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Cracking the gadget pricing code: Buy now or wait?

Tom Spring | Dec. 17, 2012
I get an uneasy feeling every time I belly up to the Best Buy cash register and fork over my credit card to buy a big ticket item. My worst fear? A sudden drop in retail pricing—one that occurs immediately after I make my purchase.

Get that Blu-ray player before the best deals are gone

For bargain hunters, this holiday buying season makes now the best time to buy a Blu-ray player, says Baker. He notes that discount retailers such as Walmart and other budget retailers are driving Blu-ray player sales with holiday promotions that chop the average price in half. For example, Walmart is selling the LG BP125 Blu-ray player as a promotion for $40, a 50 percent decrease from the regular price of $80.

"Pricing can't get much lower than some of the promotions I see out there," Baker says. "If you see a Blu-ray player priced below $50, and you want it, buy it," he says. After the holidays, so-called door-buster pricing on Blu-ray players could disappear.

Buying Advice: Blu-ray deals will dry up after the holidays, so don't try to game the market but delaying your Blu-ray purchase. Now is the time to buy.

Cameras are creeping up in price

Today's high-end DSLR cameras are not seeing the same downward-trending prices that the segment experienced in past years. In fact, prices are up nearly 14 percent according to PriceGrabber data. PriceGrabber's Avanesian blames the creeping cost of DSLRs on an increase in the number of high-end cameras on store shelves this year compared to last year.

"We are seeing a lot of people trading up their camera gear to something better. They are looking for advanced features and more megapixels, and are willing to pay more," Avanesian says. As long as most of the people buying DSLRs are upgrading, the market will remain aspirational, and prices will stay high.

Buying Advice: New camera buyers are looking for the newest DSLR features. So, if you're OK with buying last year's model, and passing on the latest features, you'll save at checkout. But if you want the latest-greatest innovations, prepare to pay up! 

Point-and-shoot cameras, e-readers, and stand-alone GPS unit

 On the other end of the camera spectrum, point-and-shoot cameras priced below $200 aren't budging in price. Neither are prices for stand-alone GPS devices and e-readers. What these three tech gadgets have in common is a significant lack of public affection. There's just no demand for them, so manufacturers and retailers aren't dropping prices to goose competition. In essence: If you actually want one of these gadgets, be prepared to pay sticker prices, because the industry isn't motivated to offer any deals.

Let's take a closer look at e-reader pricing as an example.

Demand for e-readers has dropped dramatically compared to last year. According to an IHS iSuppli Consumer Electronics Special Report, 2012 shipments for e-readers are 36 percent lower compared to 2011. As with GPS devices and point-and-shoot cameras, demand is anemic and prices are already close to the bone. So, with no new, exciting models primed to fill store shelves and replace old inventory, pricing for these fading gadget will remain flatand may even go up, say pricing experts. 


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