The fireworks fall on Wednesday this year, which means shoppers have to hit the stores (or online shopping sites) early: Retailers opted to get a head start on the holiday and have already started offering discount prices—and many of those discounts aren't going to stick around for the following weekend.
"We expect to see the highest concentration of sales on the fourth, and that most sales will have ended or been picked over by the weekend after the fourth," says Brad Wilson, publisher of the coupon site Brad's Deals. Several big retailers, including Macy's, Nordstrom, and Overstock started their sales over the past weekend, he adds.
That early start means the best strategy for snagging deals is to shop as soon as possible. Browsing in stores and online to get a sense of what you want to purchase, and what the discounts will be, will make it easier to snap up the deals when you see them, says Wilson. He adds that the best time to make purchases will be early on Wednesday, July 4, when stores launch "doorbuster" deals and before other shoppers have snapped them all up.
Laura Heller of DealNews.com points out that the last time the holiday fell on a Wednesday, in 2007, all of the July 4 sales had ended by the time the following weekend came around. This year, she says shoppers should expect a similar pattern: "Most stores started sales Friday, June 29, and many will run through Wednesday, July 4, and a few are planning extended events throughout the week," she says. Overall, she adds, July 4 sales are relatively weak compared to Memorial Day sales, but there are still some attractive deals.
When shoppers hit the stores, PriceGrabber general manager Graham Jones suggests they simultaneously search for coupons and use comparison-shopping websites to make sure they get the best deals. "Whether shopping in stores or online over the July 4 holiday, consumers should leverage the multitude of money-saving tools available," he says. That includes using mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets while shopping.
Here's an overview of the best July 4 deals:
1. Outdoor home goods. As of this writing, Target is featuring discounts on outdoor pools and patio sets, a popular category for discounts this time of year. Wilson says he expects to see patio sets available for $200 or less, or even under $100, as Walmart currently offers on a three-piece bistro set.
2. Indoor home items. With the air-conditioning cranked up, shoppers also spend more time inside during the dog days of summer, and as a result, retailers are featuring deals on appliances, furniture, and other home goods. Along with patio sets and grills, Sears' July 4 sale features home-exercise equipment, 50 to 60 percent off mattresses, and up to 30 percent off Kenmore appliances, which includes refrigerators and washing machines. Home Depot is also a hotbed of savings, with special deals on appliances and hot tubs.
3. Leftover winter and spring items. With many retailers looking to unload leftover inventory from their winter and spring collections, Wilson says it's a good time to buy winter jackets, UGGs, and designer handbags from spring collections. He says North Face and Nike jackets are selling at 40 to 60 percent discounts and Michael Kors and Dooney & Bourke handbags have been reduced by over 50 percent at big department stores such as Macy's and Neiman Marcus.
4. Summer clothes. Gap, Old Navy, Macy's, and Sears are among the retailers offering big discounts on summer clothing items, but some of the July 4 sales won't last through the week. Old Navy, for example, ended its July 4 sale on Sunday, July 1, while Gap's sale, which offers up to 40 percent off, runs through Wednesday for online shoppers and through Sunday, July 8, for in-store shoppers.
Despite all these appealing deals, certain items require a bit more patience: The experts at DealNews.com say that if shoppers can wait until mid- to late July to make footwear purchases, then they can snag flip flops for under $5 and sales on name brands such as Steve Madden, Crocs, and Teva.