Presidents' Day is the last non-denominational retail holiday on the calendar until at least Mother's Day.
Of course, stores are going to milk it.
February is a rough retail month as it is. Unless you're selling televisions for the Super Bowl or really banking on the $19.5 billion in lovesick spending on Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day represents your last, best chance to find a deal. Just know that those deals are fairly minor.
The retailers weathering a gray February calendar would appreciate some extra traffic. After a 2009 recovery from the 2008 market collapse, February has ranked among the worst retail sales months of the year, according to Census Bureau data. Last year, its $302.8 billion in sales were lower than that of every other month on the calendar.
February retail sales cratered at $243.8 billion in 2009 before taking two years two reach pre-recession levels. Last year's February sales were the highest on record and were considered generally great for the month, but they still fell shy of March's $306 billion total. After the holidays, the post-holiday sales and even Valentine's Day, America usually puts away its wallet until spring. In fact, February sales last year lagged $6 billion to $8 billion behind summer totals and a whopping $12 billion behind the retail economy's Thanksgiving/Black Friday peak in November.
Automakers would have you believe that February and Presidents' Day are great times to buy a car, but they don't really compare to later months on the calendar. Last February, the 1.37 million vehicles that the National Automotive Dealers Association says were sold throughout the U.S. were up 9% from the year before, but still ranked among the lowest sales months of 2016. The snow, ice and other adverse conditions may make car dealers bored and keep customers away, but it doesn't put them in any more of a rush to get those cars off of the lot. The first of the new year's model vehicles don't start showing up until mid-spring to summer and really don't hit the lots in any great numbers until fall. Dealers aren't making room for the 2018s and the overwhelming majority of their remaining vehicles are 2017s. If you're looking for a deal on a 2016, prepare for minimal selection.
If you're looking for the best deals of the long weekend -- regardless of what name it takes -- there are still a few out there.. With help from DealNews and LifeHacker, we've scraped together a few discounts worth looking into:
Mattresses: Presidents' Day is firmly within mattress season as retailers try to unload last year's stock as this year's models come in.
This means there's no better time to buy mattresses, which have been sold for as much as 60% off at Sears, and up to 50% off with an extra 40% off at U.S. Mattress. The folks at DealNews say any place that specializes in mattresses will have discounts, but check U.S. Mattress and 1800Mattress for the deepest discounts.
Winter apparel: Spring is just a month away, which means winter gear has to go. Winter apparel generally sells for 50% to 60% off, with already-discounted clearance items also getting that deal. Calvin Klein Outlet, Barneys Warehouse, H&M and Nautica are among the stores cutting winter stock, but department stores like Walmart, Sears, Target, Best Buy, Pottery Barn, and Macy's cut anywhere from 20% to 70% off apparel.
Keep a close eye on the prices of outerwear and boots. Last year DealNews saw great sicounts from Wilsons Leather, JCPenney, Eddie Bauer, Lands' End and more. The best shoe deals came from Rocky Boots, Timberland, and ShoeMall.
DealNews notes that one sale stands out among the others on Presidents' Day: Best Buy's sale. Last year it, offered deep discounts on laptops, tablets, HDTVs, and more -- with early access for My Best Buy members. So why single it out? Because it's that sale that inspires the Microsoft Store, HP and Newegg to offer deep discounts of their own on electronics.
This is also a great time for deals on kitchenware and appliances. Since tech retailers fancy themselves appliance salesmen these days, Best Buy and its ilk should have some great deals to start with. Meanwhile, big box stores like Target, Costco, Kohl's and Walmart, and specialty retailers such as Oneida and Williams-Sonoma, will have discounts of 85% or more on furniture and home goods. If you're even on the fence about shopping those sales, just consider that they're likely the best deals you'll see until Labor Day.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.