When Americans aren’t busy firing up the grill for a backyard barbecue or hitting the road this Labor Day weekend, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking to shop the holiday sales. But if consumers aren’t careful, they could actually be missing out on savings.
While not as big as Black Friday, Independence Day or Memorial Day, retailers still use Labor Day weekend as an opportunity to move merchandise off the shelves in the lead-up to the holiday shopping season. The weekend is also a last-ditch opportunity for many shoppers looking to score back-to-school bargains.
There are good deals to be had this weekend, but not all sales offer the best possible savings. Here are MarketWatch’s tips on which sales to skip, which to shop and which to approach with caution.
Avoid: Fall apparel and boots
Tempting as it is to snag new clothes, this is the No. 1 thing to avoid, according to Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with savings website DealNews. Because retailers are just beginning to stack the shelves with the latest designs, it’s unlikely that they’ll have any merchandise available for discount. “If you wait an additional month, the discounts will be much better,” Sakraida said. Instead of fall clothing, Sakraida recommends scanning the clearance racks for discounted summer apparel that can transition into fall.
Avoid: Halloween costumes
As with Valentine’s Day candy and Christmas decorations, the best time to buy Halloween costumes and décor is right after the holiday — not before it. Retailers will offer discounts of up to 90% off on Halloween-related merchandise beginning Nov. 1, according to savings wesbite Offers.com.
A good rule of thumb when judging a sale is to consider whether the item will be discounted on Black Friday — if so, waiting is typically in a consumer’s best interest. That’s especially the case with products such as televisions and tablet computers, as holiday season deals on these are very difficult to beat.
Approach with caution: Appliances
Sales on major appliances are typically better during other times of the year. For instance, in May retailers often put refrigerators on sale, because new models become available in June, said Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at discount website RetailMeNot. Nevertheless, consumers may want to keep an eye out on special deals from some retailers. “September and October have shown to be the best time to buy big appliances at stores like Sears,” Skirboll said. “While they are making room for new holiday inventory, large appliances like dishwashers, washers and dryers can be found at Sears for deals up to 60% off.”
Approach with caution: Gas grills
Labor Day is perhaps most famous for its sales on grills — and given that summer is winding down, good deals are often available this weekend as prime grilling season comes to a close. But these sales are often just the beginning of the discounts shoppers will find, according to savings column The CheckOut. While sales between 25% and 50% off are not uncommon, consumers could save an additional 25% by waiting until October or November. But selection will be more limited then, so if consumers have a particular brand or model in mind, Labor Day may be their best bet.
Buy: Patio furniture and air conditioners
With autumn only weeks away, stores are going to be deeply discounting inventory that’s geared toward summer, such as lawn mowers, fans and swimming pools. “Labor Day is actually a very good time to buy those items, especially if they are bulky items stores won’t want to keep in stock throughout the year,” Sakraida said. That said, buying items now for next summer takes a bit of planning — so if the purchase isn’t a necessity, it might be worth it to wait for potentially better sales as fall and winter come along.
While many will say Memorial Day weekend is the best time to buy a mattress, Labor Day is a good alternative if you missed the sales in May. Many major retailers offer bargains on their mattress inventory this weekend. And unlike other items, there’s no benefit to waiting for Black Friday deals, Sakraida said. “They’re not going to get any cheaper during the holidays,” she said.