Labor Day Sales You Can't Afford to Miss

In the sluggish economy, retailers lure shoppers with big discounts.

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The slow retail season is bad news for companies but good news for shoppers looking for deals this Labor Day weekend. Retailers are offering deep discounts, extended sales, and other perks to draw customers into their stores. "It runs the gamut, from apparel to home to tech to travel," says Brad Wilson, publisher of www.BradsDeals.com. He adds that families planning weekend trips don't need to worry about missing out, because for many stores, the sales have already started and will extend through Thursday, September 10.

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For consumers stung by the recession and worried about the economy, discounts are the only thing that gets them to pull out their wallets. A recent www.PriceGrabber.com survey found that almost 100 percent of consumers set a budget for their back-to-school shopping this year, compared with 2 in 3 shoppers last year. Most respondents said they planned to spend less than $500, with half saying they were trying to cut back on their shopping.

This weekend's price cuts are aimed at combating such a tough climate. "Odds are that your favorite stores will be discounting more than normal, so it will be a good time to do some shopping," says Wilson. Still, he adds, some stores are offering better deals than others. Here's a guide to making the most of the Labor Day discounts:

Check out department stores. Macy's is offering customers a plethora of markdowns this weekend: In addition to its free shipping code for orders over $99, it's hosting a furniture and mattress day throughout the weekend. Sofas, chairs, and dining room pieces are discounted. Jewelry, handbags, and men's and women's clothes are also on sale. Online shoppers only can take an additional 25 percent off clearance items.

Bloomingdales will run its "big brown bag sale," which means 30 percent off many items, from jewelry to shoes to clothing, that are already marked down, as well as 20 to 50 percent off in the home department.

Refresh your wardrobe. Perry Ellis is offering 40 percent off through its website—just enter LABOR40 at checkout anytime through Tuesday, September 8. Some items are marked down even more; several $70 shirts are going for $25. Shoppers can also get free shipping when they spend over $75; that offer stands through the end of the year.

Old Navy will feature $5 graphic T-shirts in child and adult sizes, and online stores have tops starting at $10 while supplies last. At Banana Republic, certain fall wardrobe items are marked 30 percent off. GapKids and babyGap are offering customers who buy one pair of jeans a second pair for $10. From Friday through Monday at Gap Adult and GapBody stores, shoppers who buy three items will receive a 25 percent discount.

The outlets are also getting in on the deals: Gap Outlets are offering up to 50 percent off their merchandise, and adult hoodies start at $15. Parents can buy their children hoodies for $12.50 and up. At Banana Republic Factory stores, shoppers can save up to 50 percent on clearance items and 40 percent on new fall pieces.

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Prepare to spend the fall outdoors. REI's Labor Day sale features 20 to 30 percent off camping, cycling, and kayaking gear through Monday, plus 50 percent off certain clearance items. That means you could get a half-dome, four-person tent, which normally goes for $249, for $170.

Dan de Grandpre, chief executive of www.dealnews.com, also recommends stocking up on summer gear, since many stores are trying to unload their hot-weather inventory. Kohl's, for example, recently offered swimsuits for $3 and up. "Look for 'final sales' on summer apparel and gear all weekend," de Grandpre suggests. At Wal-Mart and Home Depot, shoppers can find discounted patio furniture, too.

Pottery Barn's Labor Day sale features discounts of up to 75 percent, with many deals on outdoor furniture. A $300 Adirondack chair can be purchased for $239, for example.

Take a lunch break. If all this shopping works up your appetite, you can stop by Chick-fil-A on Monday while wearing your favorite sports team's logo and pick up a free chicken sandwich. "Don't forget that many grocery stores have Labor Day sales, too," adds de Grandpre, as do local shopping malls.