As far as shopping holidays go, Labor Day weekend often gets lost in the mix between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and even Memorial Day. But Labor Day, it turns out, could be one of the most underrated shopping holidays of the year.
It's not even considered a consumer holiday, explains the National Retail Federation's Kathy Grannis, because the weekend doesn't revolve around shopping. "People might use the weekend to sit at home and relax by the air conditioning. There's no gift-buying associated with it," she explains.
Yet those who do decide to spend their time off at the mall or visiting online retailers will find discounts waiting for them, at least on certain items. ShopItToMe.com reports that last year, discounts on clothes, shoes, and accessories averaged close to half-off, which was even steeper than the discounts found on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Indeed, clothes and shoes are among the top categories to consider if you plan to get your wallet out this weekend. Other top deals include:
Back-to-school gear: "Early September is a great time to shop for back-to-school. Not in August when everyone else is, and the stores tease you with 10-cent pencils but no other discounts," says Brad Wilson, publisher of the coupon site Brad's Deals. By September, though, stores start to worry than everyone's done with their back-to-school shopping and do what they can to get rid of the rest of their inventory as quickly as possible, he explains.
Outdoor furniture: Anything you might find in the summer outdoor section, like patio furniture or grills, are prime candidates for great discounts, adds Wilson. Stores want to clear out their leftover summer items to make way for fall, and Labor Day weekend is the perfect time for them to do so. BradsDeals.com predicts that Macy's, Home Depot, and Lowe's will be among the retailers offering the best deals.
Leftover beach-related items: Leftover tank tops, flip flips, bathing suits, and other quintessential summer gear will likely be in the discount racks as stores prep their shelves for an influx of new fall items, says Grannis.
Fall merchandise: "Retailers will offer great deals on select fall items," adds Grannis, and that means killer deals on everything from fall sweaters to bedding to home décor. Since consumers often use the fall season to focus on home improvement, stores offer discounts on lawn and garden equipment and other household items. According to DealNews.com, shoppers scored half-off discounts on mattresses over last year's Labor Day weekend.
Televisions: Thanks to the official start of football season during the week of Labor Day, stores often discount televisions for customers preparing to watch games at home. "We expect to see door-buster sales around televisions and home theater systems throughout the long weekend," says James Brown, director of merchant accounts for the price-comparison site PriceGrabber.com.
If stores know about new television upgrades or home-entertainment products coming out before the holidays, they also try to unload their older models now, leading to even steeper discounts, adds Wilson.
Children's items: While popular retailers don't always offer their lowest prices on Labor Day weekend, DealNews.com features director Lindsay Sakraida says that last year, the best deals came in the children's categories, including toys and clothing. The children's apparel retailer Carter's, for example, offered a site-wide discount of 50 percent off, along with an additional 20 percent off for items over $40.
Holiday gift shopping: Sure, it's early, but according to RetailMeNot.com, almost 4 in 10 shoppers start their holiday shopping before November. As a result, says spokesman Brian Hoyt, "retailers come out in full force to offer deals to consumers."
For other items, shoppers will be better off waiting until Black Friday or other big holiday-related sales coming up in a few months. "While any of these holiday weekends are good deals in the context of the immediate two- or three-week period, in the grand scheme of things, when they're stacked up against Black Friday or Cyber Monday, they're not anything remarkable," says Wilson.
This year, retailers have even more reason to hold back on major discounts, since consumers aren't pinching pennies as much as they were in the economic doldrums of 2008 and 2009, says Grannis. "We're seeing regular sales cycles... retailers had to get back to normal price points," she adds.
That means if you can wait to make a major purchase, such as a new refrigerator or dishwasher, you'll probably be better off waiting for Black Friday, which is in about three months, or for a random sale that hits outside of any particular sales holiday. "If you have patience, sit and wait," advises Wilson.
For those who still want to hit the stores this weekend, shopping experts suggest doing background research. "Extra discounts aren't always prominently displayed in the store," says Sakraida. "Before making any purchase, check online to see if there's an extra discount, then see if the salesperson will honor it at the register," she says. Mobile apps by RetailMeNot.com, BradsDeals.com, DealNews.com, and PriceGrabber.com can also help shoppers make sure they're getting the best deals.
Also, shoppers should check their email: Experian Marketing Services reports that retailers send Labor Day-focused emails between mid-August and September 7, and those emails often contain coupon codes, including for free shipping.
Just another reason to scroll through retail sites while watching the first official football games of the season.
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