Will Shopping In-Store Save You Money This Holiday Season?

woman walking with shopping bags during holidays
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In 2022, brick-and-mortar is back in fashion. According to Reuters, retailers are preparing for a return to in-store holiday shopping by beefing up their on-floor staff while not doing the same for their drivers and call center associates.

Giants like Walmart, Party City and Michaels are funneling all or most of their new seasonal hires to in-store positions in anticipation of heavy foot traffic that’s already underway.

The retailers aren’t just guessing. A new survey from the investment management firm JLL found that more shoppers will prowl the stores for bargains than in previous years and fewer will shop online.

Are the masses planning to shop in person simply because they can after two pandemic-restricted holidays, or are the best deals of the season really hiding in stores? GOBankingRates asked the experts.

In-Store-Only Deals and Pickup Discounts Are Luring Shoppers Offline

Some retailers offer deals that only apply to products purchased at a physical store. Home Depot, for example, currently has a few in-store-only discounts and Dick’s Sporting Goods has coupons on its website that can be used only in person.

But sometimes, you can save money by going to a store without actually shopping at one.

“Some retailers, like Target, will offer things like same-day discounts when you opt for in-store pickup or drive-up pickup,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “They may also be eligible for same-day delivery, but you typically have to pay additional fees for this service, so if you’re looking to save, opting for pickup is the best way to go.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Also, small businesses might not have a significant e-commerce capacity, so if you’re buying from your local mom-and-pop shop, an in-store visit might be the only way to go — and in some cases, the best way.

“Many stores that do not have a large online presence may offer generous discounts and perks to shopping at their brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season in order to compete with various stores in the community,” said Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer.

Stores Have No Shipping Fees or Minimum Purchasing Thresholds

The JLL report found that most shoppers — around 55% — plan to visit stores simply to handle the things they’re considering buying before they put their money down. But another one-third of respondents said that they’re heading to the store to avoid the two drawbacks of shopping online — delays and extra costs.

“Obviously, if you shop in-store or pick up in-store, then you don’t have to worry about paying for shipping,” Ramhold said. “In some cases, it might not be a huge issue, but some retailers and stores can charge quite a lot for even small orders, so shopping in-store will mean avoiding these altogether.”

Also, small online purchases often come with big charges that you can only avoid by purchasing more than you otherwise would have.

“Many retailers offer free shipping, but only on certain amounts, so if you find yourself trying to meet a threshold, you may end up spending more than you had intended to,” Ramhold said. “Instead of worrying about hitting a minimum, shop in-store if you can and get only what you need.”

Make Your Money Work for You

So, When Is It Best To Shop With Your Keyboard?

A different survey from Shopkick found that 73% of consumers plan to shop at online-only retailers, 98% of whom will stick with Amazon. Amazon, of course, doesn’t have stores everywhere — plus, Prime members don’t have to worry about shipping fees, which makes the decision easy. Whether it’s Amazon or another online retailer, there’s no need to visit a store if you can get the same thing for the same price with free shipping.

“If it’s something that you can avoid shipping charges on anyway — if you’re making a large purchase or one that will earn free shipping — you may not find it worth it to shop in-store, especially if it’s something you don’t need immediately,” Ramhold said. “Additionally, if the store is out of your way, then shopping online is the best option here, as you won’t have to worry about spending money on gas or spending your time shopping for something you can order for the same price online.”

It’s Not Just Shipping — E-Commerce Wins in Other Ways, Too

Just as some retailers run in-store-only deals, others offer discounts to keep you out of the store.

“Some retailers will offer online-only discounts, so obviously in those cases, it makes more sense to purchase online,” Ramhold said. “However, be sure to weigh your options and make sure that the discount online is worth it if you have to pay for shipping. Otherwise, it might be better, or the same, to pay the slightly higher price in-store. At least then you’ll get your items sooner.”

Finally, in-store coupons are mostly limited to those issued by the retailer or the manufacturer — but online, there’s a whole world of apps and browser extensions that can save you money.

Make Your Money Work for You

“There are often many more discounts and coupons that can be applied to online purchases,” said Andy Kalmon, CEO of Benny. “Not only are there more out there, but they are easier to find, as well. For example, browser extensions like Honey can automatically scan the internet and look for potential coupon codes to apply, which can help you save money practically every time.”

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