7 Keys to Successful Price Matching

Caucasian woman admiring shirt in mirrorThe best way to get a good deal is to shop around, right? But running from store to store can gobble up time and gas. That’s where price matching comes in: Top retailers from Best Buy to Walmart have pledged to match competitors’ prices, so consumers can get the best deals from around town with only one stop. Target recently expanded its policy to include a total of 29 online retailers. Problem is, these guarantees are far from straightforward. Cheapism examined eight retailers’ price-match policies and found scads of rules and exclusions. Here are seven things every bargain shopper should know about price matching.

Only a few stores match online prices. Some retailers match local competitors’ websites, but many policies exclude online pricing. Target is one of only a few stores that have agreed to match prices at select online retailers, even if there is no corresponding store nearby. The price-match guarantees at Best Buy and Walmart also extend to specified online competitors, including Amazon. Shoppers can scan items at these stores with the Amazon app on their phones to find out if they can get a better price without ordering online. One catch with online price matching: It does not extend to marketplace items listed by third-party sellers.

‘Local’ has different definitions. Most policies require the competitor to be a local store, but what qualifies as “local” may be up for debate. Retailers tend to leave it to store managers familiar with the area to decide what lies within the same market or within a “reasonable distance.” Best Buy sets a specific radius of 25 miles, while JCPenney stores in Alaska will match the prices of any similar store in the entire state.

A competitor’s print ad is the best evidence. Each retailer has its own rules about what qualifies as proof that another store is offering a lower price. A print ad with the competitor’s price clearly displayed is the only verification accepted everywhere. A photocopy, picture or mobile version of the ad may not work. Walmart doesn’t officially require any form of proof (an employee can call the other store to verify a claim), but shoppers suggest bringing in an ad to minimize the wait and hassle.

The items must be identical. The item you’re buying and the item offered for less at the other store must be identical in every way — brand, style, color, condition, size, weight and — perhaps trickiest of all — model number. Retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy sell many high-priced appliances and electronics with store-specific model numbers, which rules them out for price matching.

Certain sales and promotions are excluded. Retailers won’t match another store’s going-out-of-business or clearance-sale prices. Limited-time promotions, rebates and offers of free products or gift cards with purchase are also unlikely to be eligible. One exception: Walmart matches buy-one-get-one-free offers as long as the ad lists the price of the item. In general, an ad must specify a price in order for a retailer to match it; a percentage or dollar amount off is not enough.

Many retailers offer price adjustments even after purchase. Shoppers may be able to request a price match for something they’ve already purchased, depending how much time has passed. Some policies include a specific time frame for price adjustment — Target now allows 14 days, for example — but often the decision is left to a store manager. Some stores offer a price adjustment only if they’ve dropped their own price, not if a customer spots a better deal from a competitor.

Policies are subject to employee interpretation. This can cut both ways. At JCPenney, Cheapism found that managers seem to have a lot of authority to match competitors’ prices, so it may not hurt to stretch the limits of the store’s price-matching policy. At Walmart, on the other hand, shoppers complain that employees deviate from corporate policy in denying customer requests. In either case, it helps to know the fine print going in. Cheapism’s comparison of stores that price match highlights important features of each policy and offers some store-specific money-saving tips.

Walmart Tweaks Discount Strategy for Holiday Season

A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Location Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Walmart Stores (WMT) said it would offer fewer “this weekend only” short-term deals during the holiday shopping season while discounting thousands of items for 90 days as it seeks to entice customers by being more consistent on pricing.

The retailer also said it was launching a new mobile application to reduce waiting times for in-store pickup of online orders as part of an effort to expand a service in which it believes it has an advantage over rivals, like Amazon.com (AMZN), which lack a bricks-and-mortar presence.

The moves were announced in a media briefing to outline its strategy for the November to December holiday shopping season, a crucial time for retailers during which they earn an outsized portion of their annual profits and sales.

We will not be beat on pricing this holiday. If we need to react we will.

The decision to offer fewer short-term discounts comes at a time when Walmart is seeking to burnish its reputation for low prices amid relentless competition online from Amazon.com, supermarkets and dollar stores. It said customers were frustrated by “gimmicks” and wanted more consistent pricing.

“We will not be beat on pricing this holiday,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart’s U.S. operations, noting its policy of matching rivals’ prices at its stores. “If we need to react we will.”

