Holiday shopping trends for 2012 put emphasis on in-store sales, technology, early discounts

CLEVELAND - Black Friday is one month away, and retailers are beginning to stake their claims in the marketplace. I see three trends emerging:

- Technology will be in the spotlight with three big announcements planned in the next week
- Sales will start before Black Friday
- Retailers will encourage you to spend your money in their store, rather than online by offering price match guarantees.

Tech gadgets

It will be a holiday filled with tech toys from smartphones to tablets. Here's what's happening in just the next week.

- On Oct. 23, Apple is holding an event where industry experts expect the iPad Mini will be announced.
- On Oct. 26, pre-orders of the Surface Tablet will ship and it will be available at retail locations. The Surface is a competitor to the iPad, and Microsoft will open pop-up stores throughout the country, including Beachwood, on Friday.
- On Oct. 29, Microsoft, Google, and T-Mobile are planning announcements.

CNET reports that Google's invitation reads "The playground is open." The tech group believes it will include announcements about Android 4.1, Google's new Nexus phones, and Jelly Bean updates. You can follow the announcement live next Monday here Youtube.com/Android.

Microsoft is expected to launch its Windows 8 smartphone OS on Monday.

T-Mobile is planning an event later that evening, and the speculation is it will be about Windows 8 phones.

Sales will start before Black Friday

There is a lot of focus on Black Friday, with lots of sites posting the ads as they leak. Last year, Black Friday became Black Thursday with many stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving night. The online deals also started earlier than Black Friday with some beginning in October.

- GottaDeal
said Toys "R" Us will start its toy sale Oct. 28 with The Great Big Toys "R" Us Book. Sales are expected to run through Nov. 21.
- Amazon said it will offer a week worth of deals starting on Nov. 19. It also promoted the ways you can save today and everyday on electronics, toys, jewelry, etc.  

Spend in-store rather than online

Stores are tired of showrooming, where you look at a product in store but buy it online. They're also fighting each other with the various store deals. That's why many retailers are offering and promoting their price match guarantee policy. Some companies are even matching online prices, which is usually excluded in policies.

Before you do any shopping, here are some tips:

  1. Do your research so you're not driving store to store
  2. Read the fine print of the policy because there are exclusions
  3. Bring the ad or competitor offer even if the policy doesn't require it

It will be interesting to see how this works. During a test of Walmart's price match guarantee policy in August 2011, some store clerks required the ad even though the policy said you didn't need it. Some customers told me the manager got involved and they had to fight to get the policy honored.

During the holidays, lines are already long and electronic savings can be significant. Will the cashier be reluctant to offer you that savings, or will it happen quickly? We don't need the lines to get any longer. If they do, people won't even showroom. They'll simply buy online rather than in store to avoid the holiday chaos.

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