On Black Friday, retailers take customization to the next level
To combat online shopping and a slow economy, more retailers are providing more convenient shipping options and providing layaway, price matching, and smart phone apps for shoppers.
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Danny de Gracia, 32, a political scientist in Honolulu, Hawaii, likes to use stores' "buy online, pick up in store" option to avoid the hassle and crowds in stores. He said it allows him to just run in and grab his purchases. Gracia, who said he plans to spend no more than $1,000 this holiday season, last used the service to buy a Sony digital camera for his father at Best Buy.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's easier because when you're in the physical store sometimes you have to stop, ask questions and get assistance," he said. "With stores that offer online shopping you can simply search the site, read up and compare options and then purchase, pick up and leave ... It's an outstanding service that I utilize whenever possible. I wish that it would be available for groceries."
— LAYAWAY PLANS FOR FINANCIALLY-STRAPPED SHOPPERS: Programs that allow customers to pay over a period of weeks have long been used for some holiday shoppers. But typically, shoppers have to pay a fee for these so-called layaways. This year, Wal-Mart lowered the fee it charges customers on its holiday layaway program from $15 to $5. And Sears and discount chain Kmart, both divisions of Sears Holdings Corp., ditched the fee they charge completely. The two stores previously had charged $5 for an 8-week layaway and $10 for 12 weeks.
— PRICE MATCHING FOR SHOPPERS WHO ARE ADDICTED TO DEALS: While small mom-and-pop stores long have offered to match the cheaper prices that customers find online, this year big merchants such as Target and Best Buy have said that they also will do that. The move is an attempt to combat the growth of so-called "showrooming," when customers look at merchandise in stores but buy it cheaper online.
Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said that the online price-matching programs are an attempt by brick-and-mortar stores to keep customers. "The increasing price transparency we're seeing online is something brick-and-mortar stores have to deal with and deal with it directly," she said.
—UPDATED SHOPPING APPS FOR SMARTPHONE-TOTING SHOPPERS: Shopping apps for smartphones and tablets have been around for a few years, but this year retailers are beefing them up. For instance, Macy's is launching a Black Friday portion of its mobile app, which highlights Black Friday specials and other deals not advertised elsewhere. It also will have maps and information about where in each store Black Friday deals can be found.
The shopping apps are an attempt by brick-and-mortar retailers to hook shoppers like Stefanie Scott, 35, in Greenfield, Wis. Scott, who plans to spend $1,000 to $2,000 on gifts this year, starts her holiday shopping ritual by first checking out deals on Facebook.
Then, she brings her smartphone along on shopping trips and uses mobile apps to get discounts once she's in the store. She's also a fan of the "buy online, pick up in store" offers, and recently used one at Best Buy to buy a videogame for her brother-in-law.
"I'm tied to my cellphone," she says. "Coupons and lists get lost in my purse. It's so much easier when I'm shopping to whip out my cellphone and have them scan it. The more I can do on my iPhone I'm all for it."
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