December 23, 2013, 4:51 PM

Did Thanksgiving prices live up to their pre-holiday hype?

For many items at several major web retailers, consumers could find better prices before Thanksgiving than they could during Thanksgiving weekend sales, Ugam Solutions finds.

To shop or not to shop on Thanksgiving Day was a hot topic during our vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. Part of our group even wanted to skip dinner so they could go hunt for great deals. Skip dinner - with a tasty tofurkey on the table? I am blaming this affront to tradition (the shopping, not the tofurkey) on retailers who keep moving the shopping calendar ahead every year in a bid to increase sales. In a few years, we might start Black Friday promotions on the Fourth of July.

While part of our group was keen to shop, others opined that Thanksgiving shopping deals are all eye-wash and shoppers don’t really save money overall. This group felt that there were only a handful of products with discounts that were used to lure in traffic while retailers were making their money on other products that they had marked-up.

As this was a common debate at many dinner tables this year, I have set out to settle it with hard data. To start, I put Ugam’s Big Data engine to work by reviewing the seven million data points we have collected as part of our Holiday Insights program covering 15 major retailers over 13 broad categories.

The table below shows the assortment and prices for selected categories (Laptops & Tablets, TV & Video, Toys & Games) across eight large retailers including Amazon, BestBuy, Walmart, and Target:

The three Product Sets above show differing product groups over Thanksgiving:

  • Product Set A represents those products that did not have a change in price
  • Product Set B represents those with discounts
  • Product Set C represents those that actually saw a price increase

As you can see, while the percentages do vary, most of the retailer’s products are unchanged in price (at least for the categories we analyzed). Also, it seems that while the discounts during Thanksgiving are attractive, this is balanced with a price increase on other products.

Next, let’s consider Amazon and Walmart. While Walmart did have a portion of their assortment discounted during Thanksgiving, they also had a higher percentage of products with a price increase. Amazon did the same too, but to a lesser extent.

While there were no real discounts in the categories considered here, that does not mean that no categories had significant discounts. Apparel, for example, did provide great pricing on Thanksgiving.

Here is another table. This one compares the average price across the 13 categories by retailer; using pre-Thanksgiving price as the reference point.

Guess when the overall worst time to shop is!

So is Thanksgiving shopping worth it? My big-data-evaluated, well-educated answer is, “It depends”.  If you are looking for a specific product which was advertised and discounted during Thanksgiving and like to live dangerously, go for it.  As for me, I am going to concentrate on the route that the Tofurkey takes to my stomach.

Ugam will continue monitoring the prices over the holiday period so that I can answer the next big question for discussion during our tofurkey Christmas dinner:  Are prices better before Christmas or after?

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