What to expect, early sales and tips to find the best deals :: WRAL.com

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The Holiday 2021 sales have already kicked off but this year, it’s especially important that you plan ahead to avoid the well-known shipping delays and stock issues impacting shoppers. Read on for tips to make your holiday shopping a success.

Shipping and Stock Issues for 2021

As we all remember, holiday shopping last year in 2020 had plenty of challenges and many of those same issues are still causing problems a year later. The supply chain issues that have been going once since the pandemic began have not resolved. Not even close.

According to an article from WRAL TechWire, “Manufacturers are wrestling with bottlenecks at factories and key ports like Long Beach California — and all points in between. Furthermore, labor shortages in the U.S. have made it difficult to get stuff unloaded from ships and onto trucks.”

In addition, the United States Postal Service is implementing new service standards which will involve longer first-class mail delivery times for some mail and cuts to post office hours.

Plus, just to make things even more interesting, there is a global shortage of computer chips which could keep consumer electronics prices higher until the middle of 2023, WRAL TechWire wrote.

Individual retailers are getting creative this year. Target, Costco, Walmart and Home Depot have all chartered their own container ships, in an effort to avoid delays, according to Today.com.

For consumers, this means that early shopping and deal hunting are the best ways to ease your stress regarding product availability and help you stay within your holiday shopping budget.

Shopping Trends 2021

The biggest trend for 2021, as you can probably guess, is shopping early. Shoppers are also highly interested in free shipping offers, online shopping, curb-side pick-up and of course, finding the best price.

RetailMeNot.com conducted a consumer survey of more than 1,000 US consumers and found that holiday shoppers are getting an extra-early start this year.

According to the survey:

* 83% of holiday shoppers indicate they’ll get started before Thanksgiving and 30% say they’re starting even earlier than they did last year.

* 52% off respondents indicated that they were shopping online more and 32% responded that they were shopping on mobile more.

* 41% off those taking the survey shared that they feel nervous that gifts getting shipped to them will not arrive before the holidays.

* Consumers will be splitting their holiday shopping about 50/50 between in-store and online shopping.

Retailmenot Shopping Graphic (photo courtesy Retailmenot.com)

* Shoppers feel very strongly about getting free shipping for the holidays.

* Shoppers plan to spend 15% more than they did last year — $885.76 on average, up from $766 in 2020 and $738 in 2019.

* Shoppers are most likely to spend more money with a retailer during the holiday season if they provide free shipping, have the lowest price on a gift they need to purchase and provide the best sales and discounts throughout the season.

* Top shopping items this year include apparel, giftcards, toys and small electronics.

See the full survey at RetailMeNot.com.

Retailmenot Free Shipping Graphic (photo courtesy Retailmenot.com)

8 Tips for Finding the Best Deals in 2021

For some products, simply finding the item is considered a win. Top electronics and gaming systems that are next to impossible to find, in part due to the chip shortage, will not be deeply discounted this year.

The good news is that many retailers have already rolled out highly competitive early holiday sales including Amazon, Target and more and you can find great deals right now on top toys, electronics, clothing, items for the home and more.

Toy Promotion (photo courtesy Amazon)

Here are 8 tips to conquer the challenges of Holiday Shopping 2021:

1. Shop early: Yes, there it is again. But seriously, it’s especially imperative this year that you understand the importance of purchasing sooner than later, if you actually want your gifts to arrive on time.

2. Consider gift cards or vouchers: Many retailers offer online gift cards that are sent to the recipient in a matter of minutes. You’ll have no worries about late gifts or out of stock items. As we get closer to the holidays,look for restaurants and retailers that offer Bonus Cards when you buy a gift card. For example, a restaurant may offer a Bonus Card for $10 if you buy a $50 gift card. The Bonus Card will usually have a specific redemption window, but they are a nice extra if you are already buying gift cards to give as gifts.

* Amazon Gift Cards Offer: Now through December 18, first-time Amazon Gift Card shoppers will receive a $10 promotional credit with the purchase of $50 or more in Amazon Gift Cards, while supplies last, according to a statement from the company.

* Groupon offers discounted vouchers for massages, restaurants, hair blowouts, rock climbing, martial arts classes, fitness classes, car washes, movies, paintball, distillery and brewery tours, car detailing, and more! You can print out the voucher after purchase and the recipient can use it any time before it expires. See the current deals at Groupon.com HERE.

