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Know a last-minute shopper? Expect socks

Better deals often come to those who wait -- except in the case of last-minute Christmas shopping.

By Karen Datko Dec 18, 2009 2:53PM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


The average shopper still has more than half of his holiday shopping list left, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s not a major shift from previous years, but this year procrastinators might pay dearly for waiting.


“Retailers are being cautious about going too deep with markdowns,” says Randy Allen, an associate dean for Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management. “They won’t give discounts if they don’t have to.”

Expect sales targeted to whatever isn’t selling well -- in particular, winter apparel. “It didn’t get cold until recently, so stores have more winter coats, sweaters and other cold-weather items in stock than they’d like,” says Allen. She adds that online retailers are largely out of the discount game this week, too, due to shipping constraints. Most can’t afford to offer free expedited shipping, and consumers are more likely to brave store crowds than pay for it themselves.


If there’s an early New Year’s resolution to be made, pledge to start earlier next year. I’ll be right there with you. Until a few days ago, I counted myself among the 8.6% of consumers who, according to a National Retail Federation survey, have finished their shopping. But then I realized that the holiday season craziness will prevent me from finishing a few homemade gifts, including a knitted baby blanket for my niece. Now I’m back out in stores hunting for a gift worthy of Rowan’s first Christmas -- and planning to hand over the cash for expedited shipping.

We’re featuring valuable coupons and sales each Friday to help you spend less on the items you buy. Found a deal we missed -- or looking for a better price on a specific item? E-mail me at or send me a tweet @kellibgrant.


Zhu Zhu Pets. Paying full price is rarely a deal. But we’ll make an exception for hot items like these electronic hamsters, which are scurrying out of stores as fast as retailers can stock them. Finding one in a shop for $8 is a much better option than surfing eBay, where listings for the little critters are topping $30.


To that end, Toys R Us announced Thursday that all of its stores would be receiving daily shipments of Zhu Zhu Pets and accessories between now and Christmas. (That translates to at least 100 per store on Dec. 18 and “hundreds of thousands” nationwide daily thereafter, according to a spokeswoman.). The hot tip: Make a beeline for the registers or the customer-service desk. A spokeswoman for the company tells us most Toys R Us stores are stocking the toy there instead of on shelves. “It’s a way for us to manage the flow,” she says. Call the store to confirm. For example, at the New York flagship in Times Square, the Zhu Zhus reside behind the registers on the second floor.


Las Vegas travel. Vegas has gone through a really tough year,” says Barbara Messing, the vice president for deal-tracking site Remnants of the construction boom put more hotel rooms on the market as both business and leisure travel took a nosedive. As a result, casinos have dropped rates substantially -- to as low as $30 per night on weekdays -- and are tacking on discounts to in-house amenities such as spas and restaurants to sweeten the deal.

  • The newly opened Mandarin Oriental is offering one free night when you pay for one night or more and stay before Feb. 28. Rates start at $425 per night.
  • Stay at the Luxor for at least three nights and get the night with the lowest rate free. Book by Jan. 31 for travel through Feb. 4. Visitors also get resort deals valued at $500, including spa discounts, free admission to LAX nightclub and $25 off at the Tender Steak & Seafood restaurant.
  • On Expedia, save up to 30% on Vegas hotel rates during the Winter Sale. Book before Feb. 28 for travel through March 31. (Citibank customers can also get double reward points for booking a Las Vegas hotel room or travel package. Use code TYTRAVEL at checkout.)

Bear in mind that properties expect to make up in casino revenue and other spending what they’re losing on hotel room discounts. Don’t succumb to the lure of a cheap hotel rate if it means you’ll overspend on other parts of the trip.


Steve Madden. Use code COUNTDOWN30 at checkout to get free express shipping on all orders as well as a 30% discount if you spend more than $75. Offer good through Dec. 21. Just be cautious -- the site estimates express shipping at two to three business days assuming the item is in stock. There’s no guarantee of pre-holiday delivery.


Macy’s. During the Best Customer Sale through Dec. 21, save 25% to 60% storewide. Save an extra 20% off all sale and clearance apparel and jewelry with a printout coupon. Online, code THEBEST at checkout gets you the same discount as well as free shipping on orders of $99 or more. (Both the in-store and online deals also offer 15% off select sale and clearance home items and watches.)


Ann Taylor Loft. Layering tees, regularly $29.50 to $36.50, are currently $15 in stores and online. You’ll save 49% to 59%.


The bottom line of this week’s deals (and lack thereof): If you know a bargain hunter who waited until the last minute, better start practicing your poker face. Odds are good you’re getting socks.


Related reading at SmartMoney:

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