The Best Buys on Martin Luther King Weekend Sales

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By Cameron Huddleston

Retailers love long holiday weekends for the simple reason that consumers have an extra day off from work to shop. That's why you'll find big sales happening around the Presidents Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays. Typically, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday has been an exception, with the focus more on service than spending. But that doesn't mean you can't find good deals on MLK weekend. You just need to be smart about shopping for the right things at the right places.

Stores will welcome the business on the heels of a surprise drop in December retail sales in the U.S. Just don't expect many merchants to bill their promotional events as "MLK sales," says Phong Vu
of coupons Web site Associating consumerism with the civil rights movements isn't an attractive strategy for retailers, he says.

Instead, look for advertisements of "weekend sales," "three-day sales" or "winter sales" from big-box retailers such as Kmart (SHLD), Target (TGT) and Walmart (WMT) and department stores such as Kohl's (KSS), JCPenney (JCP), Macy's (M) and Sears over the MLK weekend. Others that will have sales include clothing retailers Ann Taylor (ANN), Banana Republic, Gap (GPS) and Express, and electronics sellers Best Buy (BBY), Fry's and will likely discount select items, Vu says. Plus, local furniture stores will have sales over MLK weekend, says Vice President Howard Schaffer. Shopping expert Brent Shelton of FatWallet says he expects more online retailers to offer deals this year than in past years.

Here's what you can expect to see marked down during MLK weekend sales – as well as clearance events throughout the month.

What's on Sale
  • Bath and bedding items. Department stores and home-goods retailers have long held white sales in January featuring discounts on bed linens. Now those sales often include a variety of bed and bath items, as well as other home goods. Shelton says there will be plenty of white sales over MLK weekend, with discounts of 30 to 50 percent.
  • Cameras. The annual Consumer Electronics Show just wrapped up, so consumers will start seeing discounts on the current models of gadgets for which new models were debuted at the show. Shelton says that cameras, in particular, will be deeply discounted this weekend. Look for markdowns on other electronics to appear later in January and throughout the winter.
  • Fitness gear. Retailers typically take advantage of the fact that many people resolve to lose weight in the new year by offering markdowns on fitness apparel and equipment to get them into stores. Schaffer says you can expect discounts of up to 40 percent on new styles of fitness apparel and shoes over the long weekend. Fitness equipment will be marked down 30 percent to 50 percent, Shelton says. Also look for deals on gym memberships and fitness classes.
  • Furniture. Furniture stores typically have sales in January to clear out old styles before new designs arrive in February. Look for discounts of up to 50 percent, plus 0 percent financing for four or more years, Schaffer says. (Wait until spring for better deals on mattresses.)
  • Winter apparel. Clothing retailers are clearing their racks of sweaters, coats and other cold-weather apparel to make room for spring clothing already. So you'll find winter clothing discounted as much as 70 percent, Schaffer says.
Wait a Little Longer to Buy
  • Big-screen HDTVs. Some retailers might advertise sales on televisions this weekend. But you should wait until the end of January or beginning of February to get the best price on a brand-name big-screen HDTV. New models introduced at the CES usually roll out in February, so retailers mark down current models, Vu says. Plus, retailers also use the Super Bowl as a draw to get people into stores, Shelton says. Shoppers looking to upgrade to 55-inch or larger models that include built-in "smart" capabilities can expect savings of $300 or more, he says. Although so-called 4K resolution won't be supported during this Super Bowl broadcast, January TV discounts will present shoppers with the lowest prices yet on these new high-resolution models, Shelton says.
  • Jewelry. Wait until after Valentine's Day to buy jewelry because demand will be down and discounts will be deeper, Schaffer says.
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