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Bargain hunting raised to an art form

The dictionary defines a bargain as an advantageous purchase;  especially one acquired at less than the usual cost; it also says a deal  is a bargain or arrangement for mutual advantage.

With the nation experiencing continued record unemployment, and the  Black community, as usual, struggling with a jobless rate two to three  times the country’s jobless rate, finding bargains and deals this  holiday season is a requirement rather than a luxury.

But sometimes it is difficult to determine what is or is not a bargain.  That is particularly the case when consumers are being bombarded with  ads for Black Friday this and Cyber Monday that.
In fact, according to Nancy D. Sidhu, Ph.D., chief economist with the  Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., retailers are finding that Black  Friday is no longer pulling in the kind of sales that were sought, so  they’ve extended the discounting season both ways.

This aggressive marketing and promotion even prompted the National  Retail Federation to revise its holiday sales projection for 2010 upward  from a 2.3 percent increase over last year to 3.4 percent.

This year, even before Thanksgiving, there were numerous sales to entice  people to purchase at brick-and-mortar retailers and online shops.

And the bargains also depended on what items people were seeking.

“. . . on Black Friday, there was a big push on consumer electronics,”  explained Sidhu. “Anybody selling anything (like that) was doing well.”

And those retailers that are targeting the working-class consumers, like  JC Penney, Kohl’s, Kmart and Walmart did not limit their push to get  people into their stores to advertising Black Friday bargains, the  economist said. They continue to push for sales with tantalizing  bargains even now.
In contrast to the big-box retailers, Sidhu said smaller shops in malls  or along shopping venues seem to be attracting middle to higher income  shoppers and the more educated shoppers. She said they appear to be less  impacted by the ravages of unemployment and are inclined to spend more  generously.
So, how do you find bargains?
Inglewood resident Julie N. says she has no secret strategy for  finding bargains, but instead shops at independent, low-price boutiques  that prominently let customers know they have bargains.
And the stores she chooses have a wide range of items that fit her budget and sense of fashion.

“I don’t like going places I have to dig,” she added.

Vera S. said she does not believe in paying a lot for clothes unless  it’s really a special item, so the Los Angeles sales rep, knows the  specific stores that have good prices. Then, when she walks in the door,  Vera makes a beeline for the sale racks.

Compton fashionista KiKi S. has discovered a gold mine of bargains in  thrift stores, places she never thought to find herself. Shopping these  retailers requires a good eye, patience and the ability to look over the  items you don’t want to successfully find the prize you do want.

Pre-shopping preparation is the decades old strategy Brenda J. uses to find retail bargains.
“I go to certain malls and shops, and I’ll ask the salesclerk how long  an item has been there and when it will go on sale. If the clerk doesn’t  know, I’ll talk to the buyer,” explains Brenda.

Once she knows those pertinent details, the fashion show coordinator  returns, when the item is on sale. What Brenda is looking for when she  bargain-shops, is price, style and fabric.

Consumers are not the only ones concerned with bargains. Retailers also  have to craft bargains they believe will entice shoppers, and that is  exactly what Oran Kemp II has done with his sports gear store Urban  Legends Stadium.

Originally located in South Los Angeles on Broadway near 84th Street,  Kemp said his cousin decided to turn over the business to someone “with  youth and who was more in touch with the shoe game.”

Then the business was relocated to the new Gateway Center in Compton.

“Here we are able to get more of a customer base; more foot traffic,” Kemp explained.
But that is only part of his customer-attracting strategy. The merchandise Urban Legend Stadium carries is another draw.

“We have all the Jordan brands. One of the hottest sellers is the retro  shoe. My philosophy with the Jordan Retro is that people are willing to  pay more for the shoe; they just want to make sure they get it because  he only put out a certain amount. That causes a frenzy for not only  stores like Foot Locker but also small stores.”

To facilitate his customer’s needs, Kemp said he established a lay-a-way  program for the store that includes pre-sales of the Jordan sneaker,  which is expected out Dec. 23.

“We let people reserve the shoe and put down half, then pay the remainder, when the shoe comes in,” explained Kemp.

Thirty-day, no-interest lay-a-way is not limited to the new Jordan  product, and Kemp said the addition of that option has surprised and  pleased his customers and caused some of his competitors, even the  larger retailers, to follow suit.

Like some of his bigger competitors, Kemp has even incorporated the BOGO  concept-buy one, get one for half price. And while he acknowledged that  such a move does cut into his profit a bit, he also noted that it moves  product. That, added the indy retailer, is the name of the business  game.
Shop the big department stores advises Odessa Bowden, owner of the Crenshaw Boulevard boutique Nobody Jones.

“They can afford to put on the best sales. And the largest selection,”  explained Bowden, adding that going to the big retailers allows you to  shop in one place to find the multiple gifts you might need.

While she knows that her advice will send customers to her competitors,  Bowden, says that small boutiques like hers are the places to buy for  people you know really well, like a best friend or sister.

“. . . I have affordable items like $10-15 earrings that are great  pieces, unique pieces that you’re not going to see anywhere else,”  Bowden said.

Nobody Jones also specializes in timeless classic pieces that can be  worn in almost every season. That is what shoppers should concentrate  on, points out Bowden. Also consider shopping off season. For example,  buy for fall now, because all the boots are on sale.

Bowden, also suggested taking cash to small boutiques and asking about a cash discount.
Finally, there are the old standbys like the 99 Cents Only store, which  offer small items such as candle holders and books that can be bundled  into creative gifts.

Bowden notes that Target also features bins of $1 items such as books and toys perfect for gift-giving.

In fact, if you look around at your favorite retail store, a great many  of them are beginning to stock low-priced items that can be creatively  packaged into gifts for family, friends and even business associates.
Whatever your bargain-hunting strategies, the key to successfully finding what you want is creativity.