When Is the Best Time to Buy Clothes?

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A little planning makes all the difference when it comes to saving big. Here are the best times to buy clothes for every season.

Whether it’s your favorite pastime or something you loathe doing, there comes a point when we all have to shop for new clothes. You may want to update your wardrobe to include more sustainable clothing brands or shop for the perfect jean jacket to go with your new favorite dress. Or maybe it’s that time of year, and you find yourself in desperate need of a new bathing suit or stylish winter boots. And is it just us, or do you always find yourself shopping for new pajamas?

Whatever you’re searching for, from TVs to grills, a shopping spree doesn’t have to drain your bank account. If you know the best time to buy clothes—and, yes, there really is a best time to buy everything—then you can find some real steals.

Reader’s Digest spoke with Kristen Gall, a retail and shopping expert with Rakuten, to find out exactly when you should hit the sites and the stores. Mark your calendars accordingly, and don’t delay, because the first round of deals is right around the corner!

What are the signs you need new clothes?

Of course, there are plenty of reasons you might want new clothes, but other times, you really need new clothes. Here are a few telltale signs that it’s time:

  • Your key wardrobe pieces are damaged, stained or worn out.
  • You’ve changed sizes.
  • You have an upcoming event that requires a new dress, jacket or shoes.
  • You’re heading back to the office and need to swap out your loungewear sets for business casual pieces.
  • You’ve been wearing styles that date you, and it’s time for a wardrobe update.

When is the best time to buy clothes?

T-shirt on rack in retail storeInverse Couple Images/Getty Images

In general, says Gall, “the best time to buy clothing for each season is always during major shopping holidays, when many retailers offer storewide sales or deep markdowns to entice shoppers.” FYI, this is similar to the best time to buy appliances and electronics, so you could have a busy shopping weekend ahead of you! If you can’t wait for a holiday, you’ll also spy discounts at the end of each season, when retailers are trying to clear out inventory to make room for incoming styles.

That said, if you need to update your wardrobe ASAP, earlier in the season is better. Stores will have a wider selection then, and you’ll be able to wear your new pieces throughout the season. But if you’re looking for a serious discount, see the information below for the best time to buy winter coats, jeans, bathing suits, dresses and more.

When is the best time to buy winter clothes?

For winter coats, warm sweaters, boots and accessories like cozy socks, hats and scarves, you’ll get the best deals on Presidents Day. This holiday is always the third weekend in February, and you’ll find deep discounts of up to 70% on cold-weather items for the entire three-day weekend.

When is the best time to buy spring and summer clothes?

You can scoop up warm-weather staples during three key months. As you may have surmised, they coincide with three major holidays, but in July, you’ll also find some store-specific sales you won’t want to miss.

May: The big sale in May, of course, is Memorial Day. The holiday always falls on the last Monday in May, but stores slash their prices all weekend long. Shoppers can typically save anywhere from 25% to 60% on clothing, including spring jackets and rain boots, as retailers gear up for summer lines.

July: First up is July 4th. Retailers offer deep discounts of up to 75% on spring and summer clothes during 4th of July sales, and if you’re lucky, you may even come across some swimwear at rock-bottom prices. Amazon Prime Day is also held in July, and shoppers can get upward of 50% to 80% off name-brand clothing. Not only that, but several major retailers also offer competing sales around Prime Day. On the hunt for discounted designer apparel? Check out the famed Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, where you can save between 30% and 40% on designer clothing, including fall must-haves like leggings and sweaters.

September: Labor Day weekend is clearance time for summer items, so if you love scouring the sale racks for the ultimate finds you can wear for a few more weeks or save until next year, go for it. Just be aware that sizes and styles may be limited.

When is the best time to buy fall clothes?

trousers or pants on rack in retail storeInverse Couple Images/Getty Images

You can find deals in early September, thanks to back-to-school and Labor Day sales, with stores offering anywhere from 20% to 50% off (though the steeper sales will be on summer items). Even better? The rest of the month will provide other opportunities for savings, says Gall. And while the next best time to buy clothing doesn’t generally roll around until November, rumor has it that Amazon may hold another Prime savings event in October. This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but we’re keeping our eyes peeled!

