What NOT to buy during post-Christmas and end-of-year sales

While the holidays are drawing to a close, it’s still a decent time to find a deal as many retailers promote sales to move merchandise off their shelves.

From department stores like Macy’s M, -0.37%  and Nordstrom NRD, +1.17%  and big-box stores like Walmart WMT, +0.43%  and Target TGT, +0.36%  to online retailers such as Amazon AMZN, +0.44%   a wide range of retailers are running end-of-year sales as 2018 draws to a close, with some offering discounts upwards of 50%.

“Brick and mortar retailers know that consumers will be out returning items, so it’s safe to say that most stores will offer some kind of sale to incentivize consumers to purchase as they return,” said Trae Bodge, a shopping consultant at TrueTrae.com.

However, as with most times of the year, not all sales are created. Here are some of the items to keep an eye out for — and what consumers should avoid — while hitting the stores as 2019 creeps closer.

Buy: Holiday décor and gift wrap

Now is the best time of year to purchase anything holiday-related, be it holiday-specific decorations, apparel and gift wrap. “Demand for lights, garlands, ornaments, holiday cards and Christmas treat tins plummets on Dec. 26, and so do prices,” wrote Kristin McGrath, a savings and deals expert at Offers.com. “You can save upwards of 80% if you buy holiday decorations and store them for next year.”

Now is also a great time to stock up on seasonal candles — anything pine- or cranberry-scented will likely be reduced in price.

Avoid: Home furnishings and linens

With the new year will come better discounts on home furnishings and linens especially, Bodge said. Many retailers run special “white sales” throughout January on bedding and towels, which is generally the best time of year to buy these items.

Buy: Boxed gift sets

Those pre-packaged gift boxes and baskets are typically significantly reduced in price after Christmas — but the items they contain are good to use year-round. “These items are less popular after the holidays, and they’re often contained in sparkly holiday packaging that limits their shelf life to New Year’s Eve at the latest,” McGrath wrote.

Don’t miss: Hurry up — some stores only give you a couple of weeks to return holiday gifts

Avoid: Fitness equipment and apparel

Consumers should wait until January to buy anything exercise-related. As many consumers make New Year’s resolutions related to health and fitness, retailers will aim to cash in on their new workout intentions. Consequently, fitness-related items will go on deeper discount in the first few weeks of 2019 than in the days following Christmas.

Buy: Evening wear

Once again, the holiday association can make it difficult for retailers to move evening wear off the shelves once Christmas — and its accompanying parties — has come and gone. Nevertheless, those searching for an outfit for a New Year’s Eve party are in luck. Department stores in particular will be discounting party-appropriate clothing during their end-of-year sales, Bodge said.

Otherwise, consumers should wait until the end of winter, when seasonal clothing will go on significant discount as spring brings in warmer weather.

Avoid: Things that can’t be returned

As many of the sales this time of year take the form of clearance promotions, it’s important to read the fine print before buying. Clearance items could be final sale — which means consumers could find themselves out of luck if they’re not careful. “Quality on some remaining inventory can be questionable, so use a card that offers return protection to ensure the return of unwanted gifts even if the merchant won’t accept it or issue a refund,” suggested Brittney Meyer, credit strategist at CardRates.com.

See also: Hurry up — some stores only give you a couple of weeks to return holiday gifts

Buy: Toys and games

The toy and game aisles at most stores will likely be well picked over by this point — but whatever is remaining is almost sure to be on sale. Retailers will want to clear their shelves of the remaining merchandise that was ordered specifically for the holidays. Therefore, now is a good time to stock up for kid’s birthdays in 2019, or even next Christmas.

Don’t miss: Where to do last-minute toy shopping now that Toys ‘R’ Us is gone

Avoid: Most electronics

If you opted not to buy that new flat screen TV during Black Friday, you’ll still want to wait. TVs tend to go on sale in late January and early February ahead of the Super Bowl and in March and April as new models are rolled out.

Consumers should also hold off on purchasing video games and gaming consoles, McGrath warned, as these items tend to return to their base prices after the holidays have passed.

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