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Take the headache out of holiday shopping

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday shoppers are ready to hit the stores.

However, long lines and crowded stores can dampen the spirits of the most cheerful shopper while trying to find those perfect gifts.

In an effort to take the headache out of holiday shopping, the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world's largest retail trade association, assembled a list of tips shoppers might not be aware of.

"Holiday to-do lists can get a little overwhelming this time of year," NRF Vice President of Retail Operations Dan Butler wrote in a press release. "From finding out ahead of time when an item goes on sale to knowing the best times to avoid crowds, smart shoppers can follow little tricks of the trade to reduce unnecessary frustration."

NFR Media Relations Spokesperson Kathy Grannis directed The Brazil Times to the company's website, where one of the biggest tips offered that shoppers might not think about is when to shop.

According to the NFR, shoppers should try taking their shopping lists to stores the evening before advertised sales.

Since many retail stores program cash registers the night before a sale, the sale prices may already come up in the register for purchases even if signs or special tickets have not been placed on the items.

Also, the NFR suggests shoppers ask sales associates in advance for any upcoming sales promotions or potential markdowns, especially on big-ticket items.

Some more shopping tips to consider this holiday season include:

* If looking for specific advertised items or attempting to match sale prices at another retailer, take the complete ad to the store. This way, you don't end up in the wrong store looking for a specific price or item not available,

* When shopping online, have credit cards and an address book handy. Many websites have timed windows to complete a transaction, so having shipping information at your fingertips is a must,

* Keep an eye on the cash register receipt to make sure sale items ring up correctly. If something doesn't ring up, immediately bring it to the attention of the cashier, and

* Ask for and staple a gift receipt to the merchandise tag of a gift in case it needs to be returned or exchanged. Keep the original receipts with any warranty paperwork for the life of the warranty.

The NFR also offers some personal tips to make holiday shopping a comfortable experience:

* Shop with safety in mind by keeping an eye on personal belongings at all times, including handbags, wallets, cell phones and purchases. Retail stores and parking facilities are not responsible for any lost or stolen items (Store holiday purchases inside the trunk of your car for added protection.),

* Prepare a shopping list that includes alternative selections in case some of the items on the list are unavailable. When gift shopping, people should remember they are buying for someone else's wants and needs, not their own,

* Avoid crowded stores by taking advantage of extended holiday shopping hours,

* Save time and help those in need by letting a charity group who might be at the mall wrap gift purchases, and

* Wear comfortable shoes, because shoppers are going to be walking on a lot of marble and tile.

For more information about the National Retail Federation, log onto www.nrf.com.

Shopping on a budget

Some holiday shoppers come prepared to stay within their budgets when they hit the stores for their holiday shopping trip extravaganza, but others need a bit more help navigating their way around the holiday season.

The National Retail Federation offers tips for those who are struggling with budgets this shopping season, including: 

* Spreading holiday purchases throughout the year works best. However, spreading purchases out over several shopping trips throughout the holiday season can also be helpful. Hurried shopping trips at the last minute often results in people making unnecessary additional purchases they don't need because they are feeling rushed and frenzied,

* Make a complete list of gifts for family and friends and the amount planned to spend on them before visiting any store or website is important, and then stick to it,

* Sign up to receive emails from favorite retailers. NRF is anticipating an extremely promotional holiday season and many sales may only be offered to a retailer's most loyal customers. Be vigilant about searching for holiday promotions in newspapers and on their website as well.

* Use the Internet to compare prices and products before setting foot in a store. Not only will it save time by researching ahead of time, you'll also save money on gas by not driving all over town, and

* Save the guesswork of gift shopping by purchasing gift cards, especially for babysitters, newspaper carriers, doormen, teachers and other recipients of smaller-value gifts. Gift cards are a great way to let gift recipients choose what they want and it's an easy way to stick to a budget.

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