3 retail sectors offering discounts now
Landing a great deal is all about timing.
Just as summer apparel and furniture tend to go on sale in the fall, the end of the year is a good time to start checking the price tags on winter clothing like thick overcoats and water-resistant shoes. It’s also the season to score deals on some home goods and video games.
To make way for new items and clear out last year’s merchandise, retailers typically discount heavily this time of year. Those discounts won’t be as steep as they were last year because retailers were able to adjust their inventories, but shoppers will still have plenty of opportunities to land a deal, says Jack W. Plunkett, the chief executive of Plunkett Research, a market research firm in Houston that tracks the retail industry. “The deeper into January you get, the bigger the markdowns,” Plunkett says.
Here are three categories in which shoppers can now find some of the best deals:
Stroll through just about any shopping mall, and you’ll see that apparel has been heavily discounted. However, many clothing stores are also trimming their prices online. Banana Republic is offering up to 40% off select items in-store and online. J.Crew is now giving shoppers an extra 20% off already-reduced prices. And Bebe, a higher-end women’s fashion retailer, is offering items online and in stores for as low as $19.99.
But take note of the fine print. For example, at J.Crew and Bebe the purchase of sale-priced items is final. Items can’t be returned or exchanged. And at J.Crew, a gift card can’t be used to purchase sale items.
Meanwhile, department stores are running conventional year-end sales. J.C. Penney is hosting a 50%- to 70%-off clearance, while Nordstrom is slashing prices between 25% and 40% on men’s apparel and accessories through its Half-Yearly Sale for Men. Bloomingdale’s is cutting clothing and accessories prices by 30% to 50% in its After Christmas Sale.
However, waiting until February or March and then heading to an outlet may yield the best prices and a more robust selection, Plunkett says. Much of what stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus can’t sell will end up in their respective outlets: Saks Fifth Avenue's OFF 5TH and Neiman Marcus’ Last Call Store, he says. Already, Neiman’s outlet stores are hosting a 20%- to 30%-off after-Christmas sale.
Merchandise overflow will similarly get re-rerouted to Web sites like Overstock.com and SmartBargains.com and off-price designer sites like Gilt Groupe and Rue La La, Plunkett says. Look for those deals between now and March, as well.
The time to buy home goods is now, says Dan de Grandpre, the chief executive of sale-tracking site DealNews. Small appliances, kitchen gadgets and some home décor items are being sold for cheaper prices than normal. However, television-set shoppers will have to wait a bit before they can see substantial markdowns. The best deals for TVs pop up right in the middle of January, he says. “Retailers usually aim for some sort of Super Bowl tie-in,” de Grandpre says.
Look for home goods sales at department stores like Bloomingdale’s, which has cut 20% to 65% off the price of some of its home items. The retailer is also offering a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal in its bed and bath department. “It's one of the best (and most comprehensive) sales we've seen from Bloomingdale’s this season,” says de Grandpre. For more home goods sales, look to Crate & Barrel and Room & Board, both of which have marked down items by as much as 50%.
Although the best time to buy toys is just before Christmas, video games are fetching a much more manageable price right now, says de Grandpre. Game consoles sold particularly well during the holidays. That means more shoppers will be on the lookout for video games, he says. To answer the call, a number of retailers are trimming their video game prices.
Best Buy and Amazon are offering some popular titles like “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed II,” which normally fetch $60, for just $40, says de Grandpre. Separately, Toys R Us is offering Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 video games for half price with the purchase of another game. The same goes for Nintendo DS video games priced at $19.99 or less.
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Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.