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The best Labor Day deals (and when to pick in-store over online)

Now's the time to score major deals on big-ticket items like home appliances, mattresses and even automobiles
by Nicole Spector /
A family shops for washing and drying machines at Lowe's Home Improvement store in East Rutherford, New Jersey on May 21, 2018.
Appliances are on sale at deep discounts at stores like Home Depot, Sears and Lowe's. Ted Shaffrey / AP file
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Labor Day weekend has traditionally been one of the year’s most celebrated shopping extravaganzas, with retailers ushering in mega sales on a variety of categories. Big-ticket items like home appliances, mattresses and even automobiles historically see significantly reduced prices, as does summer apparel.

If you’re looking to save money on any of the above, you should find yourself in luck this weekend, but as with any jumbo savings holiday, you’ll need to do a bit of digging to find deals that are truly worth it. To help, we’ve compiled an expert guide to navigating the Labor Day sales — and noted when it could be best to shop in-store versus online.

BETTER editors, writers and experts take care to round up the best sales and deals. BETTER does have affiliate relationships. So, while every sale is independently scouted, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Summer Apparel

“Summer [apparel] and back to school staples became available in stores near the end of June and early July,” said Sara Skirboll, the resident shopping & trends expert at RetailMeNot. “Two months [in] is historically the sweet spot when retailers tend to discount apparel items so you can expect to see great savings.”

Clothes and Accessories

Here is a selection of top Labor Day deals in apparel:

Forever 21 is offering 50 percent off in-store and online. If shopping online use coupon code EXTRA50, and go through RetailMeNot to get up to $20 cashback site-wide.

Levi’s is hosting 30 percent off site-wide with the code SAVE30 and up to 60 percent off sale styles. Via RetailMeNot, you can get $10 back on online buys of $100 or more, and $20 back on orders at or over $150.

JCPenney is touting 25 percent off an online purchase of $100 or more on select apparel, shoes, accessories, fine jewelry and home goods. Separately, shoppers can get an extra 20 percent off on any purchase paid with a JCPenney credit card, or an extra 15 percent off with any other method of payment. “TopCashback is also offering 10 percent cashback at JCPenney, giving shoppers,” says Chelsea Hudson, personal finance expert at TopCashback.

Old Navy may be the winner for best deal here with 50 percent off all jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts and dresses.

Appliances, Home Goods and Outdoor Gear

"If you're in the market for new kitchen gadgets and appliances, you'll find sales on refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washers and dryers,” says Hudson.

Here’s a roundup of striking sales:

  • Sears is offering up to 40 percent off appliances plus free delivery ($399 and over), and you can nab an extra 10 percent online with the coupon code APPLIANCE10, plus another 10 percent when using a Sears card.
  • BestBuy is also featuring up to 40 percent off on appliances.
  • Home Depot has outdoor power tools for up to 30 percent off, grills for up to 15 percent off, up to 20 percent off fans and lighting and up to 44 percent off select motion activated kitchen faucets.
  • Wayfair’s Labor Day clearance touts up to 70 percent on kitchen goods and major appliances, 65 percent off on living room, bedroom, office and outdoor furniture, in addition to lighting and storage goods and “pet picks”. Bedding and rugs can be bought at markdowns up to 75 percent.
  • Lowe’s has a range of home items (discounts vary) on sale, with some items reduced by as much as 50 percent.

Mattresses

“New mattress models hit the market right around now, so expect to see discounts on older models,” said Skirboll. “Unlike electronics which are always being updated with the newest bells and whistles, last year’s mattress model will have all the same functionality as the new designs, so I recommend taking advantage of these sales if you’re looking to refresh your sleeping set up.”

Virtually every major retailer who sells mattresses has a big sale going on right now.

Some top contenders:

Additionally, you can get 75 percent off bedding at Wayfair, 60 percent off comforters and quilts at Kohl’s and 70 percent off sheets at Macy’s.

Soon to be ‘Outdated’ iPhones

"Historically, Apple announces new iPhone models in September, so you'll start to see discounts on older models,” says Hudson. “Those who don't mind missing out on the newest update can save up to $200 on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at BestBuy when you buy and activate with a monthly installment plan. Verizon Wireless is also offering $100 off iPhones with an upgrade or add a new line and get $300 off. To sweeten the deal, TopCashback gives $100 cashback for new Verizon device payment activations."

New Cars

“Labor Day is renowned for car sales and deals, meaning that consumers in the research and planning phase may purposefully hold out or plan ahead to buy a car this weekend, knowing there will be an abundance of deals,” said Curtis Tingle, CMO of Valassis. “Confirming this thought, our consumer intelligence showed a significant spike in consumers looking online for cars around Labor Day in 2017. We can expect fantastic deals on cars this weekend to help drive new automobile lease and purchase activity.”

For these deals, geography is key, so your best bet is to check in with local dealerships, even if that means simply visiting their social media pages.

Brick-and-mortar may offer better sales on ‘touch-and-feel’ items

Many of the sales currently advertised are “online only”, but we can expect a strong in-store presence come the actual weekend. In fact, deals could be even mightier at the brick-and-mortar level.

“Brick-and-mortar stores are still struggling profoundly, and re-strategizing to be a tactile experience,” Jeffrey Galak, associate professor of marketing at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon tells NBC News. “Their advantage is that they offer a touch-and-feel experience, so I expect they will heavily push those items —like clothing — this Labor Day. It’s an experience you can’t get online.”

Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at the NPD Group, adds that though the online deals are compelling, you can almost guarantee better Labor Day deals in-store on a few key items.

“The best places to look for deals on outdoor furniture, summer apparel, and even the pre-season coat is in-store, versus online,” says Cohen. “Bicycles will also be better to buy in-store, as will outdoor toys. The online mattress industry has taken such a chunk our of the in-store business, so I think [mattress retailers] will get very aggressive this weekend at the brick-and-mortar level.”

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