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Holiday Deals Still Abound

The past week's holiday buying rush was a mad one, but it's far from the last time to find deals.
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The past week's holiday buying rush was a mad one, but it's far from the last time to find deals.

Ten percent more people took advantage of this year's Black Friday than last year's, according to a survey of 6,500 people by research firm The NPD Group. In all, about a third of Americans did their holiday shopping between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and about half of tech buyers hit stores then, the survey found.

That's a lot, but it's far from all shoppers. And retailers don't want to miss opportunities to sell to shoppers who are left, or those coming back for more, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. "When retailers have that kind of success rate, they are clearly not going to walk away from that," said Cohen.

Shawn DuBravac, the chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association, said in an email that tech shoppers can expect deals "every day between now and Christmas."

Because Black Friday is traditionally the first day of the year that many retailers get "in the black" — that is, start turning a profit — the push for deals is greatest right after Turkey Day. Stores typically entice shoppers with "doorbusters" — products, such as a specific TV model, advertised at a very appealing price.

Not to be left out, online sellers declared their own holiday, Cyber Monday, a few years ago. And the arms race between virtual and physical stores has meant more and more discount opportunities. For some online retailers, Cyber Monday has morphed into Cyber Week., for example, will be offering Cyber Week deals through Saturday, Dec. 1, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. (The deals extend into Sunday for East Coasters.)

In addition, Best Buy is offering at least a dozen specials through Saturday, including discounts on individual products or bundles featuring iPads, Kindles, laptops, smartphones and televisions. (For example, $85 off a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.) Best Buy will offer the same prices online and in the store, spokesman Shandra Tollefson told TechNewsDaily in an email.

But don't assume that online and in-store prices will always match up. Walmart, for example, makes no guarantee. Spokeswoman Molly Philhours said in an email that, "In most cases, has the same prices as Walmart stores." However, both individual stores and the website can adjust prices on their own, she said.

Walmart is offering its own Cyber Week discounts. And it does plan on having more specials for the season. Philhours wrote that, "[W]e’ll have great deals on tablets, ultrabooks, big screen TVs, video games and consoles, and a variety of other electronics throughout the holidays."

Jeff Haydock, another Best Buy spokesman, said via email that, "We have a lot of things happening between now and Dec. 25 in terms of promotions and offers."

None of that is surprising to NPD's Cohen. The flip side of the big surge in shopping over the past week is that consumers are now tapped out, at least until the next paychecks come in about two weeks. "That two-week low makes retailers very nervous," said Cohen. "Stores are already putting their cards out on the table and telling us, if you read between the lines, that they are going to use doorbusters, incentives and other deals to entice the consumer to buy." [See also: How the Experts Dodge Online Shopping Scams ]

The biggest discounts will be on clothing and jewelry, said Cohen, because those items have the highest markup. Next comes sporting goods and footwear.

The smallest markdowns, about 25 to 30 percent, will be for electronics and toys, since beyond that point, retailers are probably taking a loss. So if a $100 gadget drops to $70, it's probably time to snag one.

Some items will sell out, of course. And sellers will mark down other items to move. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that future discounts will be only on "second-tier" products instead of name brands, said Cohen. "They are going to keep trying to get the bigger brands because they know that drives the consumer in," he said of retailers. The compromise may not be going from name brand to generic, but merely from one big name to another: If the doorbuster Sony Smart TV is sold out, a similar Smart TV from Samsung may be available, also at a discount. [See also: What are Smart TVs? ]

Online shoppers with the nerve to wait might hold on until about Dec. 17, said DuBravac. That’s around the last date that people can order products to arrive, with free shipping, in time for Christmas. Sellers will be anxious to move products then.