NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- This is probably the last time of year anyone wants to shop, but it's also one of the best seasons for sales and deals.
Listen, we understand. Some of you just finished back-to-school shopping, yet you're already seeing candy corn in the supermarket and drugstore aisles, there's already pumpkin beer in the convenience and liquor store coolers and that vacant Best Buy just turned into a Halloween superstore. Why can't they just let you enjoy your spending vacation in peace?
Because that's just not how the retail world works. January and February are typically the slowest buying months on the calendar, which explains crazy post-Christmas sales and big President's Day car deals. Just behind them, however, is September. According to Census Bureau data, retail sales tend to drop off by $20 billion to $30 billion from August to September before picking up again in October. Retailers really don't like those kinds of dropoffs, which is why you see a rush to move inventory in September just before the pre-holiday rush starts in October.
Consumers who can afford or stomach more spending in September tend to be rewarded with big deals on everything from hedge clippers to cars. These are just a few of the areas where savvy shoppers can make a killing in September:
When car dealers run ads screaming their need to move last year's models to make room for new arrivals, they're not just handing you some line. September starts the slow, post-summer descent for car sales that typically bottoms out in November. About 90% of all cars sold this time of year are 2012s, according to auto pricing site
. Dealers want to feature and move more 2013 models to bump up the new year's 9.2% sales share, so buyers will see increasing incentives as the month progresses.
If models have been redesigned or discontinued, dealers may take greater pains to get those cars off the lot. The 2012
Impala, for example, is about a year away from an upgrade and is prompting dealers to throw in a $4,500 dealer cash discount to get it out the door.
Holiday plane tickets
There's no way to get a "good" price on holiday travel.
With airline holiday surcharges that stretch from November through January, limited airline capacity for peak demand and punishing price hikes as travelers drift later into the season without booking, travel site
editor Rick Seaney says the best holiday travelers can hope for is a "better bad deal." The best chance for that great lousy fare comes in September, when airlines first start discounting fall and winter prices. If you want to sweeten the odds a little bit, part with some vacation days and travel either in the first half of December, Dec. 27-29 or the first half of January. Those are about as off-peak as you can get without traveling on Thanksgiving or Christmas themselves, which offers the steepest discount but often defeats the purpose of holiday travel.
Do we really need to spell this out for you?
are going to start putting out their first holiday inventory in September. Even if you live in a warm part of the country where outdoor kitchens blaze all winter long and planting season is whenever you'd like it to be, that does little to change consumers' buying mentality. The Census Bureau notes that spending at home and garden stores drops by roughly $1 billion from August to September, with September trailing only the December-February deep winter season as the toughest time for said shops. If you're looking for a grill, lawn mower, air conditioner or even some hardier landscaping elements, this is the time to stock up.
Laptops and tablets
Back-to-school sales aren't just for students. Electronics sales drop by a half-million to a billion dollars after back-to-school sales end, so retailers really don't want you to pass up a new notebook or tablet while the getting is good. Some back-to-school sales stretch into September, but if you miss them you're still about a month away from the first Black Friday-style prices.
Refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers
September is about the busiest time of year an appliance store sees outside of the holiday season, but not for the reasons you'd expect. It's turnover time in the appliance world, which means home and appliance stores are bringing in the new models and pushing out the old. Experienced shoppers are used to this pattern by now, and incentives offered by some states to upgrade old energy-sucking appliances only help them pad September sales figures.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.