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Calendar-based buying yields bargains

(C. Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

(C. Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

Never mind the winter weather.

It’s a great time to buy a new swimsuit – or so say the sale-tracking pros at ShopSmart.

And while picking out that bikini, it wouldn’t hurt to check for some deeply discounted Christmas decorations. January could mean saving up to 80 percent on those, according to data from the deal aggregating website DealNews.com.

Sure, neither a swimsuit nor a tree-topper may be at the top of anyone’s January shopping list. But calendar-based buying can mean big bargains for consumers who know when goods are usually on sale and who have the luxury of biding their time.

Backpacks are often a hot deal in August. Bikes, meanwhile, may run cheaper in the fall.

Is there any way to predict the timing?

Maybe.

Amanda Walker, a senior project editor for ShopSmart (Consumer Reports’ sister publication), said some products are priced best at the beginning of a product cycle or season and then again at the end.

In the early phase, there may be more pricing competition among retailers and an urge to capitalize on a product’s popularity. At the end of a product cycle or season, stores are trying to clear the shelves and make room for the next wave of merchandise.

Think about popular holiday gifts such as toys and TVs. They generally go on sale during the holiday shopping season. But waiting until interest wanes in January could mean especially low prices – particularly for consumers who don’t mind limited choices.

“You might not get the best selection always when the deals are the best, but I think people expect that,” Walker said.

Tradition also dictates some discounts. January white sales – bargains on bedding and linens – continue as they have for a century, she said.

Deals on other goods, such as consumer electronics and furniture, are often tied to the release of new models.

Others aren’t as easily explained.

“Sometimes, we can’t tell you exactly why (something is cheaper),” Walker said.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t patterns.

DealNews, meanwhile, has been watching and sharing deals for 16 years – usually 200-500 per day, says spokesman Mark LoCastro – and uses its data to pinpoint when items are most likely to be discounted.

Consumer Reports/ShopSmart has a team in-house to track prices, she said, and has picked up on certain calendar trends.

With some exceptions like electronics – which have seen faster and faster product cycles – Walker said “things seem to stay somewhat the same” from year to year.

STRATEGIC THINKING
Want to build a shopping list and budget for 2014? This breakdown — based on recommendations from ShopSmart and DealNews.com — shows some items that are traditionally good buys based on the month.

JANUARY
Bedding
Linens
Toys
Winter clothing
Furniture
Swimwear
Christmas merchandise
Fitness equipment
Traditional Valentine’s Day gifts
TIP: “Come Feb. 1 if you’re looking to buy anything for Valentine’s Day — jewelry, candy, fragrance, the typical Valentine’s Day (array) — it’s not going to be the best time to by,” LoCastro said. “Right now (January) is a great time.”

FEBRUARY
Humidifiers
Indoor furniture
Treadmills and elliptical machines
Electronics

MARCH
Chocolate
Luggage
Digital cameras
Winter sports gear
Small consumer electronics
TIP: Older-model electronics often can be had at great deals this time of year because retailers are making room for the newer technology unveiled in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, Walker said.

APRIL
Computers
Digital cameras
Lawn mowers
Jewelry

MAY
Camping/outdoor gear
Athletic apparel
Carpet
Spring clothing
Gym memberships
TIP: With warming weather, more people turn outside for their workouts. Gyms may be offering specials “to lure more people back in,” LoCastro says.

JUNE
Camcorders
Computers
Indoor furniture
Summer sports gear
Swimwear
Lingerie

JULY
Outdoor furniture
Swimwear
Grills
Jeans
TIP: According to DealNews, denim deals were ample in July and early August of last year.

AUGUST
Air conditioners
Outdoor furniture
Snowblowers
Summer apparel
Back-to-school merchandise (clothes, bags, school supplies)

SEPTEMBER
Bikes
Lawn mowers
Gas grills
Sunglasses
Shrubs, trees and perennials
TIP: “September is the end of the planting season, so you may get great deals,” Walker said.

OCTOBER
Bikes
Computers
Winter coats
Vacuums

NOVEMBER
Baby products
GPS devices
TVs
Cookware
Gadgets/technology
TIP: November means Black Friday, which is “traditionally the prime shopping season for all things tech,” according to DealNews.

DECEMBER
Toys
TVs
Home appliances

Source: Consumer Reports/ShopSmart, DealNews.com

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