updated - March 12, 2014 Wednesday EDT
With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, competition is growing among retail stores looking to attract consumers on Black Friday 2012. Retail giants Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and Toys R Us all recently announced that they will be price matching their online competitors, which they hope will discourage "showrooming."
The term "showrooming" was coined to explain the phenomenon of consumers scoping out items in stores only to go home and purchase them at lower prices on competitors' websites.
Some of the price matching policies are tricky, making it especially important for shoppers to take the time to understand each stores' guidelines and limitations. At Best Buy, the online price matching policy will begin on November 4th, but it will not be in effect from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Best Buy will only match online prices on appliances and electronics, and at the discretion of the Best Buy sales staff on the floor. They will only be matching pre-tax prices from 20 online retailers, including Amazon.com.
At Target, shoppers may be more satisfied with the new price matching guarantee. Target will match select online competitors' prices in stores between November 1st and December 16th. During that time, if a shopper purchases a qualifying item from a Target store, and then finds it for less on Target.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, ToysRUs.com, or in a local competitor's printed ad, Target will refund that shopper the difference.
Meanwhile, Toys R Us is increasing its efforts to attract customers by promising to match competitors' prices, and offering a price adjustment to any shopper who finds a better price on an identical item within seven days after making a purchase. Toys R Us prices on the top toys of the season are usually close to those found at Walmart and Target, so this policy suggests confidence that their 2012 prices will be just as good if not lower than their competitors.
Walmart has a similar plan for their price matching policy, with the added convenience of allowing shoppers to bring a competitor's ad straight to the register in order to receive a markdown. That said, it is worth noting that Walmart's "No Hassle" policy states that the retailer will not match "buy one, get one" sales or percent off sales, unless a price is clearly listed.
Needless to say, the competition among big-box stores and online merchants will be fierce this holiday season. And, with retailers making up about 40% of their annual revenue around this time of year, it's certainly no surprise. For consumers, this may be the year to skip camping out in front of discount stores the night before Black Friday in favor of taking advantage of these price matching policies throughout the holiday shopping season.
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