Buyer Beware: Retailers' Online Prices Aren't Always Cheaper

Hispanic couple shopping at Christmas
Ariel Skelley
By Krystal Steinmetz

You may compare the price of an item at several stores to make sure you're getting the best bargain. But do you check a retailer's brick-and-mortar store price with what it's selling the item for online?
If not, you should.

There's no guarantee that a retailer offers items at the same price at its online and physical stores. In fact, according to ConsumerWorld.org, you can find dramatic price variations. And, contrary to what many shoppers believe, the online price isn't always cheaper.

A Wide Range of Variations

ConsumerWorld founder Edgar Dworsky said in a statement: "There is no universal rule of thumb that prices are always cheaper online compared to the retailer's own brick-and-mortar store. In fact, many times the prices are the same, but other times they could be either higher or lower on their website. You always have to check and compare both online and in-store prices if you want the best deal."

ConsumerWorld recently conducted a spot-check of items major retailers are selling both online and in the store. The price difference could be more than $100. Yikes. A few examples:
  • Sears (SHLD). The same Kenmore cookware was $79.88 online and $129.99 in the store.
  • Walmart (WMT). A Canon PowerShot camera was $99 online, versus $139 in the store.
  • Staples (SPLS). A desktop computer was $429.99 online and $600 at the store.
  • Kmart. An in-store clearance led to a $27 price tag on a barbecue grill, which was being sold online for $107.99.
  • Target (TGT). Tide pods rang up for $19.49 at the register, and sold online for just $17.99.
According to a report by Anthem Marketing Solutions, an analysis of prices for commonly purchased items found that about 70 percent of items are sold for the same price online and in-store. When there is a price difference, the online price is cheaper 65 percent of the time. However, Anthem said that "offline provided greater average savings when there was a price difference; the online channel averages 26 percent savings and the offline channel averages 32 percent."
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