6 Retailers Where You Should Never Pay Full Price

Banana Republic store, New York, USA
Back in January, I noticed that Banana Republic was absolutely flooding my inbox with promotional emails.

That, in itself, is not unusual. Email is a low-investment, high-return form of marketing, so if you're on a retailer's mailing list, you're going to get a lot of promotions. But what struck me was that virtually every email was advertising a big sale. Sure, you had the occasional "check out our spring collection" email, but the vast majority were offering in-store and online sales that discounted all or most items. And these were big discounts: For a good two-week period, the chain offered a 30 percent or 40 percent off sale every single day.

The flood of deals has slowed a bit since then, but I'm still seeing very frequent emails from the retailer offering similar discounts. So now I have a rule: If I want to buy something at Banana Republic, I will always wait for a sale. After all, a big discount is probably just a few days away, so why would I ever pay full price?

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Banana Republic (GPS) is hardly the only retailer where this is the case. We asked Dealnews to dig through its deal data from the last few months to find out which retailers tend to have sales and big coupons most often. For the purposes of this experiment, we decided to narrow our focus to 'universal' sales and coupons -- those where most or all items in the store are discounted by a fixed amount. Sales which are restricted to one department of the store, or which are vague in how much you're saving ("up to 40 percent") are not included. The idea is that if you've got your eye on a particular item at the store, you have a pretty good chance of seeing it get marked down in the immediate future.

Based on this research, we've determined that the following six retailers (presented in no particular order) have sales frequently enough that you should almost always avoid paying the sticker price there.

6 Retailers Where You Should Never Pay Full Price
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6 Retailers Where You Should Never Pay Full Price

There's a sale at Penney's!

Yes, the deals are back with a vengeance at J.C. Penney (JCP) after the "fair and square pricing" experiment turned into a debacle. In August alone, there were more than 20 sales and coupons. Some of these were specific to product lines, but there were plenty of across-the-board sales, including a 20 percent-off online sale, a $10-off-$25 apparel coupon, and a 25 percent off sale that was good in-stores and online. In fact, more than half the days in August saw some kind of universal sale at the retailer. And even when there wasn't a big sale or coupon, there were also a number of department-specific sales, including a sale offering 40 percent to 50 percent off in the bedding, bath, window and luggage departments.

Dealnews confirmed what my inbox already told me: Banana Republic has a lot of sales, and they're usually very good. In July, for instance, it had five sales that all offered between 30 percent and 40 percent off.

Yes, sometime there's a lull of a week or so, but the magnitude of the discounts means it's almost always worth the wait. Sure, if you urgently need a new shirt for a job interview, you might have no choice. But if it's not a clothing emergency, why spend $100 when you can wait a few days and spend $60? 
The Gap is owned by the same company as Banana Republic, and it shares its enthusiasm for sales: Over a two-month period, it had nine sales that applied to all or most regularly priced items, so you're rarely more than a week away from a sale there. Discounts tended to fall in the 30 percent to 40 percent off range.

And what of Old Navy? The third of the Gap brands is also the cheapest, and that's probably why it's less keen on having big sales that take 40 percent off everything in the store. There were a few sales in the 20 to 30 percent-off range, but in general, the sales we saw were of the "up to 40 percent off activewear" variety. You can wait around to see if something you want goes on sale, but otherwise you might as well just take advantage of the already-low prices here.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.
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