Retailers may have tightened their belts on returns, but they’re loosening up their price-match policies this holiday season.

Nearly all big-box retailers now offer some form of price matching, whether it’s equaling a competitor or offering a price guarantee when a regular-priced item goes on sale. The policies at Target, Best Buy and other companies are evolving in favor of the consumer, said Lindsay Sakraida, features director at

“Stores are either matching Amazon during the holidays or in the case of Target and Best Buy, year-round,” she said.

Price-match policies aren’t new. They’ve waxed and waned for longer than a decade, but retailers such as Target and Walmart began offering them again in 2009 during the recession.

Earlier this year, Walmart heavily promoted its price-match policy, even saying that consumers don’t need to show proof of a lower price.

Last year Best Buy added price matching to combat showrooming, in which shoppers check out an item in the store but then buy online.

This year, Staples and Toys R Us added to the list of retailers they match online. The office-supply company matched Amazon’s prices on its website in the past, but this is the first year it matched Amazon’s prices in its stores, too. They will also match any online competitor with a brick-and-mortar store by the same name.

Throughout the year, most retailers offer a price guarantee for seven to 15 days if the item is priced less in their own store or on their website. But retailers such as Target and Best Buy have ratcheted up the price-match period from early November until a few days before Christmas. The improved holiday policy also includes matching competitors.

For example, if a customer purchased a TV for $300 on Nov. 5 and the identical item could be found on Amazon for $250 on Dec. 15, she could get a $50 credit as long as she brings in proof of the current price and Target or Best Buy verifies it.

In theory, this means customers guaranteed the lowest price are able to look at other factors, such as product assortment, advice, convenience and service, Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said.

But the reality is that only about 5 percent of consumers take advantage of it, according to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group.

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