DENVER (CBS4) – Retailers are fighting for every dollar this holiday season, so being a savvy consumer is more important than ever.

Sale signs are everywhere. Retailers are hoping to draw in shoppers and beat the competition all at the same time.

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“I think they up the prices before the sale so when they put them on sale the prices are still the same,” one young shopper told CBS4.

“I would not judge a book by its cover. Just because a sale is being advertised does not mean it’s necessarily a good deal,” said Madhavan Parthasarathy, director of the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver.

CBS4 took a hidden camera into several stores popular for holiday shopping. Starting in mid-October CBS4 found sale signs were common. At Macy’s in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center Christmas decorations came into the store long before Halloween. They were priced at 30 percent off.

“I think having too many sales definitely muddies the waters for us and it means you have to do your homework more,” said Carol Johnson, chair of the Marketing Department in the Daniels College of Business at University of Denver.

Stores use sale signs to draw customers in. These days competition is tight and retailers are vying for every dollar with each other as well as with cyber stores.

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“The consumer is very savvy. And with today’s Internet they know what the prices are. They know what they should be,” Johnson added.

At J.C. Penney at Northfield, CBS4 found the sale never seems to end. We tracked the price on a Brownie Bites Maker by Bella Cucina. The original price on the tag read $39.99, but we never saw it offered at that price. A clerk at the store told us it would be on sale for 30 days at $19.99. Over the course of 6 weeks the sale price went from $19.99 to $24.99 and the product was marked as “on sale” long after the 30 days were up.

“They assume that consumers don’t pay attention necessarily to the price being offered, but more to the fact that it’s on sale,” Parthasarathy said.

It pays now more than ever to be a savvy shopper. Research prices, be patient and watch what you want; in the end you’ll likely get more value for your dollar.

“If you can play the game and you have the time to watch that carefully, sometimes you can get a really good deal,” Johnson said.

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— Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith