Shoppers hunt for deals but inflation makes bargains elusive

Nov 23, 2022, 6:30 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Consumers holding out for big deals — and some much-needed relief from soaring costs on just about everything — may be disappointed as they head into the busiest shopping season of the year.

While retailers are advertising sales of 30%, 50% and 70% off everything from TVs to gadgets, many items will still cost more than they did last year because of inflation and finding a true bargain may prove to be a challenge.

From September through October, shoppers paid roughly 18% more for furniture and appliances than they did a year ago, according to a recent major data analysis by analytics company DataWeave, which tracks prices for hundreds of thousands of items across roughly three dozen retailers including Amazon and Target. For toys, they paid roughly 2% more.

Things looked a bit better for consumers shopping for clothing — they paid nearly 5% less compared with last fall, according to DataWeave. Meanwhile, prices held steady for footwear.

“It’s just a weird time for everybody to figure out what is the right price, and what is the real price,” said Nikki Baird, vice president of strategy of Aptos, a retail technology firm. “Consumers are really bad at discount math, and retailers are fully aware of it and do everything they can to take advantage of it.”

William Wang, 24, who teaches high school math, says he’s more likely to notice price increases on everyday items — like his quesadilla that now costs $8 at his local deli — than for gifts he’s going to spend money on once a year.

“I do feel like everything’s more expensive,” said the Brooklyn, New York, resident. “But I mainly keep track of it with small items, like food.”

The latest government retail sales report shows retail sales rose last month even when adjusting for inflation. That underscores some resiliency among shoppers heading into the Black Friday weekend, the kickoff to the season.

But cracks are forming.

Third-quarter earnings results from major retailers show shoppers aren’t willing to pay full price and waiting for deals. Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s all noted Americans have also slowed their spending in the past few weeks.

It’s a dramatic change from last year’s holiday period when shoppers began their holiday items as early as October for fear they wouldn’t get what they needed amid pandemic-infused clogs in the supply chain. They were also flush with cash from government stimulus money. Retailers were struggling to bring in items so they didn’t need to discount as much.

Michael Liersch, head of advice and planning at Wells Fargo, said this holiday shopping season, it’s more likely that things will “appear discounted or feel discounted, or it will seem like there are big offers” but that between inflation and “shrinkflation” — when manufacturers quietly shrink package sizes without lowering the price — it’s often not the case.

That trend played out in a recent spot check by DataWeave of different items. For example, a Cuisinart two-speed blender, listed at $59.99 but discounted at 25%, was available for $44.99 at grocery chain Fred Meyer. But it was still more expensive than last year’s blender, available for $39.99, after a 20% discount off a lower list price of $49.99.

At Kohl’s, shoppers paid more for Nunn Bush Baker Street men’s dressy shoes this past fall than last year when discounts were actually bigger, and the list price was lower. The shoes were available for $79.99 after a nearly 16% price cut from the $95 suggested price; last year, the shoes were available for $59.99 after a 29% discount on a lower list price of $85.

Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit consumer organization, noted its researchers spent 33 weeks starting Feb. 9 tracking sale prices at 25 major retailers. They found most stores’ sale prices — even those that promote big savings — are bogus discounts, with retailers offering the same “sale price” more than half the time. In fact, at many retailers, the “regular price” or “list” price listed is seldom, if ever, what shoppers pay, Brasler said.

Still, inflation-battered shoppers like Yoki Hanley are willing to take their chances and hold out for a bargain. So far, she doesn’t feel like she’s getting good deals for her eight grandchildren and plans to delay her buying until the last week before Christmas.

“Everything went up so my little nest egg disappeared a whole lot quicker than I expected,” said the St. Croix resident. “I will wait until the last minute. They’ll get it, but it’s coming late.”

United States News

Associated Press

Texas police arrest suspect in abduction of 12-year-old girl who was found safe after 8 days

COLUMBUS, Texas (AP) — Police in Texas have arrested a man suspected in the disappearance of a girl who was missing for eight days before she was safely located. The 27-year-old Houston man was charged with evading authorities after he attempted to flee from officers on Friday, the Columbus Police Department said in social media […]

30 minutes ago

FILE - A voting sign is seen near a voting center at Croft Baptist Church, Feb. 24, 2024, in Sparta...

Associated Press

A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee

WASHINGTON (AP) — A small but substantial chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they would be so dissatisfied if Donald Trump became the party’s presidential nominee that they would not vote for him in November’s general election, according to AP VoteCast. An analysis of the data shows that many of those voters were […]

34 minutes ago

Prison psychological specialist Christine Ransom, right, leads a group session for inmates, Dec. 14...

Associated Press

Prisoners with developmental disabilities face unique challenges. One facility is offering solutions

ALBION, Pa. (AP) — “You are the Lighthouse in someone’s storm,” reads the message above a mural of a sailboat bobbing on ocean waves under a cloud-studded azure sky. It’s an unexpected slogan for a prison wall. On a nearby door painted deep blue, a bright yellow Minion character offers “Ways to say hello,” lists […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., celebrates with his supporters af...

Associated Press

Iowa Democrats were forced to toss the caucus. They’ll quietly pick a 2024 nominee by mail instead

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — There’s a lot less fanfare for Democrats in Iowa picking their presidential nominee this year, and it’s not only because Democratic incumbent Joe Biden is in the White House. Instead of congregating for caucuses, a one-night spectacle where community members publicly signal their support for a candidate, Iowa Democrats headed […]

7 hours ago

Kylie Moreland, the Monroe County Elections Supervisor poses in her office in Bloomington, Ind., Tu...

Associated Press

An Indiana county hires yet another election supervisor, hoping she’ll stay

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana county lost its top election official nearly every other month over the last year after a longtime supervisor resigned following a counting error in the November 2022 tally. Voting advocates hope fears of a rocky election year will ease now that Monroe County has named a supervisor who is […]

7 hours ago

Christiane Keyhani, program coordinator of Hui O Ka Wai Ola, fills up the bucket to test water qual...

Associated Press

In Hawaii, coral is the foundation of life. What happened to it after the Lahaina wildfire?

Abraham “Snake” Ah Hee rides waves when the surf’s up and dives for octopus and shells when the water is calm. The lifelong Lahaina, Hawaii, resident spends so much time in the ocean that his wife jokes he needs to wet his gills. But these days Ah Hee is worried the water fronting his Maui […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Shoppers hunt for deals but inflation makes bargains elusive