6 Strategies That Save You More in the Store

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Excited Female Shoppers With Sale Bags In Mall
AlamyA mix of in-store and online shopping habits helps you find the best deals.
By Kendal Perez

With retail headlines touting the power of mobile shopping and offering ways to compete with online retailers, you might think in-store shopping is on the decline. However, a recent study of over 1,000 consumers from TimeTrade, a customer engagement consulting firm, found that many shoppers across generations still prefer the in-store experience to other options. In fact, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed prefer to shop in store when a desired product is available both online and in the store.

A larger 2014 study of more than 2,500 consumers conducted for A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm, found a whopping 90 percent of retail sales still happen in stores. Since the practice of shopping at physical retail locations is alive and kicking, here are some unique ways you can save more during your next trip.

Send texts for savings. Your smartphone is a great money-saving tool for in-store shopping, with apps that help you compare prices, redeem coupons and receive cash back for select purchases and activities. Additionally, stores are increasingly offering "text for deals" promotions where you receive a discount in exchange for your phone number. Samuella Becker, founder of TigressPR, is a fan of this strategy and recently received a text message from her neighborhood grocery store offering $15 off her next $100 purchase. Sign up for Bloomingdale's text messages and emails, Becker suggests, and you'll receive a promo code for 10 percent off your next purchase.

Other stores that offer text-for-deal promotions include Lane Bryant ($10 off $10 or more), buybuyBaby (20 percent off) and Payless Shoes (20 percent off). Standard text messaging charges apply, so keep this in mind as you opt in to these offers.

Shop with discount gift cards. The secondary gift card market represents a unique way to save money on both gifts and personal purchases, especially when coupled with coupons and store sales. Websites like GiftCards.com and GiftCardZen.com have thousands of gift cards for sale, or you can use Gift Card Granny to compare prices from multiple gift card resellers. Savings vary by merchant and card inventory, but current estimates show up to 11 percent off gift cards to Walgreens, up to 19 percent off Dick's Sporting Goods gift cards and up to 20 percent off gift cards to JCPenney. When purchasing these cards, make sure to read the reviews and the fine print regarding price guarantees and return policies.

Get friendly with the sales associates. When you shop frequently at the same store, it's inevitable that you'll get to know the salespeople and sales managers. These relationships can lead to savings. For example, store associates can add you to a pre-sale notification list, which gives you early access to store sales. "These events are advertised quietly," explains David Zyla, Emmy award-winning stylist and author of "How to Win at Shopping." "You make your selections and a salesperson will hold them, along with your credit card information. Once the sale officially begins, you card is charged and you can then pick up your purchases," he says.

Even if you're not a regular, simply asking for a discount can get you one. Teri Gault, CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, says she usually gets 10 to 20 percent off by using this approach "almost everywhere, from department stores to airport shops to big discount stores."

Take advantage of price-matching policies. With competition heating up between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores, many big companies including Walmart, Target, Staples, BestBuy and Toys 'R Us are price-matching Amazon (and each other) on identical items. Taking advantage of these policies means you save more without having to place a separate order or drive to a different store to get the best price.

"My secret price-matching weapon is the Amazon Mobile app," says Joanie Demer, co-founder of TheKrazyCouponLady.com. Demer used the app during a recent trip to Target for her daughter's sixth birthday and says she typically finds Amazon prices to be 10 to 20 percent less than Target on select items. "All I have to do is check out at guest services and request they price-match Amazon. The cashier will look up the price on the store's tablet and I won't pay a penny more than the online price." During this particular trip, Demer saved over $25 on a total of 13 items.

Make multiple channels work for you. Deanne Goodman, savvy shopper and VP for Kombucha on Tap, suggests this savings hack: Buy products online using Ebates.com, a cash-back website, and schedule an in-store pickup to retrieve your items. "This works at PetSmart, Target, Staples and many other places," Goodman says. "I get cash back from the online order, apply any promo codes I can find online, and then go to the store where my purchase is waiting for me."

Create your own rules. Impulse shopping is the bane of budgets everywhere, whether it's at the grocery store checkout or while waiting in a cleverly-designed queue laden with coffee mugs and scented candles. Despite your best efforts, items that don't make it to your shopping list somehow make their way into your shopping cart. Cherie Lowe, blogger at QueenOfFree.net and author of "Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After," created "The 3-5 Rule" to avoid this: "Immediately before you check out, scan your cart and put back three to five items," she advises. "More than likely, you've picked up something you either don't need this week, or at all, and this quick practice will save $5 to $10 every time you shop."

Though shopping online is convenient, it's tough to beat the experience of browsing the wares of your favorite store and bringing home your top picks, especially with so many ways to get a good discount.

Kendal Perez is a spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com, a popular source for online, in-store and mobile coupons. She also blogs at Hassle-Free Savings and enjoys yoga, decluttering, craft brew and obsessing over her dogs.
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