Don't buy the pre-December toy hype. To get better prices, watch and wait.
You haven’t even carved the Halloween pumpkin yet and the marketing machine for holiday toys is up and running. Wal-Mart and Toys R Us both released their hot toy lists about a month ago.
Have you seen the prices on some of these recommended toys? The LeapPad Ultra from LeapFrog starts at $149, Zoomer the interactive dog is $79, Furby Boom sells for $59 and Big Hugs Elmo is $49.
Retailers do this every year to get us to shop early.
“They try to create a sense of urgency that these toys are hot and may not be available later on — so grab them now,” said Mark LoCastro, public relations manager at DealNews.com.
Don’t buy into the hype.
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The editors at DealNews just ran the numbers for the last year and found that it pays to wait. The best prices were not on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but during the first two weeks in December. (Of course, because Hanukkah starts on Thanksgiving this year some shoppers won’t be able to wait that long.)
DealNews analyzed the price histories of the items on the 2012 Toys R Us “Fabulous 15 List” and found that nearly all of them that were discounted on Black Friday were reduced again in the first two weeks of December.
For example, the price for the LEGO Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle set and the Lalaloopsy Silly Hair doll each dropped another 27 percent, while the Furby doll was discounted an additional 26 percent.
The watch-and-wait method also worked for other toys that were not on the “hot” list. Prices on some of them were slashed by as much as 37 percent in December.
“The bottom line: If you bypass Black Friday and shop the two weeks before Christmas, you will save the most amount of money on toys,” LoCastro told me.
Keep in mind: this technique does not work for every toy. Last year, Toys R Us boosted the price of its LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer in November and again in December. And if there’s a runaway “must-have” toy (think Tickle Me Elmo from years ago), then all bets are off.
That thought is echoed by Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumerworld.org, who spends a lot of time tracking holiday prices and policies. Dworsky told me he finds a lot of great deals on Black Friday.
“It’s almost impossible to snag the absolute lowest price because prices are not totally predicable,” he said. “If you shop a store that has a good price-matching guarantee or you use a credit card that has a price-guarantee feature, you’re protected if the price drops after Black Friday.”
Savvy shoppers who want to save money stay aware of prices during the entire holiday shopping season – even after they’ve purchased an item. You can set up price alerts to help you do this at sites such as: DealNews, Price Spider, Price Grabber, Deal Alerter, Price!pinx, Price Drop Alert, Digital Folio, Online Price Alert and WishPot.
“Keep watching the ads,” Dworsky advised. “If you bought something and you see that the price went down, just go back to the store and ask for a partial refund. Most stores will do this if you go back within a certain number of days and have a receipt.”
Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.
First published October 15 2013, 6:44 AM