Walmart said that it would have more “rollbacks,” or discounts that last for 90 days, than the 20,000 offered last year, although it didn’t give an exact figure. Bratspies said the discounts would be across all categories.

Walmart also said it was introducing a “mobile check-in” function to its mobile phone application that would allow shoppers picking up online orders to easily notify the store when arriving to cut down on waiting times.

Walmart said that it was focusing on in-store pickup as a way to take advantage of its 4,500 stores in the U.S. It has recently expanded curbside pickup for groceries ordered online to 23 markets, with plans to add 20 more early next year.

Week’s Winners and Losers: Streaming Quakes, Urban Bakes

Music Adele

There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with hot shows debuting on leading video streaming services and a once-popular clothing retailer making an unusual acquisition.

Walmart (WMT) — Winner

The turnaround at Walmart continues. The world’s largest retailer posted better-than-expected quarterly results this week. This is the fifth quarter in a row of positive comparable-store sales, and that means that this is the first time in several years that Walmart has padded positive comps from the prior year’s quarter.

There are concerns about how Walmart’s bottom line will play out in the future. The retailer has already said that a spike in wages will eat into next year’s profitability. However, now that sales are growing at the store level, one would think that Walmart is in a strong position to do right by its employees when it bumps its minimum starting wage early next year.

Urban Outfitters (URBN) — Loser

If you can’t make dough one way, you may as well try another. Urban Outfitters stunned the market Monday by announcing that it would be acquiring the Pizzeria Vetri chain. The retailer had experimented in the past with offering food at some of its stores, and apparently it thinks that this could be a novel approach. The market isn’t buying it.

It’s true that gourmet pizza is popular, lacking the lumpy seasonality and fickle fashion of specialty retail. If the ultimate plan winds up being combining trendy apparel and high-end pizza under the same roof, it would certainly be a differentiator. However, the real concern here — and why this move falls into the “loser” camp — is that it will make it harder for the parent company of Anthropologie and its namesake concept to focus on the turnaround that’s necessary.

Streaming Television — Winner

Two major TV shows debuted Thursday — “Jessica Jones” and “The Man in The High Castle” — and neither one is on traditional television. Netflix’s (NFLX) “Jessica Jones” is the latest serialized superhero series from the service’s partnership with Marvel. Amazon.com’s (AMZN) “The Man in The High Castle” is an alternative reality series set in 1962 as if the Nazis and Japanese had won World War II.

Both shows have generated positive buzz, but that’s not much of a surprise. Original programming for both Netflix and Amazon has already won Emmy awards. Streaming television has been validated, and having two big shows premiere on the same day is a milestone worth celebrating.

Streaming Radio — Loser

It may have been a great content-grabbing week for Amazon and Netflix, but the same can’t be said about streaming radio. Adele’s “25” hit record stores Friday, but as The New York Times reported Thursday, the highly anticipated release isn’t being made available for streaming services.

Folks have been flocking to Spotify and Apple (AAPL) Music as a substitute for buying individual tracks, but if too many prolific releases are missing from the catalogs, the services become less compelling. The first Adele single from the record is called “Hello,” but it’s feeling more like goodbye for the streaming radio providers.

Square (SQ) — Winner

It seemed as if it was going to be an embarrassing IPO for Square. The fast-growing payment platform was hoping to go public between $11 and $13 a share, but lukewarm demand found it settling for just $9 a share.

A profitless past and breaking off a partnership with Starbucks (SBUX) this summer could have given institutional investors cold feet, but Mr. Market had other plans. The stock began trading Thursday morning at $11.20, closing just above $13 — the high end of its initial range — by the end of the trading day.

8 Things That Are Cheaper at Target

Target Store exteriorThere’s no arguing that Target has a loyal following among many shoppers. While the retail giant may not always have the lowest prices, it certainly attracts consumers happily willing to pay a little extra to avoid the crowded aisles of some other discounters.

But there are certain items which are almost always cheaper at Target (TGT) compared to other retailers. Here are eight such items that’ll save you money on your next Target shopping trip.

1. ‘Green’ Cleaning Products

Not only has Target led the natural cleaning trend over the past few years, but they often do it at a price lower than the competition. For example, Target sells the 28-ounce bottle of Method All-Surface Cleaner for an affordable $2.99, while Walmart sells the same product for $5.49 and Amazon sells it for $8.
Another great example is Green Works laundry detergent in the 90-ounce size; at Target you’ll pay $11.99, while you’ll pay $23.27 at Walmart and $19.21 at Amazon. You’ll also find similar savings at Target on other popular natural cleaning brands, including J.R. Watkins, Honest and Seventh Generation.

