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Best time to shop -- winter bargains

Winter

Air conditioners
Common sense prevails in the air conditioning market, according to Diane Ritchey, editor of Home Appliance magazine. "Think about when they're most in use -- May through September. People feel the heat and they start to buy. The stock gets depleted, the demand is higher and so is the price. When cool weather comes around, most people just aren't into air conditioner purchasing, so the demand drops, as does the price," she says.

Bicycles and outdoor gear
"If you want the newest stuff, the time to look is in February and March when the season's models come out. The stores start replacing fall and winter stuff with spring and summer models, and that's true for most all outdoor gear from shoes to bikes, hiking gear, everything," says Dennis Lewon, senior editor for Outside magazine.

Some companies will send out special holiday items that will land in the discount section after the season. "In general, most of the new products come to stores in February," says Lewon. "January is good for looking for the old models in the classic post-holiday shopping period."

Boats
According to Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the winter boat show season is the time to get a good price on a new boat.

"The primary winter boat show season is January, February and March. Going to a boat show is the easiest way to see the latest model of boats for many manufacturers, and compare features," he says. "Also, dealers typically offer their best pricing during boat shows."

Carpet and flooring
Unlike some products on sale near the end of the year because of gift-giving holidays, flooring may be on sale because no one really wants to buy it at this time of the year. "Generally, the slowest time of the year is around Thanksgiving or Christmas and New Year. People generally have guests and are thinking about other things. With business being slow and retailers being motivated to move merchandise, that would be the best time," says Chris Davis, president and chief executive officer of the World Floor Covering Association. "People tend to do their home renovation in the spring. If you're in a place with seasons, for instance, Minnesota, the time to buy would be when you'd least expect it."

But discounts are a possibility any time of year, as most of the retailers selling carpets and flooring are small, independent stores. "The one thing about flooring is that it's always on sale somewhere, so it pays to shop," he says.

DVD players
New technologies have pushed down prices on regular DVD players to incredible lows. "But for HD-DVD players and Blu-ray players, there is something to be said for the Black Friday sales and then right after Christmas," says David Carnoy, executive editor for CNET.com. "Prices are steadily going down with home theater gear as the newer TVs decrease in price."

He recommends checking www.techbargains.com for sales and discounts.

Furniture
New furniture hits the showrooms after the holidays, in February, and again in August. Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of public relations and marketing for American Home Furnishings Alliance, says there are two times of the year for guaranteed low prices. "After the holidays in January, stores have clearance sales to make room for new inventory coming in February," she says. "And in July, the same thing happens with fall inventory. For instance, it may be the same wooden frame for sofas with different upholstery in new colors for fall."

Gas grills
Diane Ritchey, editor of Home Appliance magazine, says when it comes to gas barbecue grills, timing for the best deal is the same as shopping for air conditioners. "Most people buy in May, June and July for backyard barbecues. But wait until winter comes to buy, when demand is low."

Groceries
Grocery deals are available throughout the year. Grocers and manufacturers slash prices in combination with seasonal trends and offer coupons that sweeten the deals for enterprising coupon clippers. Certain times of the year mean more coupons and therefore more savings than others, says Stephanie Nelson, founder of CouponMom.com.

Some 88 percent of coupons come from the Sunday paper, she says. But they're not distributed evenly throughout the year. "The slowest months for coupons are in the summer and the highest number of coupons shows up in November and December. You find twice the amount of coupons in these months"

"My Web site has tracked grocery prices for the past seven years and baking goods are a major sale item around the holidays. Things like chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and even spices all go on sale at this time, plus there are coupons. Sometimes you will see buy one, get one free offers, which you can combine with a coupon for big savings on these items that are really not generally cheap."

Spring brings a bounty of fresh produce to stores plus holiday items for Passover and Easter. Expect to see discounts on kosher foods. Plus, starting in March you can find super-low prices on ham and also spring produce such as asparagus and broccoli, says Nelson.

Summer sales and coupons highlight outdoor foods. "Look for grilling items, ice cream and condiments," she says.  

As summer rolls into fall, canned goods go on sale. Cooler temperatures have shoppers looking to warm up with soup, and that is on sale, plus there are coupons, says Nelson. Canned tomatoes and canned beans are also big, she says.

And of course, Thanksgiving means low prices on turkeys. The time of year beginning a couple of weeks before the holiday and stretching to Christmas brings the truly deep discounts on the birds. "It's a really good price, sometimes as low as 69 cents a pound," she says.

Hardware
People need hardware year-round as they do projects, says Chris Jensen, executive editor with the North American Retail Hardware Association. "But there are some times of year when there are more sales, around Father's Day, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.

"For instance, Ace Hardware has a very well publicized after-Thanksgiving Day sale," he says.

LCD TVs
"The best time to buy LCD flat panel TVs varies year by year but there's a seasonality effect," says Bruce Berkoff, founding chairman of the LCD TV Association. "There are usually good deals around Black Friday after Thanksgiving and right before Christmas, and again right after New Year's and before the Super Bowl."

New TV models that were announced earlier in the year at the consumer electronics show in January arrive in stores in August and September. They drop in price a few months after their debut, as well as knocking down the price on the older models.

Look for sales in May and June as well.

Linens and beddings
The white sale was a marketing strategy originally devised by John Wanamaker in 1878 and it was so successful that retailers still follow his lead today. "January is kind of an industry standard," says Deb Dyer, marketing director for Cuddledown. "That is the time of the year when you are going to see a lot of white sales by everyone -- retailers, catalogers, everything. Linens do come out seasonally, so you'll see new colors in stores for spring and summer and then fall and winter." Just as with clothing, bargains can be found on the previous season's styles.

Wedding services
Getting married during the off-season can net big savings. Demand for wedding services wanes during the very cold months -- or if you happen to be in a tropical climate, the very hot months -- and that can work to your advantage. Read 7 ways to save on an off-season wedding for tips on a winter-wonderland wedding, or sweltering summer nuptials, as the case may be.

Other bargains winter
Diet-conscious foods, iris, tulips, Valentine's Day candy, baking goods, ilex or holly plants, poinsettias, turkeys.

Also:   Month-by-month

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