Seattle price-data firm Decide Inc. examined more than 500 "doorbuster" deals advertised in Black Friday circulars by large retailers including Sears, Target and Best Buy and found nearly a third of the discounted products were sold at lower prices earlier in the year, the Journal said.
For instance, a KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer is to be sold at Sears Friday for $319.99. But the retailer offered the same mixer for $296 in March, Decide told the Journal.
A Sears spokesman told the newspaper in an email: "We believe our advertised prices are competitive and we are well positioned to give our customers great value. Like any retailer, our pricing varies throughout the year."
Sears sometimes changes its appliance prices several times a week.
Home Depot touted a General Electric Adora dishwasher for $598 Black Friday but sold it for $538 over the Columbus Day weekend, Decide found. A Home Depot spokeswoman said most Black Friday deals are its best of the year.
Retailers don't generally promise Black Friday prices are the lowest ever.
Decide found many bargains were genuine, with most doorbuster deals it checked the lowest prices of the year, the Journal said.
McKinsey & Co. marketing and sales practice senior expert Rob Docters told the Journal retailers probably count on consumers assuming advertised sales are the best of the year.
"People associate Black Friday with good prices, and that eliminates the need to check price," he said.
Up to 147 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend, down from 152 million who planned to do so last year, the National Retail Federation trade group said.