Now let’s talk about November. Gall points out that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best times to buy clothes in the fall. Shoppers will find doorbusters and discounts up to 80% on fall and summer items, making this the ideal time to stock up for next year. You’ll also see some pre-sales on winter clothing, so it’s a great time to buy those holiday gifts!

Gall also recommends shopping on Singles Day, which falls on November 11. If you haven’t heard of this holiday, it originated in China as a day-long shopping extravaganza for single people to celebrate themselves by splurging on everything from electronics to clothing. It recently made its way to the States, so make sure to check sites and stores on that day.

Best time to buy clothes Holiday weekends and the end of each season
Best time to buy winter clothes Presidents Day weekend
Best time to buy spring and summer clothes Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day weekends
Best time to buy fall clothes Labor Day weekend, Black Friday and Cyber Monday

When is the worst time to buy clothes?

“The worst time to purchase clothing is during peak season for the item you are after,” Gall says. “For example, swimsuits are going to be the most expensive during the hot summer months, while winter coats are going to be the most expensive during the cold months at the end of the year.”

Ways to save when buying new clothes

While walking into a store during a holiday weekend and heading straight for the sales rack will save you a nice chunk of change, there are even more ways to save.

  • Use a cash-back plug-in. Install a cash-back app like Rakuten or Ibotta on your phone, or download their free browser extensions for additional savings on your purchases. Every time you shop, you can earn upward of 10% cash back on your purchases at participating retailers.
  • Shop during the major shopping holidays. Not only can you take advantage of huge markdowns, but these holidays are also when many retailers offer additional cash back on shopping sites like Rakuten or Ibotta. Shoppers can receive double or even triple the amount of cash back during these major shopping holidays and really maximize their savings.
  • Head to an outlet store. Gall points out that outlet stores can be a great option for buying clothing, as they typically have deeper discounts on the previous season’s popular items as well as from an overstock of the current season’s inventory.
  • Compare in-store prices to the store’s app or website. Believe it or not, that cute top you found might be $5 to $10 cheaper online. Some retailers, like Target, have apps that allow you to download extra coupons and even scan barcodes. Often, an item that is full price in the store will show up as discounted on the app. In that case, put those items aside in your cart and ask the cashier to adjust the price for you at checkout. Just have your phone out, as they’ll likely ask you to scan and show them the lower price. Walmart also matches its online prices.
  • Shop during your state’s tax holiday. If you live in a state that has sales tax, there’s a good chance that you may get a small reprieve each year. Many states will waive the sales tax on clothing and footwear purchases up to $100 for a few days during the summer months, allowing you to save a few extra dollars on your purchases. You can learn more about your state’s tax holiday here.
  • Shop out of season. You may be tempted to buy fall and winter clothes during back-to-school sales, but you won’t be getting the best price. Instead, look for discounted bathing suits for next year, along with summer clothing that can still be worn well into the fall.

Ways to save when buying used clothes

Gall points out that shopping at secondhand stores is a sustainable option that you should consider. Not only can you snag some amazing finds, but you can also save big bucks on name-brand items. For instance, that Canada Goose jacket you have your eye on for this winter? Poshmark is loaded with them, and you’ll spend hundreds of dollars less there than if you bought one new.

Additionally, when shopping for new clothes, Gall suggests donating any of your gently used clothing as opposed to throwing it out. That way someone else can enjoy these items. Alternatively, you can even make some money to put toward your new wardrobe by selling your old clothes online. Cha-ching! If you’re shopping for used clothes, try these money-saving tips:

  • Make an offer. Whether you’re shopping on a resale site or your local online marketplace, the list price isn’t always the final price. Make the seller an offer. The longer an item has been listed, the more likely the seller is to negotiate.
  • Know the sales. Yep, even secondhand stores have sales. Goodwill is known for its “color of the week” sale. Each week, a different color tag is marked down 50%, meaning you can find tons of clothes that are half off their already-low prices.
  • Shop tag sales. Check your local Facebook groups and Craigslist, and look for signs posted around your neighborhood advertising tag sales. Then dedicate a Saturday or Sunday to treasure hunting in your area. You can pick up used clothes for as little as $1 per item. Some people may even fill an entire bag with clothes you can snag for $10 or $20.

