nearly every six months.  Model lines are refreshed as prices drop and technology changes.  If retailers have any big ticket items they had reduced (not slashed) for boxing day and didn’t get the volumes they hoped you can expect to see the prices drop again later.  Door crashers that don’t sell well are also subject to this but even more so.

The second reason is people aren’t buying.  In the traditional economics rule of supply and demand the beginning of the year is in the buyer’s favour.  As I mentioned above there is often plenty of supply but no demand.  Consumers have been bled dry up to this point.  Our cards are maxed and the budgets have been exceeded.  Any ounce of spare spending money people had after Christmas was burned up during boxing week.  As credit card bills begin to come in and people start getting sticker shock the stores find themselves without business.  This is when the smart person does shopping.

If you are planning on making an electronics purchase during boxing week and you’ve got the money saved or budget space, wait.  Hold onto the money and ignore the screaming beck and call of the “sale…Sale…SALE” flyers you get.  The better prices are coming, they just don’t want you to know that.  Post holiday shopping puts the buying power squarely in your hands.  Take time to research and compare prices, features and products.  Pick the one that meets your needs and some wants as well.  Make sure you get something middle of the line; bottom end products don’t have much lifetime even from mainstream brands.  Walk in with cash and negotiate a little; never settle for ticket price.  Many electronics vendors operate on commission so they’ll be pretty hard up for a sale at this time; use that to your advantage!

But I really, REALLY need to buy something boxing week

If you can’t wait or resist, go online.  Major retailers all have online only boxing week specials.  These are often better value than in store, you don’t have to wait stupid times in line and come (often) with free shipping.

Happy hunting!

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