Cyber Monday and Black Friday can teach a business owner a lot about marketing, pricing, and merchandising. But they and other aspects of the end-of-year shopping extravaganza can also offer entrepreneurs many ways to save money.
There are several ways to boost profits. One is to increase revenue. A second is to increase gross margin. And a third is lowering overall costs, thereby improving net margin. That's what big end-of-year sales can do. Here are some of the ways to make it pay off.
Tax deductions, but only if really needed
There seems to be an assumption among many that creating deductions is necessarily good for taxes. It can be. The more deductible items you have, the lower the gross income of the business and, therefore, the lower the taxes. But you have to get above tax myopia. What you want for your business is greater financial strength. If you have things you really will need, either for current operations or near-future expansion or replacement, and you have the free cash, then, sure, buy them and take the deduction, preferably with the Section 179 fast depreciation if possible and advisable. (Remember that you can't take a 179 deduction if you have a net loss.)
However, this only makes sense when you really need what you're getting. If not, you're wasting money. The value of the purchase price as income less whatever top marginal tax rate you see is still more than the value of an item you don't need. Again, if you're going to have to replace something in the near future, sure, go ahead. Remember, though, that you may want deductions in the coming years as well.
This depends on your overall business tax position. Maybe you need something soon but likely will have more income next year. Then put off the purchase until January (more about that in a minute).
Whatever you do, check with your tax advisor whether you can donate the replaced items to a charity and get another deduction.
Wait until January
Retailers are hell-bent on attracting business without necessarily giving away overall margin. But they also have to get rid of inventory. Thus, January is part of the shopping season. It's also been a month for good prices on old inventory furniture and may be good for large screen TVs (for conference or large design workstations) and cameras, as companies try to capitalize on the Super Bowl and get ready for new camera models in February and March.
Get the lowest price
There's a lot out there about how to shop smartly during the season. Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Thanksgiving after you've stuffed yourself? According to DealNews.com, different days have different strengths. Cameras, iPhones, television sets, and speakers are best on Thanksgiving. Headphones, Black Friday. Android smartphones? Cyber Monday.
Cyber Monday is better for data storage and laptops, but Thanksgiving is tops for tablets. Pick up travel deals on the Monday, but power tools on Friday. Depending on the business need, you have to do research into the best time to fill it, especially as Cyber Monday does have some of the best deals and is less advertised in advance. Door buster specials are dying out, so don't expect to score a great deal by showing up at a crowded mall on Friday.
There is a world of tech to help shoppers, whether price comparison sites, browser price monitoring extensions (watching retailers for a lower price), or search engines and sites that can turn up coupon deals. Check what's available and put some of it to use. The extra benefit is that it cuts down the time it takes to get better pricing.
Be smart shopping online
Retailers have mounds of tricks up their sleeves to maximize online sales. Here are some techniques to try:
- Turn cookies off when first shopping because, if you return to buy an item, the price may go up.
- Turn cookies back on when about to place an order and then abandon the shopping cart. Many retailers will sweeten the deal some to get you to come back and place the order.
- Many physical stores offer price matching, even against online sites. So, if you're already somewhere you could get the item, check online and see if you can get it while you're there. (Remember to add the state tax burden if the online retailer doesn't have a physical presence in your state and so doesn't collect sales tax.)
- Always add in shipping to the price. It's the combination that really matters, as some companies will push up the shipping and handling charges to make up some lost margin.
And in all cases, value your time. It's great to get the best price on something, but if you end up spending hours and losing valuable time for other things you need to do, you may end up spending more than the savings you gain.