Every year on Dec. 26, a magical thing happens. Almost everything goes on sale.
For retailers, the holiday gold rush spans from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. (Although this unofficial start date has crept earlier in recent years.) Then, all of a sudden, the party's over. It's a pretty abrupt end to absolutely gangbusters fun, and shops around America would like to avoid a post-holiday hangover.
So starting the day after Christmas, they launch sales that can rival anything on Black Friday.
For you, it's a chance to grab some great deals, spend some gift cards and maybe even make a few returns and exchanges. (Discreetly of course. Aunt Melba never needs to learn you didn't love the Papal nunchuck action figures.)
So wrap up some leftovers and set fire to the tree, we're going after-Christmas shopping! Here are just a few of the best deals you'll find:
Online Retailers After-Christmas Sales
Amazon's (AMZN - Get Report) year-end deals apply to almost every section of the site. Since this sale is generally about post-holiday clearance and overstock, expect to find some of your best deals in electronics, toys and groceries.
Steam, another online retailer, sells computer games. In fact, it virtually owns that market. Every year, Steam's winter sale starts a few days before Christmas and runs until early January. The site marks down games across its catalog and, while the discounts vary, some can go as low as 75% off.
Even Groupon (GRPN - Get Report) has gotten in on the action with after-Christmas coupons for retailers nationwide. If you don't see what you're looking for on our list, try one of their offers. You might be surprised what you find!
Department Stores' After-Christmas Sales
Whether you pronounce it "Tar-get," (TGT - Get Report) "Tar-jay" or, like me, hope to make "Tar-jet" a thing, the big store with a bull's eye on the front is a great place for after Christmas shopping. While the company hasn't made an official announcement yet, coupons are already starting to go up.
With a smaller footprint than Target or Macy's, Kohl's (KSS - Get Report) is stepping up a more aggressive game. Its clearance sale has already begun, will last until several days after the holiday and cuts prices up to 70% off.
Clothing After-Christmas Sales
It's a little tricky, we'll admit, to sort out clothing retailers since half of them seem to be the same company. It's like discovering your friend Richard is actually Steven who is actually Brad who was Nancy all along. Nevertheles, Old Navy has launched its after-Christmas sale with deals mostly clustered around 15%-25% off.
There are two things I know to be true about L.L. Bean: One, I do not need a pair of pants well suited to deep woodland survival. I infrequently have to battle Alaskan grizzly bears on my daily waddle to Starbucks (SBUX - Get Report) and my last bout ended on good terms. Two: I will shop there anyway and love every minute of it. Especially during an after-Christmas clearance.
Electronics and Other Retail After-Christmas Sales
Who doesn't love buying themselves a toy after Christmas? Electronics are one of the biggest holiday categories, so retailers like Best Buy (BBY - Get Report) feel it the most once the Christmas music stops. To keep shoppers in its bright-blue stores (and to liquidate unsold product), Best Buy offers terrific discounts. Some have already started, but the real deals will begin Dec. 26.
The sale has begun at home-goods retailer Williams Sonoma (WSM - Get Report) , with clearance prices of up to 75% off. Don't miss this chance to buy a cast-iron skillet that you must never actually clean. Watching it develop a crust of old food is how you'll know you've become a great chef, and the knife-like twisting in your stomach after every meal is (we believe) called "seasoning."
Four Tips for Shopping After Christmas
Honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to after-Christmas sales. There are far too many for us to list here, and many retailers keep their cards close to the vest. They don't want to distract from the fun of Christmas shopping.
Still, there are a few best practices you can bring to your retail therapy after the holidays this year. (And let's be honest, who couldn't use a dose of therapy after Christmas?)
1. Shop Big, Avoid Brands
Major brands like Apple (AAPL - Get Report) typically won't feature much in the way of holiday sales. That's not to say you can't get any deals there, but they're usually not your best bet. Department stores and big-box retailers are where you'll find the best deals. For an Apple Store, its products will sell all year round. The company can take those extra iPhones and hang on to them through 2019. Best Buy, on the other hand? It need to move that merch.
2. Look at Gift-Card Exchanges
You got a gift card to Applebee's for Christmas. In a fit of inspired irony your cousin even wrapped it, so the thing looked like a real present. This kind of passive aggressive gifting should be enough to summon up a few dozen holiday ghosts, but somehow people get away with it every year. You're not alone. Fortunately there are gift card-exchange sites where you can swap that Applebee's card for something useful. Poke around and see if you can find money you want to spend, because Plan B is spending Christmas money to get drunk on tequila shots with a team of unemployed elves at the strip mall.
No judgment here.
3. Wait on a Few Specific Things
There are always a few products that retailers overstock on, typically because such goods make for incredibly popular Christmas presents. TVs fall into that category. Somewhere out there are millions of people who see an entire television set and think, "I'll bet it's never occurred to my friend to get a TV. I'm going to go ahead and buy her one. After that I'm going to make a sexy Instagram account for my dishwasher, Louise."
Meanwhile, clothing retailers are inundated with returns between Christmas and New Year's every year as people bring back gifts that they didn't like, which didn't fit or which came with a note saying "I could have sworn you were a small."
In these cases and many more, the stores end up with a glut of merchandise that they simply have to move. Prices tumble, and you can cash in. For the most popular categories of Christmas gift, it often pays to wait on your own shopping until after the holidays.
4. Shop Winter
You have three, maybe four, cold months ahead. Don't forget that, even if retailers will.
Now's the time when coats, sweaters, boots and other winter apparel will start going on sale as shops begin cycling toward spring fashions. So stock up on your winter wear. There's still a lot of Smarch to come.