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Shoppers Guide: How to Find the Best Holiday Deals and Avoid Returns Penalties

2022 has been a challenging year for retailers and consumers alike. Shoppers started reducing discretionary spending earlier this year due to inflation-related price hikes followed by rising interest rates, forcing them to tighten their budgets. Retailers started discounting unwanted products as a result. In fact, retailers discounted 46% of all units in July–a record-breaking stat. 

Sales will pick up again as the holiday shopping season approaches, but retailers don’t expect consumers to increase spending like last year. Bain & Company predicts retail sales will grow by 7.5% this season or 1% to 3% after accounting for inflation.  

To inspire more robust consumer spending and growth while minimizing excess stock, analysts predict retailers will offer double-digit holiday deals from 10% to 32%, far exceeding last year's discounts. Steep sales is excellent news for shoppers. However, consumers should proceed cautiously because retailers are deploying various growth strategies, and only some methods are consumer-centric. A recent goTRG holiday survey revealed that retailers are implementing stricter returns policies to reduce costs and minimize refunds this year. 

Here we offer a 2022 holiday shopping and returns guide to help consumers find the best deals while avoiding returns penalties.  

Best Holiday Deals by Category

Every year, Adobe publishes a holiday shopping forecast after analyzing 1 trillion retail store visits, over 100 million products in the US, and a 1,000-shopper survey. Adobe’s 2022 data indicates consumers will see the best deals from product categories like:

  • Electronics
  • Sporting goods
  • Toys
  • Appliances

Let’s break down the top sales by the numbers. 

Computers Holiday Deals

Adobe predicts stores will mark down computers by up to 32% this year, compared to 10% last year. If the prediction materializes, this discount would be an all-time category record. Personal computers sell for $632 on average, so 32% off means shoppers can save up to $200 this year compared to $63 last year. 

Discounts on computer sales 2019 - 2022

Electronics Holiday Deals

Experts anticipate that electronics, including wearables, tablets, headsets, and speakers, will drive 49.8B dollars in spending. To guarantee this category sells, retailers are offering holiday electronics deals up to 27% off, compared to 8% in 2021. Twenty-seven percent marks the highest recorded discount for electronics–ever. 

Television Holiday Deals

Even last year, retailers offered double-digit holiday TV deals, averaging 11%. However, Adobe predicts even higher discount incentives this year, up to 19% off retail price. 

Appliance Holiday Deals

Household appliances may not be the sexiest gift. Still, appliances are practical products that people need but may need more money for due to their relatively high price point. Fortunately, retailers may exponentially increase appliance discounts from 4% in 2021 to 18% this holiday season. 

Sporting Goods Holiday Deals

Sporting goods like camping gear, scooters, bikes, and exercise equipment will also see an incredible discount boost this year. Up from 6% in 2021, sporting goods may be discounted by up to 17%. CNBC reports that Walmart and Target are the places to shop for Sporting Goods deals, based on YipitData’s consumer receipts analysis.  

Clothing Holiday Deals

Adobe expects apparel demand to decline by 6.7% this year. The situation is dire, yet retailers can’t raise clothing discounts to 30% to incentivize shoppers like they can with electronics. Why? Apparel is a relatively low-value, low-margin category, so most retailers can only extend discounts from 13% to an estimated 19%. 

Walmart, however, has already surpassed Adobe’s prediction. According to the same YipitData report, the global retail giant has been offering 20% discounts on clothing, up from about 4% last year. 

Toys Holiday Deals

Adobe predicts toys will provide one of the most significant lifts for retailers over the holiday shopping season, with no substantive changes to how consumers spend in this category. As a result, consumers can expect a slight increase from last year’s 19% off with up to 22% discounts. 

Hot products to watch - Source: Adobe Digital Insights, Adobe 2022 Holiday Shopping Forecast

Best Times to Buy

Walmart, Target, and Amazon have already started dishing out holiday deals. However, consumers should expect to see the best average discounts across categories emerging the weekend before Thanksgiving. The steepest price-slashing days will occur on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the time between Cyber Week and Christmas. 

Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at, told a major news outlet that shoppers should expect up to 50% to 60% on major sale days and up to 70% off on Black Friday.  

Consumers should also watch for special offerings. 

  • Target offers a price-match guarantee (“Deal Days”), meaning customers who purchased products between October 6th and December 24th can bring the items back for an adjusted refund if Target drops the price before December 24th. 
  • Walmart will host savings events every Monday (“Black Friday Deals for Days”) in November online and stores. Walmart+ customers will gain access to the deals seven hours earlier. 
  • Amazon is hosting a “Prime Early Access Sale” for its Prime members, featuring exclusive deals across categories. 

In addition to purchasing during major discount events, consumers should always compare prices across major retailers, regardless of how good a deal looks.  Third-party app extensions like Camelcamelcamel and Keepa can also help customers get the best bargains by monitoring price changes and sending price-drop alerts on items they want. 

Shifting Returns Policies 

Uncharacteristically high holiday sales is an appealing headline. However, the lesser-told story is this–with great sales will come stricter returns policies. 

In recent years, almost every retailer offered free returns shipping, 30-90 day windows, and flexible policies to return anything, anywhere and were even more generous during-and-after the holidays. This year, as returns processing costs rise and sales profits wane, retailers are making changes. 

Our recent holiday survey of 500 retailers revealed that 73% feel returns are a moderate-to-severe problem for their business. As a result, 60% have changed their policies in the last twelve months and over one-third now have 7 day returns windows. Many organizations will temporarily expand these windows for the holidays, but consumers must diligently check policies before making their purchases. Additionally, consumers must check for other changing terms.

For instance, 67% of retailers told goTRG they plan to start charging additional shipping or restocking fees this holiday season. Additionally, 12.5% said they are only accepting returns that fall within eligible conditions or categories. Consumers must understand these conditions before making holiday purchase decisions - no matter how tempting the deals may look. 

Bottom Line 

Consumers can take advantage of historic deals this holiday season, especially across categories like electronics, sporting goods, and appliances. Comparison pricing is still critical, but shoppers who do their due diligence will get the best deals in years. Due diligence also requires inspecting returns policies with a discerning eye. Even shoppers who think they know their favorite store’s policies should double-check, as several retailers are making holiday-specific updates. Once they’ve checked-off all the boxes, consumers can feel confident that their holiday purchases will meet their budgetary needs. 

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