What to shop for in the post-Christmas sales

Dec. 23, 2011 at 10:11 AM ET

Eric Thayer / Reuters /
Catch a breather while you can -- the after-Christmas sales are coming.

Bargain hunters will find some great discounts in the days after Christmas. It won’t be hard to find sale signs boasting markdowns of 70 percent or more. But don’t expect retailers to slash the price of everything in the store, just the things they need to get out the door., a popular website that tracks retail prices, compared last year’s after-Christmas deals to this year’s Black Friday sales and found that post-Christmas sales in 2010 were “notably less exceptional” in terms of top offerings. In other words, while the prices will be good, they won’t always be great.

“You’ll see some of the best sales of the year on apparel,” says Dan de Grandpre, founder and CEO of Dealnews. “Merchants want to clear out their winter merchandise to make room for the new spring items.”

The focus this year, de Grandpre says, will be on brick-and-mortar stores, not online sales. Many retailers, he says, will use their websites to drive shoppers to their stores.

“Sometimes it will be a coupon that you print and take to the store,” de Grandpre says. “Other times it will be another discount on top of the lowest prices available at the store.”

For example, last year on Dec. 26 Gap gave an extra 50 percent off all sale items in the store until noon. Some of the items were already marked down 50 or 60 percent.

Video games also go on sale right after Christmas, even the most recent titles.

“Some of the video game prices we saw last year right after Christmas were the best prices all year, and we’re expecting that again this year,” de Grandpre says.

Is there anything you should avoid buying? You might want to wait on electronics. Dealnews says the markdowns on electronics tend to be so-so right after Christmas. Closeout prices on TVs, laptops and GPS units usually hit early in the new year.

You can also expect another round of clothing sales in January. That’s when you’ll find the biggest discounts on winter apparel.

ConsumerMan Tip: As always, it’s the final price -- not the “percentage off” -- that matters. Take the time to use a price shopping website to find out if that sale price is really as good as it seems.


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