Every year I get calls, e-mails, and texts asking me, “Hey Gary, when is the best time to get deals on stuff this summer?” Well the answer to that question is starting right now! Summer sales season has already begun, believe it or not, despite the fact that summer only officially began just a week ago.
You see, if you don’t already know, retailers are way ahead of you in terms of seasonality and by this time of the year they are already thinking of “Back to School” and the “Fall” merchandise mix that’s on order. It may even be on the way to the stores as we speak. Even with the rise of online browsing and the world of computer shopping sites, retail floor space is still the most valuable square footage around. Because it is, it must turn over faster and faster to keep up with the big retail stores agenda to bring you the newest, latest and hottest merchandise as early as possible. That means early selling and bigger profits margins, otherwise it means bigger clearance sales for you!
In previous posts, I’ve talked about all the tricks that retailers use to make you buy and think that you have made the deal of a lifetime. Sometimes that’s true. More often it’s a combination of planned promotions with the manufacturers participating and the unplanned lackluster sales performances of the merchandise itself. Knowing which is which is the key to knowing exactly how good your deal really is. And if you’re anything like me, you want to know how to know. That’s something as a consumer you have to judge based on timing, demand, and availability.
If you see new shipments loading the sales floor with seasonal summer merchandise right now, you can bet it was purchased just for the event. That means the stores are making lots of money in conjunction with the manufacturers. If you see sales and markdowns on in-stock items that you have been eying for the past several weeks, it’s probably a sale item that’s really a great buy (learn to spot the age codes on the products). In any event, you can judge based on your need and if you find a price that’s competitive and to your liking, that’s when you should plunge ahead.
So what should you be looking for right now? July 4th sales have already started for the following:
Summer Apparel and Swimwear
Markdowns are hitting the stores right now on summer clothes and swimwear as the hot weather moves in. By the July 4th weekend, it will be in full stride (that’s just a few days away). Look for prices that are at first 20-50% off and increasing to as much as 80-90% off as we move into August. That’s when the fall merchandise will arrive and retailers will be in desperate mode. It will force them to shrink and consolidate summer goods with final markdowns. For the best selections and longer use for this season, July is the best time to shop at stores like Kohl’s, Macy’s, JC Penney, and Target.
Remember two important points: one is to look at prices and not at only the percentage off. Sale prices are the things to compare because the “original prices” are made up by the retailers and are not always realistic. Thus a bigger percentage off doesn’t necessarily mean the best deal.
Point two: look for coupons and “stack” them if you can for even better deals. You can often find things like “take an extra 20% off your clearance purchase” which can mean beaucoup bucks for you when you checkout!
Outdoor Patio Furniture and Grilling
The Patio Shop has great items from table sets to throw pillows, umbrellas to serving carts. In July into August those areas of the stores will be converted to other seasonal shops like back to school and eventually Christmas.
In stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and even K-Mart, look for big discounts after 4th of July from 20-90% off, especially on bigger items that are taking up this valuable space. Stores that only carry the large assortments in season will have the best deals. But even stores like Sears (who carry items longer throughout the year) will have good deals because they have their own brands. They can control both manufacturing input and wholesale costs to make really low prices on their own brands.
Outdoor Sports and Recreational Items
It’s bonanza time for you outdoor enthusiasts at so many of the big retailers like Dick’s, Bass and the like. Things like fishing equipment, camping equipment and all kinds of sporting goods are promoted and marked down from 20-50% minimally. Stores in the business of selling these things all year round may not have the lowest prices on every item, but they will have the best assortments and expertise in advising you if you aren’t an expert yourself.
Even things like golf, bicycling, and boating gear in specialty stores will have their time in the sale spotlight so July and August are the best times to shop and buy.
Air Conditioners and Appliance Deals
July 4th sales are always a big time for appliances and that means everything from dishwashers to refrigerators and stoves to microwaves. The sales will roll on through the summer days of July and August and will include washers and dryers. Look for the best deals and rebates on store brands like Kenmore and all the major brands as well starting at 20% to 40% off regular pricing.
One of the best summer clearance deals every year are window air conditioning units. They are promoted by the big electronic and home stores (like Home Depot, Lowe’s, hhgregg, and Best Buy) and are sale priced heavily in summer when they are very much in demand (which may seem counter intuitive). Even your big supermarket stores carry deals on limited assortments of window units. Shop and compare actual sale prices and not percentages off!
In fact, supermarkets will also be involved in many other items at great deals in lots of “unusual” categories like grilling accessories (think barbeques and food) as well as beach towels and other summer items such as pool and beach toys that by August must go bye-bye!
Even though May has been a traditionally great month for buying a new bed, July this year will kick off a series of summer promotions on mattresses and box springs. Everyone from Macy’s to Sears and Sleepy’s will be reducing their wares from 40-60% and throwing in rebates, gift cards, free bed frames, and pillows. So if you’re looking, now is definitely the time. Make sure you ask for the best terms and payment plans as often there are zero interest terms available for good credit customers on big ticket items such as mattresses and furniture.
Last Minute Travel Deals
One area you may not think about as a summer sale item is a vacation. This year with the drops from last year in gas and airfares as well as the sudden bump in the dollar exchange rate with the pound and other currencies (Brexit ugh!), expect to see a spike in travel deals starting immediately. Even hotel rooms and weekend specials may appear as the industry tries to stimulate what recently has been a lull due to either economic issues with the traveling public or weather, travel warnings, outbreaks of disease and bad publicity. Traveling here inside the US shouldn’t have any of those stigmas right now (and hopefully never!) so it can be a real opportunity for a last minute getaway at big savings. Look on the travel and hotel websites like Expedia.com and others for price reductions.
A note for business travelers to Britain and Europe: there may be a shortage of business class seats as the airlines contemplate how much of a drop-off may occur because of the business climate turmoil since the Brexit voting!
So if any of these categories is on your list of needs or carefully considered wants, now is the time to act. But just before you do, I want to urge you to check out your favorite online sites like Amazon for extra summer savings on all the categories I’ve mentioned. My experience in the retail world is primarily in the old fashioned brick-and-mortar area, but even I have learned that online shopping has lots of amazing deals not to mention ease, timesaving, and comparison shopping abilities. The discounts can be huge and they even have ways for you to stack your specials with bonus coupon codes and incentives. Free shipping on some purchases make it even better!
One word of caution: please check the return policy on any sale or clearance items when you buy. If you change your mind or it just isn’t what you want but it’s a non-returnable item, it’s no bargain. Always ask about return policies before you buy and save your receipt if you aren’t 100% sure it’s what you want. Buying on sale is only a bargain if you use the items!
So, are you ready for the summer sales and clearances? What’s on your shopping list for summer bargains?