Savvy shoppers are always on the lookout for a good deal, perhaps even more so now that money is tight for many households. Just as the best time to find deeply discounted chocolate is right after Valentine's Day, there is a prime time to get clothing and other common items at rock bottom prices.
"The best time to buy is when prices are low and inventory is full of selections," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, Inc., a consumer market research company.
Cohen said the two best times to buy clothes are before a peak holiday, such as Memorial Day, when you can find sales for spring styles, and July 4th for summer fashion sales.
He said the midseason sales can save you up to 40-50 percent off, while the post-season sales can save you 50-75 percent off. With the latter however, be aware that the selection is going to be much more limited. "Clothing not in your size is no real bargain no matter how low the price," he said.
"My best advice to consumers is always the same: something at any price that you don't need or that won't fit is no deal," Cohen said. He added that "when you see a deal at 40 percent off, buy it. If prices go down in the next 30 days most retailers will adjust the price with just showing your receipt."
Cohen said, in general, the best prices for everything are during the post winter holiday clearance (in January and February) and in the pre-fall months of July and August.
As summer temperatures are soaring, store prices for many items are dropping. Although some may argue that there's never a good time to purchase a swimsuit, it's somewhat less painful when they're on sale. According to Mandy Walker, senior projects editor for ShopSmart magazine, many retailers selling swimwear in March. They begin cutting prices as early as May and continue through August, to make room for other clothes.
Bargain hunters should also keep an eye out for deals on small electronics, such as camcorders, Walker said. "New models come out so frequently, stores are always having sales," she said.
Other July deals include indoor and outdoor furniture, which stores tend to sell at discount to make way for new inventory. "But you might want to try to wait for August to buy a dehumidifier," she said, when air conditioners also tend to drop in price. Cohen said that July is generally a good time to get a great deal on handbags, while August is often a great time to see shoe prices drop. In line with pre-fall sales, August is also a good time to stock up on underwear and socks.
September is a great time to shop for jeans, Cohen said. Walker added that deals can be found on bikes and small electronics, as well as a few select items for the yard: gas grills, lawnmowers, snowblowers. "For those looking to fill blank spaces in their garden, shrubs, trees and perennials are on sale, too," she said. Cohen and Walker agreed that many good deals could be found on winter coats in October.
The end of the calendar year is all about gearing up for the holidays. Cohen said that shoppers could find good prices to dress warm or um, dress less, since deals on sweaters and intimate apparel abound in November. Walker said that many retailers featured typical gift items - toys, baby products, bikes, camcorders, TVs, and GPS navigators - in their sales.
For those willing to wait, stores are flooded with post-holiday clearances in the first few months of the year, and just about anything leftover can be purchased at a reduced price: winter clothing, computers, cookware, toys, TVs and many other items. Walker also pointed out that "January is the traditional month of white sales" and all things bedding - like sheets and comforters - are on sale. Retailers looking to take advantage of New Year's resolutions are offloading treadmills and elliptical machines at reduced prices, she said. Cohen said that many apparel items could be picked up at a fraction of the cost (again, with limited inventory), but that February was also an especially good time to shop for shoes, socks and underwear, too.
Cohen said that March is a good month to shop for jeans, while Walker added that it's also a good time to pick up winter coats and sporting gear at reduced rates. She said that March is also a time to get deals on humidifiers, TVs and small consumer electronics (MP3 players, DVD and Blu-ray players, too). For April, she advises consumers look for computers, lawn mowers and spring clothing on sale.
As spring turns to summer, swimwear begins to go on sale and the racks shouldn't be too picked over just yet. Cohen said that May is generally a good time to shop for low prices on intimate apparel. Walker said that athletic apparel and shoes tend to go on sale in May, along with camping gear and lawn mowers. June, she said, is when many retailers have sales on computers, summer sports gear, and indoor furniture.