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What to Buy at Labor Day Sales

Shopping experts offer tips on getting the best deals over the holiday weekend

Women holding smartphone buying online sale item

Daniel Allan/Getty Images

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and that means one last big sale of the season. According to shopping experts, retailers across the board are offering good deals on all kinds of items this holiday weekend to clear their shelves and make room for their fall and winter inventories. Where can you find the best deals?

Casey Runyan, managing editor of the shopping site Brad's Deals, suggests that warehouse clubs — such as Costco, BJ's, and Sam's Club — and big-box retailers, including Target and Walmart, may offer some of the deepest discounts this holiday weekend. Don a face mask and shop in person, if you're comfortable doing so, or look for online deals on retailers’ websites. Sign up for email alerts to get early word on sales and perhaps even discount codes.

Budgeting expert Andrea Woroch recommends hitting the outlets, too. “I love shopping at outlet centers over holiday weekends because you are guaranteed to get an even better deal,” she says. “They already offer reduced prices compared to regular retailer shops, and almost all outlet stores will offer additional savings or coupons.” Try shopping at off-hours, including early mornings and late in the day, to avoid crowds.

No matter where you decide to shop, go online first to scout out deals, even if you ultimately buy from a brick-and-mortar store. Sites like Brad's Deals, as well as Slickdeals.net, CouponCabin.com and CouponFollow.com, can help you spot the best sales, coupons and cash-back opportunities. Or you can use technology to make it even easier to save. “If you're an online shopper, but don't want to take the extra step of visiting a deal site to look for available discounts, install a free browser extension to do the work for you,” says shopping expert Trae Bodge, specifically suggesting such tools from Slickdeals, Coupon Cabin and Rakuten. Woroch also recommends Cently by CouponFollow.

Consider supporting local retailers during pandemic

And don't forget mom-and-pop shops, especially in light of the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. “Most businesses offer some kind of Labor Day sale,” Bodge says. “While the deeper discounts will be available at the bigger retailers, like big-box stores, department stores, warehouse clubs and sites like Amazon, I would urge consumers to make an extra effort this Labor Day to support their smaller businesses, as they need our help more than ever."

To support your local economy and still get a good deal, try a bit of haggling. “It's important to support your local businesses during this challenging time so definitely shop around, and ask if a small shop will price match a bigger online site,” Woroch says. “If they can and want to make the sale, it helps you both out."

5 Labor Day deals worth a look

While you may find sales everywhere and on almost everything, some deals are better than others. Here are five of the best things to consider buying to make the most of Labor Day sales this year.

1. Summer apparel

Say goodbye to summer and hello to savings. “As retailers clear out summer merchandise to make room for new fall and winter apparel, expect major discounts on summer fashion like sundresses, tank tops, shorts, swimsuits, sandals, sunglasses and hats,” Woroch says. Discounts on these kinds of items can top 70 percent off, and you may be able to save even more if the retailer accepts multiple coupons for a single purchase, a savings strategy known as stacking.

But Woroch suggests holding off on the small but still-tempting deals on in-season clothes like sweaters and denim. “Although you may see a small discount on fall items with 10- to 20-percent savings, the real discounts will come in October and November as retailers push sales to make room for holiday merchandise,” she says.

2. Outdoor gear

Just like summer apparel, outdoor gear — including camping equipment, patio furniture and grills — traditionally gets deeply discounted for Labor Day sales as consumer demand changes with the season. That should hold true this year; just don't expect to see prices go quite as low as they have in the past. “The inventory may not be as busting at the seams as it has been [in past years] just because we have been seeing record sales on those products due to the pandemic this year,” Runyan says. “So you just might not see as many great, sort of last-minute clearance items, but there are still going to be some deals for sure."

Woroch points to that low inventory as an extra reason to shop this weekend's sales for these items. “Although prices will continue to go lower through October, selection will be even more limited,” she says. “And buying a grill or new backyard couch over this long weekend also means you will have several more weeks now to enjoy it before the cold weather rolls in."

3. Home goods

Furniture and decor for indoor use are also typically good buys in Labor Day sales. “This is one of the big times of year where those kinds of items are going to have their biggest discounts,” Runyan says. “What I've seen this year seems pretty consistent with Labor Day sales in years past, so this is definitely a good time to look for those kinds of items."

Note though that the best deals on Halloween and fall home decor should come later in October and November. Same goes for small kitchen appliances and vacuums. “If you don't need those things right now, it's probably worth waiting until we get into Black Friday pricing,” Runyan says. “It's not really that far off, and we are anticipating this year that we're going to see very aggressive Black Friday pricing much earlier than normal, as early as October."

4. Mattresses

Who couldn't use a better night's sleep these days? You can upgrade your mattress and bedding with a great Labor Day deal. Along with discounts, many mattress retailers may offer to throw in free items, like an adjustable base or box spring, to sweeten the deal.

In recent years, several companies — including Nectar, Casper and Leesa — have popped up that specialize in shipping mattresses and accessories by mail. This approach to mattress buying allows shoppers to order online, skip trips to stores and avoid allowing delivery people inside their homes. However, in addition to reading reviews and scouting options online, Woroch recommends hitting physical stores to test out a mattress, if you can, to determine comfort. Retailers such as Mattress Firm say they are sanitizing frequently and providing shoppers with one-time-use pillow napkins.

And if you're not ready to test-drive a mattress in person just yet, and ordering an untested mattress online leaves you nervous, don't lose sleep over it. Mattresses and bedding should come with good discounts during Black Friday sales, and then again in January for the traditional white sales.


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5. Computers and gadgets

The only certainty about school this year is that it's going to be very different, and back-to-school sales have adjusted to the uncertainty accordingly. Retailers bumped or extended their usual time periods for back-to-school sales, so you may still be seeing supplies discounted for these Labor Day sales and into September. “Families are shopping later for school supplies than usual since school plans were still up in the air in early August,” Woroch says.

And what students need for school is also different. “Not only do parents need to buy everything on supply lists provided by their schools, they also need to ensure that their kids have what they need for remote learning, including laptops, desks, chairs, and noise-canceling headphones,” Bodge says. “As a result, some retailers are offering sales on these items to incentivize consumers to shop with them versus the competition."

So even if you're long past school days, you can still take advantage of discounts on computers, other tech and office supplies. Just note that the pandemic has boosted demand for certain products (like laptops), as more people continue to work from home and more students need to be flexible about where they're learning. “For laptops this year, we haven't seen as steep of discounts as we usually see, but we are still seeing good deals,” Runyan says. “There just may be fewer of them."

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