Sunday, November 20, 2005

Stocking up on Seasonal Deals

Shortly after Halloween, early-bird shoppers lined up at 7 am in front of a national chain store in South Florida. Those eager consumers were focused on catching steep discounts on costumes, candy, decorations and other items related to Halloween. On the first day of the anticipated mark-down, a few shoppers were on hand to greet the sales staff as the store opened itsdoors.

My friend, Beth, a savvy shopper, offered that eyewitness account to me and gave me a brief seminar on post-holiday shopping. It's a year-round shopping strategy that applies to any major season. Themed-paper goods, gifts and other merchandise are typically offered for 50 percent to 90 percent post-holiday discounts. Of course, the goods can be stored for next year; but many items can be recycled for birthday parties or other home entertainment events.

Consider the multiple uses of Halloween costumes. While some families stock up on boxed outfits, masks and other accessories for future trick-or-treat outings, others use costumes for masquerades, themed birthday parties and other activities. I don't celebrate Halloween, but my kids love to dress up and stage family dramas. Therefore, after Oct. 31, it's great to re-stock the family "dress-up" box with new merchandise purchased at steep discounts.

For that reason, I wish that I had tagged along with Beth as she snapped up costumes (originally $20) for only $1.89 to $1.99 a box after Halloween. Likewise, at 90 percent discounts, bags of themed chocolate candy were 21 cents each. (The wrappers sported Halloween themes, but the candy has the same year-round flavor, Beth says.)

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Other great buys included boxes of candied sprinkles (for baking) goodie bags, plates and napkins in shades of either plain orange or black. Apart from the color, items without other holiday flourishes are ideal for year-round activities.

Apply that same wisdom to other holidays. Paper goods in the fall colors of Thanksgiving can decorate your table after the last bit of turkey leftovers have been eaten. What's more, after Thanksgiving, retailers typically slash prices on themed items. Boxed gift items (soaps, makeup, perfumes, and scarves) are also very inexpensive after the Christmas/Hanukah holiday rush ends.

Meanwhile, Beth's biggest recent shopping coup included Disney themed-boxes of Kleenix tissues for 19 cents a box. The boxes of 85 tissues typically sell for about $1.30 each, but had apparently outlived their promotional tie-in and were placed in the clearance section. Given the steep discount, Beth purchased about 35 boxes and donated many of them to a food bank.

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