4 Tips for Getting Great Deals from Desperate Retailers

The holiday season has been strong for retail sales overall -- strong enough for the National Retail Federation to increase its growth projection from 2.8% to 3.8% recently.

Still, despite the overall success, some chains have found lumps of coal in their stockings this year. But with the holiday season winding down, what's bad for retailers may be good for shoppers in the coming weeks.

Their Loss, Your Gain

Swing by the websites of retailers like Best Buy (BBY), Kohl's (KSS), J.C. Penney (JCP), and Gap (GPS) and you can't help but be blinded by the sale signs plastered everywhere.

These struggling retailers are much more likely to hand you a deal than those who are experiencing strong sales this season. For example, Best Buy is giving away a $50 gift card with the purchase of an Apple (AAPL) iPad and Smart Cover or a Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360. Buy the iPad at an Apple store, on the other hand, and maybe you'll get a free high five from an Apple Genius.

How should you play the holiday madness? Try these four strategies to nab great deals from desperate retailers.

1. Grab Your Coat and Car Keys.

Online shopping has in recent years been the place to find better deals compared with traditional stores. Black Friday online sales were up 26% this year.

But what's been a boon for the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN) has left bricks-and-mortar retailers out in the cold. Many have excess inventory they need to clear from their shelves before the holidays are over. It's a role reversal, with the real steals on the sales floors instead of online. So grab your car keys and get these discounts while they're hot.

2. Concentrate on No-Name Commodity Items.

Unlike most years, there was no Tickle Me Elmo, Furbie, or Wii console heading up the hot toy list this year. And without these "must haves" it's a lot harder to get customers to queue up for the regular lineup of toys, electronics, and clothes.

Stores are pulling out all the stops to create excitement. And that means last-minute shoppers can find real deals.

For example, Toys R Us has announced it would stay open 112 straight hours, from Tuesday through 10 p.m. Christmas Eve with tons of great deals and will even extend shipping deadlines for online shopping.

A warm start to the winter has kept outerwear from flying off shelves, and retailers from Gap to Saks are offering deals to get inventory off their hands.

Electronics like digital cameras and televisions are also deeply discounted if you shop at struggling retailers like Best Buy.

3. Try Your Hand at Haggling.

We're used to seeking deals with coupons and on clearance racks, but this year might be the right time to haggle for the right sale, especially in the categories mentioned above.

Just yesterday, I got 20% off a pair of Oakley ski goggles by ho-humming over the cost for a few minutes. When sales reps see a big purchase like this is hanging in the balance over what might be a few dollars, they'll usually pull out all of the stops to make it happen. (And if you've ever shopped for Oakleys, you know they don't hit the sale rack often.)

4. Hit Up the Mom-and-Pop Stores.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers are more likely to haggle, because they need to turn inventory over during the holiday season. But sometimes there's a lot of red tape involved for a sales associate at a big chain to give you a deal.

Not so at smaller shops, where the rules are easier to bend. These stores know that if they're stuck with product after this coming weekend, it's likely to go at fire-sale prices, so take advantage. Get chummy with salespeople. They're much more likely to cut you a break if you've built a bit of a relationship and maybe have a few things in common.

Procrastinators, Rejoice!

Finally, for the procrastinators out there (including me) there's plenty of hope for holiday deals. Everything I've outlined above gets even better as the holidays approach and even after they pass. And if you can wait until the holidays are over, you are going to find even better deals from desperate retailers.

Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Gap, Microsoft, and Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Amazon.com, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing covered calls in Best Buy creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft and Apple.

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So true; competition drives sales - great for us..

On my frugal shopping expedition I've come across great deals over the past few weeks. This includes Kohl's, Home Depot and BestBuy.

Right now people are using their gift cards which will be a good inflow of cash for retailers; but after January this will slow significantly along with shopping as people will be paying their holiday credit card bills.. Late January, Feb is a great time to shop at deep discounts.


December 29 2011 at 1:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick and Esther

Even your title sickens me! In such a rough and tumble time of our economy are we too, out to screw the guy next door
who is trying to make a go of it. Shame on you. And yes, I had a unique store that was loved in this community and when tough times came I was desperate to save my store. I run into folks who say how much they miss my unique store and visiting. Knowing their names and listening to what they wanted in the stores gave my customers and myself a great store. When they could not afford to buy I tried sales etc. but in the long run if customers are hurting then so are we. I had bills to pay too and could not make ends meet. So I closed my unique store...miss it alot and and know the locals still talk of " The Brown Magnolia"

December 23 2011 at 4:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I owned a small retail store and closed it a year ago. The writer tells you to haggle with the mom and pop stores to get a better deal. As a previous owner I have to tell you that there is not that much money in retail as you think. It is harder than hell to make a living, pay the rent, help etc. We can't buy at the same price as the big box store so we try to offer service and a smile. We were in a resort town called Big Bear Lake, CA, People come through and tell you how cute your stuff is and leave for Walmat down the hill. We weren't a museum we were a store. So instead of follwing the advice of this writer I recomend you buy something from that cute store. You are on vacation and we were part of that vacation. We told you how to entertain your self in our town and where to eat but we are not there anymore, just a boarded up storefront. So next time you come up you will say to yourself, I wonder what happened to that cute store, well now you know.

December 23 2011 at 2:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have shopped at Kohl's for many many years and find they give excellent service and have a great return policy. I would rather buy there than haggle with someone who will probably throw me out of their store. Get real.

December 22 2011 at 10:36 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Well, there ya have it! The writer of this articls seems to be suggesting that you drive around to mom and pop shops and see if ya can screw em out of a few last minute Christmas gifts this year. How lovely, let me get my car keys and hit the road. I sure I can screw someoine out of something by Saturday afternoon. It'll make me feel so warm and fuzzy and Christmasy!

December 22 2011 at 5:52 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Prince Daddy

screw the guy who wrote this ! i own a few independent stores ,and nothing pisses me off more than a stupid consumer who comes in with irrational demands and wants to hagle the price under the business owners cost ,no thank you ! its stupid articles like this that makes the american consumer the most whinning cry babies in the world !
Merry xmas and a happy new yr everyone

December 22 2011 at 11:34 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Prince Daddy's comment

I own an independent gift/toy store, and please come to me on the Illinois/Wisconsin border! I DO make a deal from time to time, depends on the item, and definately if the person offers CASH, rather than whipping out the credit/debit card. Are you buying a lot in my store? Are you a regular customer? Are you offering to buy up all of my stock on a particular item? Are you being nice about it and ASKING instead of telling me "I'll give you X for that"? www.cornerstoneagathering.com

December 22 2011 at 1:27 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

So tell me again why every Kohl's parking lot is always full?

December 21 2011 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fred's comment

Because people walk around for hours in there trying to find things. We have got their $10 gift cards twice and spent two hours in there and ended up just walking out. The cheap stuff was junk and the stuff we did like was so overpriced the $10 would not even make a dent.

December 22 2011 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I guess this is "trickle down" economics...? OR this is happening because Ronald REGAN Capitalism is failing..

December 21 2011 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ken's comment

While I am a social liberal - I understand something you don't seem to recognize and that if capitalism fail all the social programs disappear.

December 22 2011 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

gee if we punish them (brick and mortar retailers) the folks who employ people, pay taxes, buy electric, buy heating oil,
buy inventory, have stock delivered by teamsters, etc etc. If you do not let the brick and mortar stores make a profit, they will be gone and we will be picking up the tab with borrowed money for the unemployed.... I am amused by the effort expended to save money.

December 21 2011 at 4:43 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply