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Study shows shoppers won't buy without 70 percent discount: realistic?

A new study indicates that nearly half of all shoppers wait to buy until retailers slash prices by 70 percent. But shoppers who wait for steep savings may be missing out on prize items discounted less.

By Lindsay SakraidaGuest blogger / January 8, 2014

In this Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, photo, shoppers ride escalators between floors at Macy's, in Chicago. When shopping, should you hold out for the maximum discount? Maybe, but you could be missing out on key items.

Andrew Nelles/AP/File


TIME Magazine recently rounded up the biggest consumer trends from the 2013 holiday season, and one in particular caught our bargain-hunting eye; the publication claims that this year, more than ever, "the idea of paying full price for anything seemed absurd." While we've always believed it possible to avoid paying full price with some careful shopping and swapping, apparently the always-on-sale mindset has now spread to the general populace.

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The article quoted Alison Jatlow Levy, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon, as saying: "The deal is not so special anymore. The deal has become the norm. And if the deal is the norm ... it actually just trains the consumer to never buy at full price." Consumers are better informed about what discounts they can expect, and they aren't as quick to jump on those interim discounts as they have been in the past. In fact, TIME noted that "nearly half of all shoppers said they were waiting until the arrival of 70% off sales before they'd buy."

Retailers Discount Frequently, But Beware of Missing Out

Through our daily deal slinging, we've noticed that many retailers do indeed cater to consumers who expect constant sales. For example, every week there seems to be a new coupon or extra discount from stores like theGapRalph Lauren, and Ann Taylor LOFT. It's so consistent that fans of those stores likely now expect such discounts, and are probably less willing to make a purchase without said promotions. Even our own writers have a hard time paying full-price for anything, when we're so aware of how frequent promotions are across the board.

That said, it's important to realize that despite the TIME survey citing 70% off as the "magic number," it's not as simple as just waiting until everything hits that percent-off discount. For many products, the discount depends on a seasonal cycle. For example, an article of spring clothing may see mild discounts of 15% to 20% off early in the season, about 40% off half-way through, and up to 70% off or more at the end of the season. If you're only shopping for general spring items, then you can wait accordingly for the discounts you want.

However, if you have your eye on something very specific from that spring line of clothing, it might not make it through the entire cycle. Outside of it disappearing due to chance, some retailers have been better about keeping the reins tight on inventory so that most items sell out before making it to the clearance racks. Madewell is one such store, and passing on a full-price item in the hopes of a sale down the line can mean not owning the article of clothing at all.

Aside from a few exceptions, most of us can safely wait for early-season coupons for use with a specific item, and frequently mid-season sales are also safe bets. But that ideal 70% off discount isn't a guarantee, and assuming that it will come around on the precise item you want can lead to retail heartache.

Readers, what do you think about this deal theory? Do you always wait for a specific percent-off discount for your purchases, or do you make individual decisions on what price you're willing to pay? Have you ever missed out on something you desperately wanted just because you waited for a sale? Sound off in the comments section below.

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