How to navigate Columbus Day sales

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Don't Get Too Excited About Columbus Day Sales

Nestled between Labor Day and Halloween is an event rife with controversy, depending on your opinion of Christopher Columbus. While some credit him for discovering America in 1492, others consider him a tyrant. Some cities have replaced the event with "Indigenous Peoples' Day," a counter-celebration honoring Native American history and culture.

As the debate rages on, retailers continue to view the national holiday as an opportunity to offer sales on everything from shoes to appliances. But with Black Friday and the deal-heavy holiday season approaching, is Columbus Day even worth your dollars?

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Louis Ramirez, senior features writer for DealNews, sees Columbus Day as a good opportunity to pick up select items for less. "It's easy to overlook Columbus Day, but this small October holiday has some excellent deals if you play your cards right," he says.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you hunt for discounts this weekend:

Shoes and accessories are great buys.

While clothing will be heavily promoted by department stores and apparel companies, Ramirez suggests focusing on shoes and accessories instead. "Last year, we saw a handful of excellent shoe discounts from the likes of Last Call by Neiman Marcus, 6pm and Shoebuy," he says. Savings range from 25 percent to 90 percent, with the latter discount applying to clearance shoes leftover from Labor Day sales. And if you're in the market for a new pair of running shoes, Ramirez forecasts site-wide savings of up to 50 percent off from popular athletic retailers including Puma, Nike and Adidas. Deals like this may also be available over Black Friday weekend, but Ramirez advises that during Columbus Day sales, it will be easier to find the size and style you want.

In addition to shoes, accessories such as belts, wallets and purses are another good Columbus Day buy. Ramirez estimates savings of as much as 70 percent from such stores as Wilson's Leather and Last Call by Neiman Marcus.

These projections are consistent with the sales cycle at Allen Edmonds, a shoe and accessory brand featuring U.S.-made merchandise. Anthony Filomena, public relations assistant account executive for Allen Edmonds, says the brand will be holding its biggest sale of the entire year, known as the "Rediscover American Sale." Select styles of shoes and boots will be offered at discounts of up to 30 percent off, with belts and other accessories also seeing sale prices.

Clothing will see discounts, but not the deepest.

The temptation to pick up a few apparel items to complement your new kicks or accessories will be strong, but Ramirez advises shoppers to wait. "We recommend you save your apparel purchases for Black Friday," he says. "The average Black Friday apparel deal will take up to 54 percent off, whereas on Columbus Day, most clothing sales will max out at 40 percent off."

This advice is especially true for cold weather apparel, since retailers are just debuting winter clothing including outerwear and snow boots. It's better to purchase clearance apparel leftover from summer and back-to-school promotions, and hold off until Black Friday weekend for better discounts on cozy clothing.

For HDTV sales, size matters.

Your closets are the clear benefactor of Columbus Day sales, but those seeking a TV deal could be in luck. Ramirez says 55" HDTV prices have plateaued, which means the deals you find this month will be the same deals you'll see on Black Friday. Shoppers should expect to see prices between $400 and $600, with higher prices associated with name brand models like Sony and Samsung. While off-brand models offer the cheapest prices, both name brand and off brand are safe buys in October, Ramirez says.

Gadget-seekers should practice patience.

Despite the discounts on select HDTVs, Ramirez doesn't expect Columbus Day sales to beat Black Friday deals on laptops, Apple products or other gadgets. "Popular items like the new iPad Mini 4 and MacBook Air traditionally see their best deals the week of Black Friday," he says. Additionally, laptops start as low as $99 for budget models in late November, which is 50 percent less than the laptop prices Ramirez has seen to date.

Big-ticket items are better buys later.

Since new models of appliances (excluding refrigerators) roll out in September and October, product life cycles suggest they would make for good buys over Columbus Day. After all, retailers are eager to part with old models to make room for the latest and greatest. However, if the past is any indication, November is a better time to buy these products. According to Ramirez, discounts will be steeper on Black Friday than they are on Columbus Day with sales that take at least 50 percent off. For top appliance deals in November, Sears is your best bet, ahead of Home Depot, Best Buy and Walmart.

Mattresses almost always show up during holiday weekend sales, with specialty stores boasting the "biggest deals of the year." However, spring is a better time to purchase mattresses, according to Ramirez. "Sales usually take 50 percent off and there are stackable coupons for an extra 10 to 40 percent off," he says. Labor Day is the next best weekend to purchase mattresses, with a few sales also available over Black Friday.

Controversy aside, it's apparent the upcoming weekend represents a good opportunity for money savings. While the outcome of Columbus Day's fate may be unknown, for retailers, one thing is clear: The sales must go on.

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