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Labor Day Sales: What to Buy Now and When to Wait Until Black Friday

Plus, 5 tips for finding the best holiday weekend shopping deals

spinner image Labor Day sales close up of newspaper ads
Alamy Stock Photo

Labor Day is when we get serious about going back to school or work. It's also when we get serious about shopping. You can score major Labor Day deals at hot, end-of-summer sales. For 2021, the holiday falls on Sept. 6, so you still have time to plan your shopping strategy and find the items you need at prices that suit your budget. In fact, some stores are offering deals already, and others will extend them past Labor Day weekend.

The delta COVID-19 variant and stretched supply chains are prompting merchants to move as much merchandise as they can, as early as they can, says Kristen Gall, a retail expert and president of Rakuten Rewards. “Consumers will benefit from even bigger sales this Labor Day, with almost all major brands and retailers offering deep discounts,” she says.

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1. Think 'seasonal clearance'

Summer is ending, and merchants want to make room for fall and winter products — preferably by selling things to you. Expect to see deals on summer clothing, outdoor furniture and grills for your patio or deck. You'll also see all-weather items, such as major appliances, mattresses and even cars, says Shannon Dwyer, a deals and shopping expert at RetailMeNot.  “It's the perfect time to outfit your yard, spruce up your home and stock up for next summer.”

2. Shop in store for special deals, online for a wider selection

Major retailers will be offering attractive prices both online and in their brick-and-mortar locations, Gall says. At stores, you'll see doorbuster sales, as retailers try to drive traffic through their doors. “These in-store-only deals are particularly common during major holidays and offer extremely low prices on a few key items in limited quantities [...] like TVs and computers, for example,” Gall says.

These deals not withstanding, keep in mind that major merchants have the capacity to offer thousands of items online, many more than they could possibly offer in store, says Kristin McGrath, a shopping expert and editor from RetailMeNot. If the doorbuster deal just doesn't suit your needs, you'll have a much greater selection if you shop using your laptop or mobile phone. Which stores will be participating? Look for Home Depot, Lowe's, Kohl's and Amazon to announce sales the week before Labor Day, she advises. “Target is also worth checking out, too. It drops its weekly ads on Fridays, so check out the ad to see what's in store for the weekend.”

3. Use promo codes, deal trackers and cash-back sites

While sale prices are great, you can often beat them, McGrath points out. Do a little research, and you may find that the retailer of your choice is offering a promotional code good for an additional discount. “To make sure that you don’t miss out on a single promo code, check the retailer’s home page, or sign up early for your favorite stores’ email lists to get them,” she says. Of course, you’ll need to take the extra step of inputting them at checkout to get the extra savings, McGrath adds. Many sites offer them, including RetailMeNot, CouponCabin, TechBargains, Capital One and Amazon Coupons. Some can also be used in store.

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What’s more, you can get cash back on your purchases at some sites, including Rakuten, BeFrugal  and Ibotta, some of which offer deals at thousands of stores. Some sites will be offering higher-than-usual cash-back rates and exclusive offers during Labor Day. “Use these programs to stack cash-back deals on top of sales to maximize your savings,” Gall says.   

How do you make sure that you’re getting the best deals possible without countless hours of research? One way is to automate the process, by signing up for a deal-tracking site, and then downloading an extension to your browser. (Read the privacy rules first.) When you join these sites, you give them permission to search for deals for you. They add coupon codes automatically at checkout, or alert you when a cash-back deal is available. There are quite a few to choose from, including RetailMeNot, Coupert and Honey. In addition, Popcart sends a pop-up notification whenever a product you’re looking at is cheaper on another site.


4. Use store pickup to avoid longer shipping times

When people talk about supply chain issues, they mean everything from ships blocking the Suez Canal to a shortage of truck drivers. What that means to you is longer shipping times. If you know what you want to buy but would like to avoid mingling with other customers inside the store — and you’d like to have your purchase soon — consider using store pickup. You’ll get your purchases faster, and you’ll maintain social distance, too.

5. Buy some products later in the year

All of which ignores one question: Should you buy now, or should you wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, which seem to be arriving earlier each year? Dwyer advises waiting to purchase holiday toys, Halloween decorations, fall apparel and electronics. Also, you may see some appliances and tech products on sale during Labor Day, but the deals will be better in late October and November, she says.

Tech is definitely worth waiting for, agrees McGrath. Electronics, TVs and smart home devices tend to be deeply discounted during Black Friday sales, so she advises waiting until November to see the lowest prices of the year. “Video games and gaming console bundles are also a smart Black Friday buy.”

Gall adds laptops, keyboards and tablets to that list: “Retailers know that demand will be high [right now] due to back-to-school and continued work from home, so they will be sold at lower-than-average discounts.” You’ll be likely to pay less if you wait for a bigger shopping event such as Cyber Monday, she says.

Best buys on Labor Day

Just about every merchant will have some version of a Labor Day promotion. Here is a sampling of the many sales that you'll see over the Labor Day weekend.

  1. Outdoor furniture and grills. Home Depot, Wayfair and Overstock are offering deals on selected patio furniture, according to shopping site Gear Patrol
  2. Appliances. Best Buy is offering up to $500 off major appliances; Lowes is cutting prices on selected appliances. Lowes is offering free local delivery, according to TechRadar
  3. Mattresses. You can save 25 percent on a Bear mattress, and get a free sheet set and two free Cloud pillows, with the code LDSALE, according to Consumer Reports. Tempur-Pedic is offering up to $700 off its adjustable mattress sets, says shopping site
  4. Clothing. Old Navy is cutting prices up to 60 percent from Sept. 4 through Sept. 7; DSW is cutting up to 30 percent off selected brands, says Reader's Digest.
  5. Outdoor gear. If you want to light out for the territories, REI is making it up 30 percent cheaper at its Labor Day sale; Columbia has 25 percent off nearly everything. 

Patricia Amend has been a lifestyle writer and editor for 30 years. She was a staff writer at Inc. magazine; a reporter at the Fidelity Publishing Group; and a senior editor at Published Image, a financial education company that was acquired by Standard & Poor’s.

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