3. Take advantage of holiday price matching: Multiple stores will price match during the holidays and the new Holiday Price Match Guarantee at Target is especially competitive. It started on Oct. 10 and lasts until Dec. 24, 2021.

“If you purchase an item in store or online and the price goes lower at Target on or before December 24, 2021, you can request a price match. Proof of purchase is required for price adjustments,” the Target website indicates. Target will also continue matching select competitors’ pricing within 14 days of purchase.

4. Sign up for discounts: Many retailers will offer a discounts up to 35% off when you sign up for e-mail newsletters, mobile apps and reward programs. You may want to get a free e-mail address just for these deals if you don’t want them flooding your inbox. Sites like Retailmenot.com offer coupon codes for many retailers.

For instance, in previous years during Black Friday week, Kohl’s has offered their best Kohl’s Cash promotion of the year: $15 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spent. Plus, if you were a Kohl’s Rewards member, they have offered high value percent off coupons to stack with the Kohl’s Cash promotions. Sign up now for the rewards programs at your favorite retailers so you get the best coupons to use during the holiday sales.

5. Score free shipping: One of the best ways to save when ordering online is to make sure you do not pay for shipping. Many websites offer free shipping if you spend a minimum amount. Some stores offer free shipping with no min. purchase, like Amazon (if you are a Prime Member) or Target (if you have a Target RedCard).

Some retailers will also offer free shipping if you have an item shipped to their store. You can then pick it up at customer service in the store or request curb-side delivery, which I have used at Kohl’s many times.

6. Use online price comparison sites: Price comparison sites like Honey and Google Shopping allow you to see the price of an item at various stores so you can find the best price at any given time.

7. Use your rewards card: If you are paying with a credit card, use the card that offers you rewards that you can later redeem for travel, gift cards and more. And of course, make sure you pay your balance in full each month so you don’t incur any interest.

8. Be flexible: This year, you may not be able to find every item on your gift list. If you have a back-up plan and can be a little flexible, you’ll be able to snag the better buys when you see them. The less flexible you are regarding specific brands and popular products, the more you may have to pay, if you can find the items at all.

Early Holiday Sales Already Taking Place

Amazon Epic Daily Deals Event

Amazon has rolled out the annual Epic Daily Deals event as of October 4, with new “Black Friday-worthy deals” every day at Amazon.com HERE!

You’ll find deals and deep discounts in every category including fashion, home, beauty, toys, electronics, Amazon Devices, small businesses, independent sellers, artisans and many more.

See all the Epic Daily Deals at Amazon.com HERE!

Holiday Gift Guides

In addition, Amazon released their biggest selection of holiday gift guides, including:

* Stocking Stuffers Gift Guide

* Customers’ Most-Loved Gifts Guide

* Holiday Toy List

* Fashion Gift Guide

* Home Gift Guide

* Electronics Gift Guide

* Beauty Gift Guide

* Sport & Outdoors Gift Guide

* Small Business Gift Guide

* Handmade Gifts Guide

* The new Holiday Prep Shop including decor, fashion, bakeware, tablesettings, treats and more for Fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other seasonal celebrations

See all the Amazon Epic Daily Deals each day at amazon.com/epicdeals, on the Amazon mobile shopping app, or by asking, “Alexa, what are my deals?”

Get free shipping if you are a Prime Member or with a $25 purchase. You can get a 30-day FREE trial of Prime at Amazon.com HERE. Cancel anytime before the trial is over and pay nothing.

Amazon Logo (photo courtesy Amazon)

Target Deal Days Oct. 10-12

The annual Target Deal Days event is back this year on Oct. 10-12 with thousands of sales and an impressive new Holiday Price Match Guarantee!

The deals are now live at Target.com, on the Target app and at Target stores. The event includes thousands of deals “from TVs and video games to kitchen appliances and vacuums, festive outfits for the family and delicious food and drinks for your table,” according to a statement from the company. Target will continue to offer holiday sales through December and you can see them at Target.com HERE.

Target Store Front, Cary, NC

Kohl’s Toy Box

Kohl’s has released their list of Top Toys of 2021 with many toys that are already on sale. Check your wallet on the Kohl’s website to see available coupons and Kohl’s Cash you can use in addition to the sales.

Best Buy

Best Buy has already started offering Flash Sales and has a Deal of the Day every day with one or more deeply discounted products including kitchen, electronics, toys and more. See the deals at Bestbuy.com HERE.

We’ll be posting the top promotions on the WRAL Smart Shopper page at WRAL.com and on the WRAL Smart Shopper Facebook Page throughout the holiday season.