We’ve just completed our annual State of the Sales address for 2013 and found some interesting tips and trends that should serve you well in the year to come.
What You Really Need to Know
We’re happy to report that the average discounts on clothes increased across the board – here’s hoping this trend is here to stay.
- Men’s and girls’ clothing saw the biggest increase in markdowns. The average discount on men’s and girls’ apparel items in 2013 was 40 percent off – up 4 percentage points from 2012.
- Discounts on boys’ clothing increased by 3.5 percent to 38 percent off.
- Discounts on women’s apparel continue to be the highest at an average of almost 46 percent off, an increase of 1.5 percent.
Late January/Early February Is Still the Best Time for Sales
One thing that didn’t change in 2013 is the timing of the deepest discounts. The annual “Super Bowl of Sales” continues to be in late January and early February:
- The top 10 days with deepest discounts in 2013 all fell in the four-weeks from Jan. 17 to Feb. 18. Though the volume of what’s on sale is smaller than what you see on Black Friday or Cyber Monday—the average percentage-off discounts are greater in January and February.
- The top five days for sales on women’s clothing were between Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, with Presidents’ weekend sales coming in a close second.
- The top days to shop for men’s clothing fell slightly earlier: Jan. 24 to Jan. 29.
February offered the best discounts of the year, with an average of more than 46 percent off (and an amazing 48 percent off on women’s clothing). January was close behind with more than 45.5 percent off. So with two months of cold weather still ahead in what has been the coldest winter since 1962, this is a great time to buy a winter coat or boots!
As for deals on summer clothes, wait until August (which tied with January for second place for the deepest discounts) or July, when shoppers score an average of more than 45 percent off.
But buyer beware if you’re shopping June: that particular month had the lowest average percentage-off discounts in 2013–especially the first two weeks. May, April, November and December followed with the lowest percentages off on sale merchandise.
Don’t Believe the Media Hype: Retailers ARE still discounting
One happy fact we discovered is that stores were discounting online offerings throughout the year.
Although most retailers say they’ve gotten better at controlling inventories to avoid discounting, we saw lots of online sales from across the industry: from big department stores (Saks, Nordstrom and Macy’s) to online retailers (Amazon, Zappos and Shopbop) to specialty stores (J. Crew and Ralph Lauren).
We asked our friend Mark Ellwood, an authority on all things sale, the reason behind this trend.
“I hope every retailer that claims it’s cutting down on promotions has his or her fingers crossed behind their backs, because numbers don’t lie,” said discount expert Mark Ellwood, author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World.
“Shoppers can always find what they’re craving on sale somehow, if they operate on the basis of smarts and sweaty palms,” Mark says. “In other words, do some research (comparison shop online, for example) and don’t be afraid to challenge a store. Befriending a sales assistant, for instance, means you can often negotiate on prices or be offered access to secret, VIP-aimed promotions known as pre-sale.”
More Shopping Tips
If you want to be sure you get first dibs when merchandise first becomes marked down, follow these rules:
- Thursday is the best day to find new merchandise on sale. Wednesday comes in second, followed by Friday.
- Monday is the worst day for new sale items, followed by Tuesday.
- Check on items you’re coveting every day via Shop It To Me. You never know when an item might be returned and suddenly available in your size at a fantastic price.