While efficient bargain shopping is often dictated by the economic tide, many merchants faithfully follow certain annual sale trends. Better understanding of these trends means a steady stream of savings for consumers.
So, at dealnews, we've mined our extensive archives of sales, coupons, and individual products from the past few summers to find patterns that can guide your buying experience in August. Here’s what we found.
Back to School Shopping Heats Up
According to our deals from last year, August is the best summer month to get discounts on back-to-school items. Numerous deals that we saw in July will continue in August, with most offering even deeper discounts. For example, college-friendly apparel retailers like Aeropostale and Abercrombie & Fitch offered their best sale of the year (up until that point) during the month of August, and we expect to see similar trends in 2012.
Also keep an eye out for dorm furniture from retailers like Walmart — which offered futons for as low as $89 last year, as well as computer desks for $34 — and special sales on backpacks and computer cases for under $10. As for back-to-school laptops, consider taking advantage of special promotions that bundle your purchase with gift cards, gaming consoles, and printers.
Carnival Cruises Come in at Fantastic Prices
Savvy shoppers looking to book a vacation would do well to consider a cruise, specifically one from Carnival Cruises. We have consistently seen from Carnival some of the lowest prices possible on tropical routes to locations like the Caribbean. In fact, 41% of cruise deals this year have been from Carnival. If you're browsing for a cruise, you'd do well to start with the provider that caters to travelers looking for a party-like atmosphere.
Summer Apparel on Clearance
As we near the end of the summer season, retailers will begin to get even more aggressive with their clothing discounts as they try to make room for autumn apparel. In fact, in the final days of July, we saw numerous Editors' Choice deals trickle in that offered enormous stacking coupons that took an extra 30% to 50% off already-discounted sale items. We expect to see much of the same in August; last year, Eddie Bauer, Converse, French Connection, Dickies, Patagonia, Nautica, Kenneth Cole, and Old Navy offered among the best sales of the month.
Last Chance for Swimwear
Although you can lump this into the general summer apparel category, it's important to note that after August, you'll be hard-pressed to find any swimwear deals. For the past two years, the number of swim sales have significantly decreased come September, suggesting that most stores do a good job of clearing their inventory in August. Look for sales that take up to 70% off or more from retailers like Victoria's Secret, Lands' End, and Kohl's.
Wait Until September or October for Patio Sets
We mentioned last month that although you will see many sales for summer patio furniture, a savvy shopper would benefit by waiting until September or October for the best deals. Several patio sets and gardening items from Sears, Amazon, and other merchants hit their lowest prices in October, as they were available for significantly less than we had seen them at over the summer.
Hold Off on the Kindle Fire
There are rumors that Amazon will be releasing the Kindle Fire 2 in the coming weeks. This means that it's not a smart time to buy the current Fire tablet. As we postulated earlier this month, Amazon will likely debut the updated Fire for $199, to remain competitive with the new Google Nexus 7, but keep the original around at a lower price. We predict it will drop to at least $169, if not lower.
Wait for Discounts on Older iPhones
Speaking of rumored tech releases, here's another to keep in mind: Supposedly, Apple is releasing the iPhone 5 in late September or early October. If you're an Apple fan that always needs the latest and greatest, you'll want to hold off on an iPhone purchase for the time being. But even those who don't mind an older model should hold tight; after the last update to the iPhone 4S, Apple kept its 3GS and 4 around at reduced prices. This time around, the now-free 3GS will probably be discontinued, but it's very likely that the 4 and 4S will stick around and see newly-reduced starting prices.
iPhone Dock Accessories Provide Good Deals for Some, Bad Ones for Others
If you are in fact considering buying the iPhone 5, you'll want to hold off on buying any new dock accessories as well. Although in the past these have generally been universal use across iPhone models, the newest Apple smartphone is rumored to have a smaller, 19-pin dock connector. Although Apple will likely sell an adapter, you can bet it won't be cheap. Plus, there's a possibility that other brands will be forced to buy a chip from Apple in order to make their own accessories and adapters compatible, so who knows if stores like Meritline will have the typical uber-cheap alternatives.
If you have no interest in upgrading to the iPhone 5 though, and you're content with your older model (or if you plan to buy one of them at the aforementioned lower prices), then the coming months will actually be a great time to take advantage of retailers that are trying to clear out their stock of soon-to-be-outdated accessories.
Grill Deals Are Red Hot in August
If you've waited patiently to buy a grill this year, you may be rewarded with a much larger pool of deals to choose from. The number of grill deals we saw last year in August was 30% higher than that of July, suggesting that retailers begin taking more widespread cuts this month. Look to vendors like hhgregg, Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, and Walmart for sales and discounts.
46" HDTVs Remain at All-Time Lows, 3D Shows Some Promise
The final weeks of summer generally don't see many notable HDTV sales. However, if you're shopping for a new HDTV this August, there are two categories you can't afford to miss. First, name-brand 46" 1080p LCD HDTVs are at an all-time low. In July we saw a 46" Samsung hit $449. That's a $51 drop from June's best deal for a TV this size and the least-expensive 46" name-brand TV we've ever seen. Shoppers should look for deals at or below $449.
Likewise, 55" 3D HDTVs also experienced a price dip in July, dropping to $999 (a price we hadn't seen since Black Friday 2011). As a result we recommend TV shoppers look at 55" 3D LCD HDTVs at or below $999.
Take Advantage of Back to School Laptop Bundles
Even if you're not going to college, your chances of scoring a laptop bundle in August are pretty high. While some deals may require a valid .edu email, others (such as deals from newegg, OfficeMax, and the Sony Store) do not require any credentials. Keep your eye on laptop and console bundles as well as laptop and printer bundles. These deals will stretch your dollar further and get you two products for the price of one. If you prefer an individual laptop, Ivy Bridge-based systems hit a new in July ($548), so we recommend looking at 14" to 16" Ivy Bridge systems from Lenovo, Dell, and HP in that price range.
As far as standalone notebooks go, Sandy Bridge-based desktop replacements deals have been stagnant for the last two months (with prices at $800), so we wouldn't be surprised if these systems took a slight dip in August in preparation for back to school sales. And lastly, Apple's MacBook Air (Sandy Bridge model) has seen some aggressive discounts this summer. If you don't mind having last year's model, look for prices on the 11" MacBook Air 2011 model starting at $740. If you've had your eyes on the new Retina MacBook Pro, deals on that machine have hit as low as $1,999, though they typically sell out fast, so jump on the first Retina deal you see.
Set up an email alert now to keep abreast of any and all of these best buys in August. And for more price trend information, check out our consumer shopping research page.