A tale of six sales

It seems like most stores can’t just have a sale, they need to have an event. The problem is that there are only so many reasons to reduce your prices, forcing retailers to get creative. Following are six types of sales events I’ve recently shopped.

Sidewalk sale

My take: This is, by far, my favorite type of sale. For some reason, moving items from the store to the sidewalk makes them seem more accessible. The effort involved on the retailer’s part also gives me the impression that they are a bit desperate, so I feel like I’m bound to find a bargain.

My experience: At a recent sidewalk sale, I purchased a gift for my mother-in-law at her favorite store—70% off. I’ve added it to the “Christmas closet” along with the board game I bought for my brother-in-law when a nearby bookstore was closing.

My advice: Only purchase items you are sure about. At sidewalk sales, you can’t always try items on and sales are usually final.

End-of-season clearance

My take: Retailers are always one season ahead and need to clear out their current weather-appropriate inventory to move in next season’s merchandise. So, even though it’s 90+ degrees outside, you’re more likely to see sweaters than swimsuits. On the plus side, if you do find a swimsuit, you’re going to get a great price.

My experience: Last week, I bought my daughter an adorable swimsuit for $6. I bought it a size too big and put it away for next year.

My advice: Buying items for next year is only a great idea if you remember to get them out next year! Also, stay away from items with expiration dates or trendy items that will go out style before you can use them.

Holiday sale

My take: Holidays big (Christmas) and small (Groundhog Day) are the most common reasons retailers have sales. Other events, such as the Superbowl, also spur sales. Other than the store’s decorations, I don’t see anything particularly unique about these sales.

My experience: Since I buy for Christmas all year long, I hardly ever pay attention to the winter holiday sales. Plus, there are just too many of them to try and sort out. However, at the recent Fourth of July sale at my local big box store, I somehow ended up with way too many patriotic-themed napkins.

My advice: Don’t get carried away. Holiday sales are usually connected with celebrations, making it more important than ever to remember that you need to make smart, non-emotional purchase decisions.

Going-out-of-business sale

My take: This type of sale requires patience. Most often, stores will continue to mark down their prices as the closing date nears. The key is to balance a good selection with good prices.

My experience: I was so sad to see our local hardware store close after 70 years of business. I went to their store closing sale, only to find 20% off everything (that’s not enough for me to get excited). When I went back a few weeks later, they offered 80% off, but the shelves were bare.

My advice: Even when prices get really cheap, remember to only buy things that you need. Also be sure to check the condition of items carefully; going out of business sales are final.

Customer loyalty sales

My take: If you shop somewhere a lot, signing up for a loyalty program makes sense because you can find out about special sales and promotions. On the other hand, it pays to be cognizant of how much personal information you are giving out and to whom.

My experience: I’m a “member” of at least 50 stores. I get A LOT of emails, but only pay attention to a handful of them. My favorite is when I get a coupon that says something like “$5 off any purchase of $10 or more” from a store I frequent anyway. Most of the time, using my “membership” card makes me feel suspicious that the retailer is just gathering information about me for use at a future date.

My advice: Remember that the reason you are getting special treatment is because they want you to spend money. I don’t recommend opening a credit card to get a discount because you’ll usually end up paying more in the end. If you aren’t an “insider,” ask for the member discount anyway—they’ll probably give it to you.

Limited-time sales

My take: Limited-time sales go by a lot of names (early-bird sale, 24-hour sale, one-day-only sale), but they all do the same thing: create a sense of urgency.

My experience: The pressure of having to be at a store at a certain time turns me off—I have enough obligations to worry about! However, if I happen to come upon a limited-time sale, I will gladly take advantage of it. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a single example.

My advice: Don’t panic! If you miss a great deal, just wait for the next sale. Or, you can skip the running around all together and price shop on the Internet. You can also try asking the store manager to give you the sale price even though you’re late—it never hurts to ask.

Did you know? A sale is when prices are reduced temporarily. A clearance is when prices are reduced permanently.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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