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.
Once she knows those pertinent details, the fashion show coordinator returns, when the item is on sale. What Brenda is looking for when she bargain-shops, is price, style and fabric.
Consumers are not the only ones concerned with bargains. Retailers also have to craft bargains they believe will entice shoppers, and that is exactly what Oran Kemp II has done with his sports gear store Urban Legends Stadium.
Originally located in South Los Angeles on Broadway near 84th Street, Kemp said his cousin decided to turn over the business to someone “with youth and who was more in touch with the shoe game.”
Then the business was relocated to the new Gateway Center in Compton.
“Here we are able to get more of a customer base; more foot traffic,” Kemp explained.
But that is only part of his customer-attracting strategy. The merchandise Urban Legend Stadium carries is another draw.
“We have all the Jordan brands. One of the hottest sellers is the retro shoe. My philosophy with the Jordan Retro is that people are willing to pay more for the shoe; they just want to make sure they get it because he only put out a certain amount. That causes a frenzy for not only stores like Foot Locker but also small stores.”
To facilitate his customer’s needs, Kemp said he established a lay-a-way program for the store that includes pre-sales of the Jordan sneaker, which is expected out Dec. 23.
“We let people reserve the shoe and put down half, then pay the remainder, when the shoe comes in,” explained Kemp.
Thirty-day, no-interest lay-a-way is not limited to the new Jordan product, and Kemp said the addition of that option has surprised and pleased his customers and caused some of his competitors, even the larger retailers, to follow suit.
Like some of his bigger competitors, Kemp has even incorporated the BOGO concept-buy one, get one for half price. And while he acknowledged that such a move does cut into his profit a bit, he also noted that it moves product. That, added the indy retailer, is the name of the business game.
Shop the big department stores advises Odessa Bowden, owner of the Crenshaw Boulevard boutique Nobody Jones.
“They can afford to put on the best sales. And the largest selection,” explained Bowden, adding that going to the big retailers allows you to shop in one place to find the multiple gifts you might need.
While she knows that her advice will send customers to her competitors, Bowden, says that small boutiques like hers are the places to buy for people you know really well, like a best friend or sister.
“. . . I have affordable items like $10-15 earrings that are great pieces, unique pieces that you’re not going to see anywhere else,” Bowden said.
Nobody Jones also specializes in timeless classic pieces that can be worn in almost every season. That is what shoppers should concentrate on, points out Bowden. Also consider shopping off season. For example, buy for fall now, because all the boots are on sale.
Bowden, also suggested taking cash to small boutiques and asking about a cash discount.
Finally, there are the old standbys like the 99 Cents Only store, which offer small items such as candle holders and books that can be bundled into creative gifts.
Bowden notes that Target also features bins of $1 items such as books and toys perfect for gift-giving.
In fact, if you look around at your favorite retail store, a great many of them are beginning to stock low-priced items that can be creatively packaged into gifts for family, friends and even business associates.
Whatever your bargain-hunting strategies, the key to successfully finding what you want is creativity.