Retailers will be putting all sorts of goods on sale over Labor Day weekend, but that doesn't mean consumers should take the bait.
For one, this year's holiday falls late in the calendar, which means some retailers may hold off on big sales until the year-end shopping season picks up in earnest in November. Some merchants are already hitching their deals to Christmas shopping, with Walmart (WMT) starting a holiday push last week.
Although deals abound, savvy shoppers will realize that some product categories will offer better savings than others. Some consumers may want to hold off on purchases until October or November, when pre-Black Friday sales will begin in earnest, according to Kristin Cook, the managing editor at Ben's Bargains, a deal and coupon site started in 2000 by a student at the University of California, Berkeley.
Labor Day is "not the strongest sales period of the year," she noted. "We're close now to the early pre-holiday shopping time, so a lot of places are going to wait" on rolling out especially deep sales.
Retail sales are expected to pick up in the second half of the year, partly due to lower energy costs but also as wages and job growth improves.
That may tempt Americans to head for the stores this weekend. While a number of products will be on markdown, ranging from backyard equipment to clothing, not all sales will be created equal.
Read on to learn which categories would be best to avoid, as well as which ones will offer especially good deals.
Even though it's the end of summer, sales on gas grills won't offer the best values to consumers. Retailers may discount their grills by about 25 percent to 50 percent, but shoppers would be better off holding out for another few weeks, according to Ben's Bargains, which expects grill prices to fall by another 25 percent from their Labor Day prices as October arrives.
Instead of grills, consumers might want to consider buying outdoor furniture, pools and lawnmowers. Discounts on these items may be as steep as 75 percent.
"We're seeing bigger discounts on things that take up a lot of space, like patio furniture and outdoor pools," Cook noted. "These are what stores want to get rid of."
Retailers are promoting fall-weather wear, but the discounts on these clothing lines are relatively small, according to Ben's Bargains. If you can wait to buy warmer clothing, in November it will be discounted by as much as 50 percent.
Instead, a better Labor Day bet is to purchase summer apparel and footwear, which will be heavily discounted -- by as much as 80 percent -- at retailers ranging from Nordstrom (JWN) to Banana Republic (GPS).
"You could get gym clothes, shorts, athletic shoes" at big discounts during the Labor Day weekend, Cook noted. Swim suits are also a good choice because "a lot of people go swimming year round indoors."
TVs and general electronics
Hold off on buying items in the TV and general electronics categories over Labor Day, even if you see what might appear to be decent sales, according to Ben's Bargains. That's because the better bargains will arrive in November and continue through Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Other items to avoid in the general electronics categories include smartphones, digital cameras, tablets, GPS navigators and home theater systems.
Instead, you'll find better deals on back-to-school electronics, given that most schoolchildren have already started their school year and retailers are tailing off the back-to-school push. Traditional school supplies, as well as youth-oriented electronics, will be heavily discounted, such as headphones and Bluetooth speakers.
Toys for the kids
With the holidays right around the corner, Labor Day isn't the best chance to find good discounts on toys. Retailers such as Toys R Us and Walmart will start promoting sales in late October, so consumers who want to stock up on toys would be better off waiting until then.
Instead, a wiser option is to search for what Ben's Bargains calls "toys for adults" (no, not "adult toys"): wine and cars. Auto dealerships will be discounting 2015 models to make room for the new 2016s.
Oenophiles may want to stock up on wine this weekend, given that many wineries are discounting older stocks to make room for new vintages, Ben's Bargains said.
Last but not least, Labor Day weekend often brings the lowest prices of the year on mattresses. Sears (SHLD) might discount mattresses by about 50 percent to 60 percent on some models, while Sleepy's, Macy's (M) and other mattress retailers will likely offer sales, as well.
Even though some consumers may already be thinking about the holidays, it's best to delay buying the travel deal promotions offered over Labor Day weekend. The best time to book those holiday tickets is usually early October, when prices can be as much as 10 percent lower. Act fast, though, because prices usually start rising after mid-October.
For really cheap tickets, consider taking a last-minute trip to a summer destination. Because kids are back in school and many families aren't considering traveling now, airlines and hotels often extend great deals on fares and room prices. Labor Day getaway discounts can save you as much as 30 percent to 50 percent off regular prices, Ben's Bargains noted.
"We've seen some really crazy coupons for last-minute travel," Cook said. "Back-to-school time is a lull" for the travel industry.