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After-Christmas Sales 2012: An Early Guide to the Secrets, Steals and Deals

Dec. 18, 2012
Holiday Tips & News
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Please see our 2013 After-Christmas Sales post for this year’s deals.

Just when you thought you’d survived Black Friday shopping, holiday toy crazes and searching for the perfect holiday gift for your in-laws, Christmas will be over and the after-Christmas sales will begin.

But there are good reasons to be excited as long as you’re not getting into debt. After-Christmas sales are often excellent. Retailers know that their merchandise will be worth less as soon as Christmas passes. Foot traffic will fall off a cliff at virtually all stores, and items will be difficult to sell. After-Christmas sales are one of the last opportunities for merchants to sell in anticipation of this slowdown.

If retailers can’t get rid of their leftover stock immediately after Christmas, they often have to send items to discount stores or outlets, or donate unsold merchandise to charity. Retailers will also dump unwanted clothes in landfills or scrap the goods in industrial shredders. This is a lose-lose proposition – for the seller, who has missed an opportunity for a sale, and the shopper, who will be hard pressed to find the item again.

After-Christmas Sales for 2012

So how big is Dec. 26? Shoppers spent $7.1 billion on the day after Christmas in 2011, according to ShopperTrak, a retail traffic data company. That $7.1 billion represented a 25.5% increase over same-day sales from 2010.

What does that mean for 2012? The day after Christmas should be a huge shopping day. With the expansion of Black Friday sales this year into Thanksgiving and beyond, it’s likely that retailers will push after-Christmas sales further as well this year, as they’re eager to cater to this growing consumer demand. Last year, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26 started to look strangely like Black Friday – big sales, early store hours and well-advertised doorbusters. This year, look for after-Christmas sales to start as early as Dec. 21, the Friday before Christmas. Retailers will want to drive big sales the weekend before the holiday.

To help you make the most of your time and money on the day after Christmas (and even before the holiday), we’ve compiled a list of the most important info about after-Christmas sales and how to take advantage of what’s to be offered.

1. Know What Sellers Want to Dump

As a general rule, retailers will be slashing prices on seasonal items, not year-round goods. Everyone knows holiday decorations are cheapest right after Christmas, right?

Seasonal items include a lot more than just Christmas ornaments, though. Did you realize that anything in holiday packaging – even something like Goldfish snack crackers, which are clearly still edible after Christmas – is worth much less after Christmas?

Here’s a list of items that are typically discounted on the day after Christmas:

Items Discounted Item Examples Why the Discount?
Clothing Winter items, pajamas Demand down, spring arrivals on their way.
Toys LEGO sets Demand down.
Holiday Decorations Holiday lights Demand down.
Bath & Beauty Products Hand soaps Wrapped in holiday packaging.
Holiday Food Baking products, candy, meats Holiday packaging. Also stores need to clear shelves for new year’s resolution diet foods.
Exercise equipment Treadmills To attract new year’s resolution shoppers.
Electronics HDTVs Some returned, refurbished or restocked items cannot be sold at full price.


See anything on this list that you’re shopping for right now? If it’s not a Christmas present for someone else, consider holding off.

2. Compare 2012 After-Christmas Sales to Those in 2011

To have an idea of what to expect this year, take a look at last year. Here are some examples of the major discounts at popular retailers on Dec. 26, 2011:

Retailer 2011 After-Christmas Deals
Abercrombie & Fitch 30-50% off all clothing Up to 70% off cellphones, watches, magazines, jewelry, shoes and more
Barnes & Noble 50% off popular hardcover books, up to 50% off toys and games
Bath & Body Works Up to 75% off
Best Buy 15% off iTunes gift card
Container Store 50% off holiday gift wrap, totes, tags and tins
Eddie Bauer 50% entire store
Hobby Lobby 40% off one regularly priced item with coupon, 66% off Christmas items
Home Depot 10% off appliances and free delivery
IKEA 99 cents for 8-pack wooden clothes hangers; kids eat free
JCPenney $10 off all purchases of $25 or more
Kohl’s 60% off outerwear, 40-60% off boots
Lord & Taylor 30-50% off women’s boots
Macy’s $10 off a $25 purchase with coupon
Michael’s Up to 70% off winter clearance items
Neiman Marcus 50% off holiday and epicure items
Rite Aid 50% off gift wrap, greeting cards, Christmas tree decorations and more
Sears Up to 60% off bed and bath
Target 50% off popular women’s and kid’s apparel, home and holiday décor
Toys R Us Buy one, get one 40% off all movies and video games, buy one, get one free on select Hasbro purchases
Walmart 50% off select Christmas candy, toys and seasonal décor; kids and baby licensed sleepwear starting at $6


When the 2012 after-Christmas-sale information is out – probably a few days before Christmas – make sure to check out your favorite retailer’s sale from 2011 as well. If the retailer’s 2012 sale doesn’t stack up, consider sleeping in on the 26th, or taking your business elsewhere.

3. Expect Sales to Vary From Store to Store

Because after-Christmas shopping is essentially a clearance sale, prices and availability will vary. While retailers will put out some national sale specifics a few days before Christmas, expect lots of other items to be discounted when you hit the neighborhood stores. This all depends on the individual store’s stocks and what they’re trying to get rid of.

If you’re really trying to figure out what Dec. 26 will look like at your favorite local retailer, scan the shelves on Dec. 23 or 24 and see what’s still fully loaded. Ask the manager, as well, to see if he or she can give you any more details.

4. Shop Online With Special Coupon Codes

Just as there are going to be many unsold seasonal items in the brick-and-mortar backrooms, there will be extra stock at warehouses too. Shop online after-Christmas sales and get great deals on many of the same products sold in-store.

Make sure to check for special after-Christmas online coupons too. You’ll find both item-level coupons and storewide discounts. Target, for example, offered $10 off a $50 order with the coupon code TGTGFT2U in 2011.

As usual, though, don’t forget the basic elements of online shopping. Don’t pay for shipping and don’t forget to use a rewards mall to get a cash-back bonus or loyalty program points. If you’re not sure what a rewards mall is, check out our introduction. For more deals, head to our coupon tool.

5. Ask for Gift Cards to Cash In on Post-Christmas Deals

There’s always an uncle, aunt, brother or sister who isn’t much of a Christmas shopper. Maybe you’ve kept getting dud presents year after year, or maybe your unprepared relative calls you three days before Christmas to ask what you want.

Either way, ask for gift cards this Christmas. Use these gift cards during after-Christmas sales to get the most bang for your buck. You’ll get a fantastic deal on an item you truly want just one day after Christmas, all paid for by your lovably procrastinating family member.