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Yes, you really are seeing the same Black Friday deals every year

Black Friday has an entire mythology built up around it. "These prices are too good to miss. You'll never see a price that low again." Until next year, that is.  

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    Sears store associates in Schaumburg, Ill. help Shop Your Way members and customers shop on Black Friday in 2014.
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When it comes to Black Friday, we often get a sense of deja vu. Maybe you've experienced it too. You're excitedly flipping through the lasted Black Friday ad leak, only to realize that it all looks suspiciously familiar. 

Is it actually last year's ad? You check the cover for the dates. Nope, it's current. But wasn't that exact same cookware set on sale for the exact same price last year?

In short, yes, it probably was. In fact, once you put the ads side by side, it's undeniably clear, even laughably so, that the exact same deals are served up by the same stores every year.

Black Friday has an entire mythology built up around it. These prices are too good to miss. You'll never see a price that low again. Get it before it's gone! And yet the clear message that emerged from our research is that the Black Friday deal is rarely your only shot. In fact, those low prices aren't just repeated annually, but in some cases are found several times throughout the year.

The big takeaway is something anyone who's been around the block a few times with Black Friday probably already suspected: Black Friday not your last chance for these deals - not by a long shot. And if you missed a Black Friday deal? Just wait a few months. It'll probably be back sooner than you think.

Let's take a deeper look at some of the repeat offenders we found, shall we?

Target

When we saw this side-by-side comparison, we did a double, er, triple take. Not only has Targetused the same layout three years in a row, the deals didn't even materially change. That KitchenAid stand mixer? $199 every year. Various small kitchen electrics? Despite a different breakfast being served on the griddle, that too is pretty much the same. Even the Pyrex set is the same price, though there was an extra piece in the set in 2014. It even has a pie! Though if you look closely, it's a different pie. Thank goodness for that, right?

We also noted in our research that Target has had a Nikon Coolpix L-series camera on the cover for $99 three years in a row now, though it's always one model newer than the previous year.

Here are a few more examples of the Target repeats we found:

  • Nikon D3200 DSLR 2-Lens Bundle for $499.99 in 2013 and $496.99 in 2014, a price difference of only $3.
  • Casio 61-Key Electric Keyboard for $64.99.
  • Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Set for $24.99 in 2013, $25 in 2014, a price difference of just one penny.
  • Our Generation 18" Dolls for $20.
  • Razor Electric Scooters for $89 in 2013, $90 in 2014.
  • Air Mattresses for $64 in 2013, $65 in 2014.
  • Kids Bikes for $57 in 2013, $59 in 2014.
  • T-Fal 20-pc. Cookware Set for $49.99.
  • KitchenAid Knife Set for $24.99 in 2012, $29.99 in 2013, and back to $24.99 in 2014.

It's also worth noting that Black Friday was definitely not the last chance for many deals here. We found the Beats by Dre Wireless Studio Headphones listed on page 6 of last year's ad for $.05 less at Staples in in July. Similarly, the Nikon D3200 bundle I mentioned above was found at it's Black Friday price at Adorama two days before Christmas - which also helps destroy the myth that you'll pay more if you wait until the last minute for your Christmas shopping.

Walmart

One of the Black Friday deals that immediately leapt to mind when we began researching repeat deals was a Rachael Ray cookware set. Heck, I even have a set of these at home (though mine are green). They've popped up in several retailers' Black Friday sales in 2013 and 2014, thoughWalmart always has them listed for $10 cheaper than anyone else.

When we tracked it down, Walmart at least varied their layout, but the orange enameled cookware is so distinctive that it almost leaps off the page. These Rachael Ray cookware sets are slightly different, but some variation of this same set has been priced at $89 at Walmart two years running. We'll almost certainly see it again in 2015.

Other Walmart repeats we spotted:

  • Small kitchen electrics for $9.44 in 2013, $9.77 in 2014. The prices are $.33 off, which at under $10 can make a difference, but they were close enough that we felt it merited a mention.
  • 20" Hardside Luggage for $25.
  • Pyrex 24-pc. Bake and Store Set for $19.
  • Presto GranPappy Fryer for $15.
  • Rival Hand Stand Mixer for $15.

Overall, Walmart had fewer repeat deals than we expected. If they had more than we found, they were well obfuscated by a changing ad layout that made page-by-page comparisons more of a challenge.

Sears

At first glance, it doesn't look like too much is the same at Sears. But when you dig into the individual items on the page, it's another story entirely. In fact, at least on this particular page, they come across as one of the worst repeat deal offenders. Just on this one page you find:

  • KitchenAid 5-qt. Stand Mixer for $199.99.
  • Ladies Boots for $19.99.
  • Faux Wool Belted Coats for $16.99.
  • X-treme 7" Tablets for $39.99.

