December 5, 2013, 4:59 PM

Are holiday shopping deals really deals?

Prices around Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday aren’t the lowest of the season.

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The intrepid consumers that hit the web or stores from Thanksgiving through Monday thinking they were snatching up the best deals of the season might not want to read this. Price monitoring reports out from a handful of vendors show that those much-hyped holiday deals weren’t quite that good or that different from what e-retailers offered in the weeks ahead of the holiday weekend.

For example, if an Apple Inc. iPad mini was on a shopper’s wish list on Black Friday, the best price advertised online for it was $302.05, according to AdGooroo, a research company that monitors the online advertisements of retailers. On the Monday following Thanksgiving—aka Cyber Monday—the best advertised price was $340.42. (Regular price is $399 and up, per Apple.) However the average advertised price for a mini during the first three weeks of November—before the crowds and the online traffic frenzy—was $317.11. That’s more than the price on Black Friday, but that was the three-week average, and Adgooroo says the price on 13 days during that period was below that of Black Friday. The rock-bottom advertised price for the mini, $284.34, occurred on Nov. 7, Adgooroo says.

The lowest prices advertised for several other popular electronics items, including the iPhone 5S, Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and Android tablets, also appeared in the first 10 days of November, Adgooroo says.

In popular product categories for gifting, such as small appliances and laptop computers, e-retailers dipped prices before Thanksgiving. In the case of small appliances, prices at several retailers, including Belk Inc. and Macy’s, began dropping around Nov. 20, according to price data from Ugam Solutions, a research and analytics firm, perhaps to capture Thanksgiving chefs in need of a mixer. For laptops, average prices hit bottom on Nov. 19 at, and, Ugam says. Ugam measured the average prices at each retailer for the range of products they sell in the category, not identical SKUs across retailers.

Between Nov. 16 and Nov. 29, average prices at hit their lowest point Nov. 23, five days before Thanksgiving, according to 360pi, a vendor that tracks online retail pricing. Prices rose and dipped through Nov. 26, then steadily rose through Nov. 29, Black Friday, 360pi says. However, a spokesman says, "I'm not familiar with their study, but the data we have confirms our prices on Black Friday were lower compared to the prior day and compared to that week."  Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Tuesday that Cyber Monday was its biggest sales day on record and that had processed more than 1 billion page views from Thursday to Monday.

360pi says and (a unit of Wal-mart Stores Inc.) dropped prices most aggressively on Black Friday among the 11 retailers it tracked. It says changed prices on 32% of the products it sells on Black Friday, whereas most retailers changed prices on less than 10% of their SKUs that day.

Amazon changed pricing on about 22% of its SKUs on Cyber Monday, a percentage that 360pi says is about what the e-retailer does on a regular day. For Cyber Monday, 360pi also analyzed how 13 e-retailers’ prices compared relative to Amazon’s, according to average prices by product category. E-retailers selling televisions came the closest to matching Amazon’s prices. The 11 e-retailers selling televisions had an aggregate average price that was 5.5% above Amazon’s average price for televisions. was the only e-retailer to beat Amazon, with an average price for televisions 2.9% below Amazon’s. E-retailers selling video games were the least competitive to Amazon. The nine e-retailers selling video games had an aggregate average price that was 35.5% above Amazon’s average price for video games. None were below Amazon’s average pricing. Inc. is No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. Apple. is No. 3,, No. 4; Best Buy, No. 10; Office Max, No. 11; Macy’s, No. 12; Newegg, No. 14, Costco, No. 16; and Belk, No. 162.




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