The mid-year toy sale frenzy by major Australian retailers kicks off this week, with online lay-by offers and other deals to tempt reluctant shoppers. Are they really the best way to save money on those essential kids' presents?
Annual toy sales are getting earlier each year; last year's didn't kick off until the end of June. Here's what the major retailers have planned for 2012:
- Big W allows online shopping from 1201AM on Thursday June 21, and in-store purchases from Thursday June 28, with the 132-page catalogue sale running until Wednesday July 11. It has a no-deposit lay-by scheme online; under that, you have to pay for goods by October 11 (via regular deductions) and they'll be delivered by December 7. (Though caution is advised here; see below.)
- Target begins its sale on Thursday June 21, running for three weeks to Wednesday July 11 with a 72-page catalogue. Some stores have a VIP night pre-sale on the evening of Wednesday June 20 from 6PM, and you can also lay-by online from that time. Target requires a minimum 10 per cent down payment, and offers two options: in-store pick up from November 12 or home delivery from November 30, or in-store pickup from November 26 or home delivery by December 14. You have to pay at least 50 per cent of the value by October 1
- Kmart begins its sale on Thursday June 28, and won't actually be showing its catalogue online until June 21. Quite frankly, that would seem to put it at a disadvantage.
- Even ALDI is getting involved in a minor way, with its Wednesday special buys for June 20 mostly being unbranded toys.
Choosing the right tactics
The most important thing to remember about the toy sale frenzy is this: not everything is actually on sale. Some items are exactly the same price they will be at other times of year. Fighting your way through the crowd (or going online and watching servers crash) only makes sense if there's actually a bargain on offer. Comparison shopping is definitely in order; Big W and Target both say they have price-matching in place. Once you have a list of possible items in mind, do some online comparison research to work out if you're really getting a bargain.
Online shopping is getting a heavier emphasis this year, with early online ordering and lay-bys very much the norm. That can be handy if you're ordering something large and saves you having to hide presents for month, but be careful: there's always a risk your delivery won't come. Big W was left red-faced last year when some online orders got delayed just weeks before Christmas.
Finally, while we're always in favour of early planning, remember this if you're shopping for Christmas: it's half-a-year away. The taste of your kids could easily change in that time, and if they have a birthday in-between, someone else might purchase your carefully chosen gift.
What bargains are you eyeing at this year's toy sale? Or would you rather wait until December for the inevitable last-minute sales? Tell us in the comments.
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.