Mostly, we're confused by the randomness of the deals on the page, which bounces from kitchen appliances to tools to ladies footwear to jewelry to fitness equipment. It really lacks focus. But I digress.

A few more repeats from Sears:

  • Kenmore Washer & Dryer Set for $799.98 in 2013, and $799.99 in 2014.
  • Craftsman 11-Drawer Tool Chest for $199.99.
  • Dyson DC40 Origin Upright Vacuum for $299.99.

As with Target, we also noted that the Dyson DC40 was available much cheaper outside of Black Friday. We spotted this model for $203 in March, then for $200 in April, May, and June.

Toys 'R' Us

So far as the darlings of Black Friday go, Toys R Us probably fares the best on the repeat deal test - but only because toy trends change so rapidly that old toys are quickly replaced with newcomers. Even classic toys like Barbie and LEGO are constantly iterating new versions of themselves, making it difficult to make a meaningful year-over-year comparison. (The same happens with electronics, which is why we didn't look at retailers like Best Buy for this project.) However, we did find a few patterns worth noting. Probably the most interesting example was right on the front page of the Toys R Us Black Friday ad, where $37.50 has been the go-to price on the latest Skylanders starter packs for two years in a row.

Other Toys R Us deal repeats we found include:

  • Leapfrog Explorer Software for $15.
  • Fisher-Price Medical Kit for $7.49.
  • Imaginarium 55-pc. Train Set with Table for $39.99.

Beyond that, there isn't much to say about Toys R Us Black Friday deals. They're pretty all right.

Bon-Ton

The same reversible down-alternative comforters, the same boots - the only thing that's really changed on Bon-Ton's front page over the last three years has been the sale's start time. They also add one more boot to the page every year. (Will we see five boots on the cover in 2015? Inquiring minds want to know!) In fact, when we flipped through the Bon-Ton ad, page for page, the last three years were nearly identical.

Some of the most notable repeated deals at Bon-Ton:

  • Reversible Down-Alternative Comforters for $19.97.
  • Luggage for 65% off.
  • Dog Beds for $9.97.
  • Rachael Ray 15-pc. Cookware Set for $99.97
  • Keurig K10 Mini Plus for $89.97.
  • Keurig K45 Elite for $99.97.

As for the Keurigs, this wasn't even a good price for them. The best deal we saw on a K10 this year (and best price ever) was $49.99 directly from Keurig in August, but we also saw it in the $56-$65 range at other stores in July, August and September this year. You should never be paying more than that for a K10, and you really don’t have to wait for Black Friday to make that happen.

Kohl's

Lest you get the idea that we're against the idea of repeat Black Friday deals, I give you one of our favorite deals of all time: KitchenAid Stand Mixers at Kohl's.

Kohl's always lists the 4.5-qt. model at $199.99, same as just about everyone else who puts it in their own Black Friday ads, but Kohl's totally wins on this every year for two reasons:

  1. They always give $15 Kohl’s Cash per $50 spent for the holidays (a nice boost from the usual rate of $10 per $50).
  2. They always have really excellent coupons that stack on top of most discounts and other coupons.

Throw in the excellent mail-in rebate and it works out to ~$145 for the 4.5-qt. model, plus $45 Kohl's Cash, and we're always excited to see it return every year. While we see KitchenAid deals all year long (seriously, if you pay full price for a KitchenAid stand mixer, you're doing it all wrong), the Black Friday deal at Kohl's is legitimately the best deal we see on these all year long. Two years ago, I bought one for my Mom. Last year, I bought one for myself. This year... let's just say I have someone in mind. We're professional deal hunters over here, and we STILL look forward to it.

It's not the only Black Friday repeat at Kohl's, of course:

  • Fiesta 5-pc. Place Setting for $24.99 in 2012, then $23.99 in 2013 and 2014.
  • The Big One Bath Towels for $2.99.
  • Apt 9 Towels for $5.99.
  • Dress and Casual Boots for $24.99.
  • Women's Tek Gear Quilted Jackets for $29.99.
  • Kids' Character Slippers for $6.99.

Once again, we noticed that at least one deal was actually cheaper after Black Friday. The 5-pc. Fiesta Set mentioned above was available for $16 in August at Bon-Ton, and $20 at Kohl's in September.

So what exactly are we trying to prove here?

As consumers, the realization that you can buy a discounted Keurig or Dyson vacuum or KitchenAid Stand Mixer nearly every month of the year is liberating. It's hard not to see Black Friday for what it is: a lot of hype about deals that often return again and again throughout the year. It doesn't mean that Black Friday deals are bad, only that they're not always so special as retail propaganda would have you believe. Once you know that, the urgency is gone, leaving you in a better position to make a more clear-headed buying decision.

And naturally, if a Black Friday deal really is that special, we'll be sure to let you know.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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