For many shoppers, the holiday season means waiting in long lines just to buy the perfect gift for Uncle Ted, Aunt Sally or their second cousin twice removed. And while waiting until the final hour to find the perfect present can be a rush, it can also cost more.
However, retail experts suggest that consumers who wait until the last minute to make purchases may be missing out on substantial savings and holiday deals that stores use to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.
In a recent article for the website Smart Money, retail consultant Jeff Green explains that discounts on electronics and home appliances will begin to shrink or disappear altogether during the last two weeks of December.
Rising prices during this period mark a departure from previous years, during which time retailers would try to sell of their excess inventory. Now, though, stores are less stocked and thus don't need to offer mega-watt savings to ensure products fly off the shelves.
Yet, for many stores, disappearing discounts are also symptomatic of an increasing willingness on consumers' parts to spend. Jason Baker, co-founder and principal at retail brokerage firm Baker Katz, told the website that if consumers become wary of spending again, retailers would probably move to slash prices.
One sector in which shoppers are likely to see higher prices as a result of growing demand and lower inventory is electronics and appliances. "I don't expect inventory to grow at all - we're not looking at a surplus of anything across the board," Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association, told Smart Money.
Yet retailers aren't leaving consumers completely out in the cold - many are offering money-saving price guarantees. This means that if a shopper buys a product at one store but sees it at another retailer for a lower price, he or she could receive store credit or cash back.
One tool many shoppers will use to help them in finding such deals will be their mobile device. A survey from Shoppers Science recently reported that 42 percent of shoppers plan to spend more time doing online research about products this holiday season.