7/05/08 The Californian
Local Web site thrives as economy sinks by Jennifer Kabbany
Tough economic times are creating bargain hunters every day, a trend clearly evident to Karen Hoxmeier, owner of mybargainbuddy.com.
The French Valley mother of three started the Web site nearly a decade ago. It promotes thousands of slash-and-burn retail prices, freebies, coupon codes and more. It has grown in popularity every year, but now averages about 50,000 hits a day, Hoxmeier said.
"With the economy now, it's growing even faster," said Hoxmeier, who runs the site out of her home. "People are telling their friends."
The economy is bad and only seems to be getting worse. The housing market is stagnant, gas and food prices continue to rise to never-before-seen levels, credit cards are being maxed out, and consumer confidence is at its lowest level since 1992, according to market analysts.
The situation is forcing people to become savvier shoppers, Hoxmeier said.
That's where mybargainbuddy.com comes in. All of the items listed are marked down by at least 50 percent. Often, the deals tout free shipping as well, Hoxmeier said.
"That's money in your bank instead of your gas tank," she said.
Hoxmeier is not alone in her success at tapping into the need for bargains, said consumer and retail expert Margie Johnson of shoptalk.org. She said shoppers are turning to comparable Web sites, such as overstock.com and eBay.com, for similar deals.
"People are having to be mindful," Johnson said. "Right now they are looking around for the sales." As shoppers have become more comfortable with online purchasing, the trend to turn to the Internet has grown, Johnson said. Retailers, for their part, are willing to make "bottom-of-the-barrel bargains" because they have to move their merchandise, she said.
Mybargainbuddy.com includes sale items for apparel, electronics, children's items, home and garden, health and beauty, computer and office supplies, food, travel and more.
"I have a dozen new items every day," said Hoxmeier, a stay-at-home mom who spends about six hours a day working on the Web site.
"I also have coupon codes for about 1,000 different stores," she said. "If they want to go to a specific store, they can go to my site and look for a coupon code."
Stores pay Hoxmeier a commission for the sales she generates on her site, she said.
Now that clearance items are not flying off the shelves as fast as they used to, the deals are becoming even more lucrative, Hoxmeier said. Especially clothing stores, which are practically giving their out-of-season items away, she said.
Another great buy is annual magazine subscriptions, she said. Some are being offered for as little as $4 per year, equivalent to the cost of one or two magazine impulse purchases at the checkout line, she said.
"Why buy two when you can have 12 at the same price?" Hoxmeier said.
Also, restaurant gift cards can be a steal nowadays, she said. Sometimes they offer a $25 gift card for as little as $4, she said.
What's more, items that generally come down in price on their own, regardless of the economy, are cheaper now more than ever, Hoxmeier said.
For example, there are incredible sales on electronic items, which tend to decrease in price the longer they are on the market anyway, and are especially affordable with the current economic crisis, she said.
Yet even with all the deals out there, some luxury items will never become affordable, she said.
"People who can buy those items are not worried by the economy, so you are not going to find any great deals on Chanel," Hoxmeier said. "But if you are not hung up on name brands, there are so many deals out there ---- it is just insane."