Opinion » Cybernaut


Christmas shopping for tech



There is a limit to how much an item can be discounted before and after the holiday season, but the smart money knows that Boxing Day deals are not always as good as they sound.

It used to be that companies would get in a pile of stock before Christmas, and hope to sell everything during the rush. Whatever was left over would be sold off at huge discounts that allowed shop owners to recoup their money while freeing up shelf and warehouse space for the coming year.

Now Boxing Day sales are contrived events, with stores advertising their prices well in advance of the sales day. As a result, you have to assume that products are ordered specifically for the Boxing Day sales rush, and will be priced for whatever margins the store decides it would like to make. They may opt to lose a little money on door crashers, but it’s only to entice customers to buy big ticket items.

The sales are still good on Boxing Day, and there is an excellent chance that you can work even better deals with sales staff when you start bundling items. But from my experience the sales can be even better in mid-January and February, a time when customers get shy with their credit cards after an orgy of seasonal spending. December is a month of spending and splurging, and is always followed by a few months of penny-pinching and saving.

As any long-time Whistler resident knows, if you buy your bikes in the fall and your snow gear in the spring you can save up to 40 per cent off the original price.

The savings may not be as big for technology, but if you wait a month after Boxing Day to buy Christmas presents you can sometimes save a fortune. That’s why the best gift this year for a relative looking for a computer, phone, television, music player or game console might be a gift certificate.

Besides the obvious need to keep the money flowing by keeping people shopping year-round, technology companies also have a tendency to release new items shortly after Christmas, with very little warning.

They have a few good reasons for this. The first is that technology companies generally spend the fall months focusing on marketing and manufacturing their existing products to meet the demands of the holiday shopping season and Boxing Day blowouts. The second reason is that it’s just bad business to announce new products for January or February that will compete with the products you’re trying to sell in December.

For example, Apple tends to release new products during their annual MacWorld conference ( www.macworldexpo.com ) in January that they don’t release for the shopping season. While the new products can be more expensive, they do make their existing product lines much cheaper. As well, new generations of older products like the iPod tend to be a lot more affordable with every new edition as the price of components goes down and the level of competition goes up.

Other technology companies follow the same pattern, introducing new products at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show ( www.cesweb.org ) in Vegas. Like MacWorld, this event is also in January.

While everyone likes unwrapping new presents on Christmas Day, maybe it would be merrier for your pocketbook to hold off on the big ticket items until at least Boxing Day and maybe a month after that.


Getting old, scientifically

The most recent Wired Magazine ( www.wired.com ) includes a link to a chart by Legendary Pharma that explains exactly how we age, from the chemical processes that break down our stem cells’ ability to reproduce themselves, to the acquisition of diseases and ailments over time. For the chart, visit www.legendarypharma.comp/chartbg.html .

Coincidentally, Men’s Health magazine in Canada recently published a list of 50 ways to slow the aging process called “50 Ways to Beat the Reaper”.   It’s a long URL so the best way to get the article is to go to www.menshealth.com/cda/homepage.do and type the name of the article into the search window.

The latest issue of Wired also has an extremely interesting article on the future of genomics, and the arrival of companies that will sift through the genetic information in your saliva to discover what congenital diseases you might be at risk of contracting as you age. If your family has a history of heart disease or cancer, it could easily be worth the $1,000.

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