2. Kids’ Bedding and Decor

When buying bedding for your child’s room, your wallet will likely benefit greatly from shopping at Target. You’ll find steep savings on sheet and comforter sets, throw blankets and even decorative pillows. This is especially true when buying “character” bedding from Star Wars, Disney and Sesame Street. For example, you can purchase the popular Star Wars Classic Twin Sheet Set from Target for $19.79, while you’ll have to pay $26.07 on Amazon. If you’re shopping for a girl, you’ll also save at Target, as you can buy the four-piece Disney Frozen bed set for $31.49 where you’ll have to pay $36.97 at Walmart.

3. Photo Frames

When compared to the competition, Target is a great place to shop for picture frames and save money. While they easily beat the price at specialty stores like Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabric, they surprisingly also undercut the likes of Walmart and Amazon. For example, at Target you can buy 8×10 inch frames (set of two for $13.99, while you’ll have to pay $19.97 at Walmart and $18.99 at Amazon.

The savings you’ll find at Target aren’t limited to the popular 8×10 size — it’s seen across all picture frame sizes and designs. Plus, they often have coupons available via their Cartwheel app on home items and decor that will bring the price down even further.

4. Beauty Items

Target is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck when buying cosmetics and makeup. While prices are generally better at Target when compared to Amazon, Walmart and Macy’s, the real savings comes in the gift card deals they offer. A current example is a free $5 Target gift card when you buy three L’Oreal products. When the gift card is factored into the price, Target easily beats the competition.

Other examples include a free $5 Target gift card with the purchase of three Aveeno items and buy one, get one for 50 percent off with all fragrances. Also, be sure to always check for printable Target coupons before you visit to ensure you get the lowest price on beauty items.

5. Name-Brand Baby Gear

Brands like Graco, Britax and Evenflo are often cheapest at Target. For example, Target currently sells the Graco Pack ‘N Play Playardfor $59.99 (color: Pasadena), while the cheapest color currently on Amazon is $69.97. The same can be said for the Evenflo High-Back Booster seat; you’ll find it for $33.99 at Target and have to pay $39.98 at Amazon,$35.98 at Walmart and $39.99 at Babies R Us. It’s always a smart idea to check pricing at Target before buying baby products, as you’ll often find the lowest price.

6. Men’s Deodorant

Target is a great place to save money on deodorant and anti-perspirant for men. For example, Target sells the two-pack of men’s Old Spice High Endurance Deodorant for $3.97, while Walmart sells the same product for $5.97. Also, you can find a two-pack of Axe Phoenix Anti-Perspirant at Target for $6.29, compared to $7.37 at Walmart. I found similar savings on other popular brands like Gillette, Degree and Dove Men’s Care as well.

For whatever reason, women’s deodorant is cheaper across the board at Walmart and Amazon. But if you’re a guy, or buying for one, purchase from Target and take advantage of the lower prices.

7. Tall Kitchen Bags

This one might seem a bit random, but kitchen trash bags — the tall variety — are 25 percent cheaper at Target compared to Walmart. Specifically, I’m talking about the store brand at each store. At Target, you can get the Up & Up brand in a 110 count box for $9.99, while you’ll pay $12.52 for a box of only 100 bags of the Walmart brand. Both bags received strong customer reviews, making the Target brand a solid buy.

8. Wedding Registry Gifts

Because of the exclusive discounts they offer, wedding registry gifts are simply cheaper at Target. If the wedding couple registered at several stores and Target is one of them, always choose to shop with them and you’ll save. For example, they currently have a discount code (WEDDING20) that is good for 20 percent off your $100 or more regular-priced wedding registry gift. So if you’re buying the couple the KitchenAid Mixer they registered for, you’ll only pay $200 instead of $250 — a price that beats all of the major competition.

By the way, having been married for 15 years, I can honestly say that this mixer is the only gift we received that we still use today. It clearly falls under the category of quality items worth the price.

By knowing the items at Target that provide the most savings, you can plan your next trip accordingly and save money. Also, it’s worth noting that most of the products listed above provide the same savings in-store as they do online. Happy savings.