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Holiday Shopping Calendar: Which Days to Shop for What

Dec. 5, 2014
Holiday Tips & News, Shopping
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Timing is everything. And when it comes to holiday shopping, that’s no less true.

Whether you’re looking for the best day to save on laptops or simply want to pick the best period to avoid the crowds, here are highlights and tips for navigating this month’s shopping calendar:

Through Friday, Dec. 5

The perfect opportunity for online shopping, Cyber Monday kicked off the month, along with a number of Cyber Monday-inspired sales extending through the rest of the week.

By ordering now, you can ensure that your purchases arrive on time without paying extra for rushed shipping. As the majority of markdowns will be found online and the pressure of holiday shopping is less intense early in the month, consumers who choose to shop in stores will find relatively few other customers.

In-store shopping forecast: Light
Tip: Shop online for deals

Saturday, Dec. 6

Brick-and-mortar stores will see an upsurge in shopping on the first Saturday of the month, prime time to get in buying mode.

Shopping for toys this holiday season? Even though midmonth is generally the best time to snag the deals on toys, that wisdom doesn’t apply to the most popular items of the season. If you’re looking for the best-selling toys of 2014, act fast to get your hands on these items before they run out.

In-store shopping forecast: Medium
What to look for: Popular toys

Weekend of Saturday, Dec. 13

If you’re thinking of buying an HDTV, look for the best deals Friday, Dec. 12, through Sunday, Dec. 14, with discounts of 30–40% on Samsung, Sony, Vizio and Panasonic products at Best Buy, Costco and Walmart.

Ranking No. 3 in ShopperTrak’s prediction of busiest days in December this year, Dec. 13 is the next to last Saturday before Christmas, as well as the last Saturday before Hanukkah.

In-store shopping forecast (Saturday): Heavy
What to look for: HDTVs, toys, tools

Sunday, Dec. 14, through Tuesday, Dec. 16

For consumers looking to spend midmonth, this is the last time to pick up toys at a discount. Get up to 85% off – before prices rise as Christmas nears. You’ll also find deals on tools and home-improvement supplies.

If you’re looking to buy a laptop, check out Dell and Costco for some great midmonth bargains. Online shoppers will also find deals on video games and consoles from GameStop, Amazon, Walmart, Target and Newegg.

Finally, eight days of Hanukkah begin the evening of Dec. 16.

In-store shopping forecast: Light
Tip: Shop online
What to look for: Toys, tools, laptops, video games

Thursday, Dec. 18

Sick of meeting high minimum orders to qualify for free shipping? Falling this year on Dec. 18, Free Shipping Day was created to offer a solution to this common grievance of Web-based shoppers. The day is expected to be superseded only by Cyber Monday as the most popular day of the year for online shopping.

But the deals will extend even beyond the Internet. With average discounts of 17.5%, Dec. 18 was the best day for both online and in-store deals last year, according to price-tracking app ShopAdvisor.

If clothing or footwear is on your list, check e-commerce websites like Gap, Lands’ End, American Eagle, Macy’s and Old Navy for coupon codes in addition to free shipping.

In-store shopping forecast: Light
Tip: Take advantage of free shipping online

Friday, Dec. 19

As No. 5 on ShopperTrak’s list for expected store traffic this month, the last Friday before Christmas will see significant crowds. (Don’t let that get you down: The number of shoppers in stores will only increase the following Saturday and Monday.) The day also ranks No. 5 for best pre-Christmas sales.

In-store shopping forecast: Heavy

Saturday, Dec. 20

Known in the retail world as Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas is one of your best bets for big sales and bigger crowds.

Retailers bring in the greatest profits on this day, with shoppers generally purchasing more items per person than during Black Friday sales. This year’s Super Saturday is expected to oust Black Friday from its coveted position as the top shopping day of the year, according to research firm ShopperTrak. It’s also predicted to offer the lowest prices of the year.

Haven’t picked up a Christmas tree yet? Dec. 20 marks the start of price drops, as retailers scramble to clear out their inventories of fresh-cut trees.

In-store shopping forecast: Very heavy
What to look for: Get your tree if you haven’t yet

Monday, Dec. 22, and Tuesday, Dec. 23

With Christmas fast approaching, you’ll find large crowds in the stores this last Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. As the first weekdays off for many employees, these days will offer great opportunities for last-minute shopping, as well as a host of bargains.

In-store shopping forecast: Heavy

Wednesday, Dec. 24

Falling this year on a Wednesday, Christmas Eve is often a popular time for frantic shoppers to pick up gifts before stores close for Christmas. In some parts of the country, blue laws prevent this kind of last-minute shopping, but in most states you’ll just have to watch out for earlier closing hours.

Don’t bank on buying specialized gifts if you’re shopping on Christmas Eve. Instead, opt for gift baskets, chocolates and gift cards. Another approach is to turn to your phone. Last-minute mobile shopping is on the rise: Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s targeted procrastinators with deals on their mobile sites last year.

In-store shopping forecast: Medium

Thursday, Dec. 25

A federal holiday and stay-in day for many, Christmas Day tops the list of least-busy shopping days of the year, according to ShopperTrak. Most retailers will be closed, including Target, Walmart and Best Buy, and you won’t even see many cars on the road.

In-store shopping forecast: Virtually nonexistent

Friday, Dec. 26

If you’re looking for discounts, Dec. 26 is not the day to stay in. Known as Boxing Day in many countries, the day after Christmas is traditionally the busiest in-store shopping day, according to Experian, and it’s expected to be the second busiest in 2014, according to ShopperTrak.

The biggest deals will be on seasonal goods, at 40–75% off. Think lights, tinsel and decorations. But that’s not all. Look for holiday-themed wine and beer (ignore the packaging and drink it now, or save for next year’s gifts), candy and gift wrap. You’ll also find red and green napkins, paper plates and plastic cups for less. Artificial Christmas trees will feature significant discounts, and if you don’t mind delaying your celebration, fresh-cut trees will be available for free at many lots.

If you’re shopping online, you’ll find a buyer’s market on gift cards. Check out resellers such as Plastic Jungle, Cardpool and Gift Card Granny, where the end of Christmas marks an influx of available gift cards. You’re also more likely to find deals on eBay, as individual sellers flock to discard their unwanted gifts.

And if last year is any measure, expect savings on electronics at Best Buy. Last year, the retailer offered extended store hours (7 a.m. to 11 p.m.) in a promotion lasting from Dec. 26 through 28. Shoppers who spent at least $100 received a $15 store gift card.

In-store shopping forecast: Heavy
Tip: Hit the stores (like Best Buy) for major markdowns
What to look for: Anything holiday-themed

Wednesday, Dec. 31

Not generally known as a big day for shoppers, New Year’s Eve is actually one of the best days of the year to grab a deal on a new car. Prices start dropping after Christmas and will stay low until January. As dealers rush to meet their end-of-year quotas, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate a lower price.

And don’t forget to pick up some champagne to ring in the new year. December is the best time of year to buy champagne, with prices dropping toward the end of the month.

In-store shopping forecast: Light
What to look for: New cars, champagne

Written by Melinda Szell



2014 gift image via Shutterstock