For the Best Deals of the Year, Shop Labor Day and Skip Black Friday

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. And while your weekend plans probably include a final hurrah at the beach and perhaps a quick cameo at a few cookouts, don't forget to hit your local retail malls. (See also: The Store Sales Cycle)

Any holiday is an excuse to shop as retailers advertise big sales and clearances on just about everything. But like most shoppers, you may feel that Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer more bang for your buck.

Sure, if you have the patience to fight crowded retail lines, plus the willpower to wake up at 4 a.m. for doorbuster sales, you can score amazing discounts on Black Friday. But don't set your alarm clock so fast. Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but according to data released by Shop It to Me, a personalized shopping website, Labor Day might offer better discounts — and not just on last-minute back-to-school items. (See also: Back-to-School Items You Should Always Shop for at the Thrift Store)

The website analyzed "nearly 700,000 markdowns throughout 2011 from over 150+ online retailers" and ranked Labor Day as the best shopping holiday for deals, with average discounts around 48.4%. According to the survey, Black Friday/Cyber Monday discounts only averaged 41%-42%.

But seriously, Labor Day? Other experts agree.

"Labor Day is like Last Chance Saloon for great deals every year," says Mark Ellwood, author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discount World. "The reason is simple: most Black Friday/Cyber Monday offers are artificial — or, more accurately, the merchandise isn't exactly marked down, but rather bought in specially and always intended to be sold on-sale."

Although the majority of consumers are not likely to associate Labor Day with huge shopping sales, it's "the ultimate clearance opportunity."

With cooler temperatures right around the corner and the holiday season quickly approaching, retailers are in a mad dash to clear summer stock and make room for the arrival of new merchandise — even if it means letting items go at unbelievable discounts.

Of course, the selection of sale or clearance items during Labor Day is small when compared to the selection at the beginning of the summer season. But if you find what you're looking for, "splurge as much as you can over Labor Day, buy as many gifts for the holiday as you can, and then keep your wallet closed until November," says Ellwood.

Where to Spend Your Money This Labor Day

So, what exactly should you splurge on this holiday weekend? According to Brad Wilson, CEO of, a coupon and savings website, this is the best time to score huge deals on last season's items, such as summer clothes, patio furniture and other outdoor accessories. "Buy now, stash them away for next year, and save."

Kids can never have too many pairs of jeans for school. And since retailers typically stock up on denim in preparation for back-to-school, "there are still piles of blue jeans lingering in stock rooms, and stores respond accordingly," according to Ellwood. "The annual denim discount period kicks off at Labor Day." (See also: Buy Jeans on the Cheap)

Labor Day bargains, however, don't stop with clothes and outdoor supplies.

Now's also the time to shop if you're in the market for new appliances: washers, dryers, stoves, etc. "Most new white goods models are issued in September and October, which of course means that last year's models — which usually look 99.9% the same as the new ones — are marked down significantly at this period."

The savings also applies to cookware, a staple of Black Friday markdowns. "The deals on Labor Day are as good, if not better, than later in the year."

Snagging the Best Discounts on Labor Day

  • Don't be afraid to open your mouth and ask for additional savings. The sales associate or manager will either say yes or no — you've got nothing to lose. For example, if you're buying two pairs of jeans, maybe you can ask for a multi-buy markdown, suggests Ellwood. (See also: 5 Phrases to Avoid When Negotiating)
  • Retailers take a hit each time a consumer uses a credit card, as much as 3%-4% per transaction. Use this knowledge to your advantage and ask the retailer to discount the price of a higher ticket item if you agree to pay in cash.
  • Use automated services to take the stress out of bargain hunting. Sign up for free services — like — that will track your favorite brands and notify you of sales. "Pre-select everything from brand to color to trend and wait for the deals to roll in." Additionally, create a Twitter handle or email account specifically for shopping and subscribe to your favorite retailer's feeds and email clubs. This is a convenient, reliable way to learn about the day's sales and receive exclusive coupon codes.

Will you be shopping this weekend? Do you have tips for other Labor Day shoppers? Let me know in the comments below.

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Lars Peterson's picture


After reading this I headed out with the pup for our morning stroll and noticed that the three piece "Red Bistro" outdoor dining set (retro enameled steel, like Gramma used to have) sitting out front of the local True Value hardware store that I have had my eye on all summer has been marked down to $109.00 from $159.00.

I'll be picking mine up later this afternoon.