If you’ve been inside a mall or department store this fall, you’ve heard it already. If you’ve strolled through the home or seasonal section of a Target or Walmart or another low-price general-merchandise store, you’ve seen it. And if you’re shopping online, the signs are abundant.
Holiday hype is here.
This year, with prices rising everywhere, the key to limiting your spending on gifts may be to reconsider the whole process, starting with where you shop and when. Instead of hitting the mall for early bird specials, coping with Black Friday or puzzling through online discounts, consider places you already patronize.
We’re talking supermarkets, convenience stores and dollar stores. Carry a running list — whether in your head, on paper or in a notes file on your smartphone. And pick up gifts as you go about life. You’ll save money and time, and you’ll avoid crowds and website crashes.
This is an especially effective way to keep from spending too much on small items like stocking stuffers, workplace grab bag presents and hospitality gifts.
SUPERMARKET SWEEP: You probably don’t picture yourself shopping for presents while you’re buying milk and eggs, but why not?
Grocery stores operated by California-based Safeway Inc., New Jersey-based ShopRite, Ohio-based Kroger Co. and other companies stock toys and books all year. And the bakery aisle offers everything you need to make personalized gifts of cookies, cake or homemade candy. Stocking stuffers like lipstick, kitchen gadgets and gift cards are also readily available. And you can pick up wrapping paper or a bouquet at many large grocery stores.
Patty Fishman, a vice president with Minnesota-based Supervalu Inc., says licensed graphic T-shirts, As Seen on TV items and a retro popcorn machine are available at some of its Albertsons, Jewel-Osco and other stores. New gift items this year include Mattel Inc. Fijit interactive robotic toys and the latest Michael Buble CD.
“While price point is key for supermarkets, value and quality has become an equally important part of holiday merchandise,” says Christina Veiders, managing editor of Supermarket News.
— Specific promotions:
At Kroger, “Buy Holiday Gift Cards, Use them Like Cash, and Save on Fuel” deal, Nov. 20 to Dec. 11: Participating locations will offer quadruple fuel rewards for gift card purchases, while Kroger customers usually get double fuel rewards points for gift card purchases.
At Supervalu, grocery discounts, starting in mid-November: Customers who spend $100 on selected gift cards will get a discount on their next grocery purchase, with rewards varying by store.
CONVENIENCE STORES: If you’re heading to a holiday party this year, convenience stores are great for hostess gifts like wine. But they also carry much-needed batteries for toys and popular stocking stuffers like scratch-off lottery tickets or extra-large candy bars.
Perhaps the best perk of shopping at a convenience store is the hours. The vast majority of 7-Eleven’s stores are open all the time. CVS also has some 24-hour stores and extends the hours at many leading up to the holidays.
Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, senior vice president of merchandising, marketing and logistics for 7-Eleven Inc., says its holiday offerings will include smartphones and watches and a $19.99 remote-control car or helicopter. Similarly, CVS/Pharmacy stores offer affordable electronics, including a house-brand Craig 7-inch portable, combination LCD TV and DVD player for $99.99. A rocking horse is $29.99.
— Specific promotion:
At CVS, through Christmas, Dec. 25: Shoppers who belong to the company’s rewards program and spend $30 on certain items advertised in its weekly circular can earn up to five $10 gift cards per week to spend at retailers including Macy’s Inc., Gap Inc., American Express and Barnes & Noble.
DOLLAR STORES: If you think of dollar stores as resources only for cleaning supplies and party goods, think again. You can pick up candy canes or chocolates for stocking stuffers at most dollar stores. And many sell calendars, fragrance sets, winter hats and scarves and other gift items.
Paul White, a senior vice president with Family Dollar Stores Inc., notes that the chain carries name-brand goods from Hasbro Inc., Mattel Inc. and Disney Co.
Not only do dollar stores offer low prices, their selections constantly change. To figure out what’s in stock, sign up for company emails from the chain nearest you.
— Specific promotion:
At Family Dollar, through Christmas: Shoppers get 10 percent off when they spend $100 on toys.
Just think of all the things you can now plan to do in peace and quiet on Black Friday when everyone else is at the mall.