July is the month when major chain store retailers hold their annual toy sales, hoping to convince parents they will save a fortune by doing their Christmas shopping almost six months in advance. Just how much can you really save with this strategy?
The July toy sales are big business for major stores (and a neat way to convince people to spend money several months out from Christmas, thus preventing the entire year from being reliant on December sales). Each produces a massive catalogue, neatly sorted into categories, and offers lay-by facilities so you can acquire the presents and not have to keep them hidden from the kids for months.
The toy sale at both Kmart (complete with 86-page catalogue) and Big W (132-page catalogue and even a dedicated iPhone app) runs from June 30 to July 13. Target is bucking the trend, and its sale (with a 72-page catalogue) runs three weeks later, starting on July 21.
This year, Big W has also allowed advance online orders from its catalogue ahead of the launch date. That facility has clearly proved popular, with the site yesterday prominently displaying an apology for the fact that access was slow:
On the whole, there's a lot to be said for planning and buying Christmas gifts (and other presents) well in advance, rather than leaving everything until the month before. However, there's a few things you should bear in mind:
- Not everything in the catalogues is on special. There's a tendency to assume that everything in these events is a bargain, but many of the items listed are the same price that they sell for through those stores normally. That doesn't mean that they are terrible value — but it does mean that you don't have to fight through the crowds on opening day to grab them.
- Prices can be cheaper at other times. In the current catalogue, Kmart has a Nintendo 3DS bundle with two games for $328; Big W has a bundle with one game for $298; Those prices aren't much different to what was on offer at the launch of the 3DS, and you may well do better with judicious shopping around, especially if you want to pair the 3DS with a particular title. There's also a good likelihood with consoles that there will be additional specials between now and Christmas.
- Make sure you've done some comparison shopping. The two points above boil down to the most important rule: if saving money is the name of the game, check around to make sure you're getting the best price. All of these stores would love it if you filled your trolley with items for the convenience of not having to go to multiple places. If that's your view, then go for it. If your aim is to save money, it's definitely worth doing some research in advance. It's also worth making a list and sticking to it, rather than throwing in lots of extras. If the item you want is out of stock, don't buy an alternative for the sake of it: do more research and shop again another time. December is a long way off.
- You need to be confident in your kids' tastes. Six months is a long time in the playground. There's a risk in buying stuff a long way in advance if your kids are the kind whose enthusiasms change frequently and rapidly.
What specials have really grabbed you in this year's round of catalogues? Share your finds in the comments.