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Bargain hunting raised to an art form

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 12/15/2010, 5 p.m.

The dictionary defines a bargain as an advantageous purchase; especially one acquired at less than the usual cost; it also says a deal is a bargain or arrangement for mutual advantage.

With the nation experiencing continued record unemployment, and the Black community, as usual, struggling with a jobless rate two to three times the country's jobless rate, finding bargains and deals this holiday season is a requirement rather than a luxury.

But sometimes it is difficult to determine what is or is not a bargain. That is particularly the case when consumers are being bombarded with ads for Black Friday this and Cyber Monday that.
In fact, according to Nancy D. Sidhu, Ph.D., chief economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., retailers are finding that Black Friday is no longer pulling in the kind of sales that were sought, so they've extended the discounting season both ways.

This aggressive marketing and promotion even prompted the National Retail Federation to revise its holiday sales projection for 2010 upward from a 2.3 percent increase over last year to 3.4 percent.

This year, even before Thanksgiving, there were numerous sales to entice people to purchase at brick-and-mortar retailers and online shops.

And the bargains also depended on what items people were seeking.

". . . on Black Friday, there was a big push on consumer electronics," explained Sidhu. "Anybody selling anything (like that) was doing well."

And those retailers that are targeting the working-class consumers, like JC Penney, Kohl's, Kmart and Walmart did not limit their push to get people into their stores to advertising Black Friday bargains, the economist said. They continue to push for sales with tantalizing bargains even now.
In contrast to the big-box retailers, Sidhu said smaller shops in malls or along shopping venues seem to be attracting middle to higher income shoppers and the more educated shoppers. She said they appear to be less impacted by the ravages of unemployment and are inclined to spend more generously.
So, how do you find bargains?
Inglewood resident Julie N. says she has no secret strategy for finding bargains, but instead shops at independent, low-price boutiques that prominently let customers know they have bargains.
And the stores she chooses have a wide range of items that fit her budget and sense of fashion.

"I don't like going places I have to dig," she added.

Vera S. said she does not believe in paying a lot for clothes unless it's really a special item, so the Los Angeles sales rep, knows the specific stores that have good prices. Then, when she walks in the door, Vera makes a beeline for the sale racks.

Compton fashionista KiKi S. has discovered a gold mine of bargains in thrift stores, places she never thought to find herself. Shopping these retailers requires a good eye, patience and the ability to look over the items you don't want to successfully find the prize you do want.

Pre-shopping preparation is the decades old strategy Brenda J. uses to find retail bargains.
"I go to certain malls and shops, and I'll ask the salesclerk how long an item has been there and when it will go on sale. If the clerk doesn't know, I'll talk to the buyer," explains Brenda.