What are the best places to buy clothes?

Of course, this question largely depends on your style and your budget, but if you’re looking to invest in high-quality wardrobe staples, you can’t go wrong with Nordstrom. Though its clothes tend to be on the pricier side, Nordstrom runs a few major sales throughout the year. The Half Yearly Sale happens twice a year: once in late spring and again in fall. Meanwhile, its legendary Anniversary Sale kicks off every summer in July.

For deeply discounted designer clothing, try Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth. Prefer shopping in person? T.J. Maxx is a great starting point for big-name brands at discounted prices.

If you’re looking for even more budget-friendly options, check out Target, Walmart and Amazon. While these retailers already offer quality clothing at discounted prices, there are plenty of opportunities to save even more. The annual Target Deal Days sales event features three full days of savings exclusively on Target.com and the Target app. Walmart also started holding its own Deals for Days sales events around Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday. There’s no membership required to shop these deals, but Walmart+ customers are granted early access.

And direct-to-consumer brands offer high-quality items that not everyone will have. Cozy Earth carries a line of impossibly soft loungewear and pajamas that you can often snag on sale for 25% to 30% off. You’ll also love Quince, which carries our favorite $50 cashmere sweater. You won’t find a dedicated sale section on Quince’s website, but since the prices are already so low, you can expect to pay anywhere from 50% to 75% less there than you would at other retailers.

FAQ

What should you look for when shopping for new clothes?

When it comes to new clothes, Gall recommends that shoppers first and foremost consider their budget and whether they truly need the item. If it’s an impulse buy or will break the bank, skip it. “Items that you know you will get the most use out of are ideal to look for when shopping for new clothes,” says Gall. “Think high-quality classics that will never go out of style,” including jeans, casual dresses and jackets.

What should you look for when purchasing clothes online?

Shopping for clothes online can be a bit tricky, since you can’t try them on before you buy, so the first thing you should look at is the return policy. “Most clothing stores with a large online base of shoppers have great return policies that range from getting your money back to receiving store credit, as long as you return the item within their return window,” Gall says. However, some online retailers only offer store credit or don’t accept returns at all, so always read the fine print. Gall also recommends looking for stores with free shipping and free returns, so you can order multiple sizes and simply return what doesn’t work.

Also take the time to look up a site’s reviews. Check out what customers had to say about the clothing in terms of quality, sizing and more before making your purchase.

When do retailers typically bring out next season’s clothing?

Wondering when you’ll start seeing snow boots and winter coats? According to Gall, shoppers can expect to find a significant change in inventory about every other month. “If you are [waiting for] the next season of clothing to hit the shelves, keep a close eye out about two months ahead of the season change for products to start to come in,” she advises. Fall clothes usually start to hit the stores in early August, with the bulk of winter styles hitting the racks in September and October. And if you have spring fever, you’ll have to wait until March for spring lines to drop, with high summer styles coming in around May.

How might clothing sales be different this year?

According to Gall, we can expect to see summer clothing sales last a bit longer this year, due to the surplus of inventory stores are facing post-pandemic. Some stores are also helping shoppers make the most of their tightening budgets by extending their savings events and increasing their discounts.

Shop smarter

As you can see, refreshing or even revamping your wardrobe doesn’t have to break the bank. If possible, wait for a holiday sale and shop out of season. But if you can’t wait, get a few key pieces and some secondhand clothing to hold you over. You can trust Reader’s Digest‘s tips to find the best deals at the best stores, with advice from industry experts.

Now that you know the best time to buy clothes, learn the best time to buy fine jewelry, so you can accessorize that new wardrobe accordingly!

Source:

  • Kristen Gall, retail and shopping expert for Rakuten

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Marisa Hillman
Marisa is a freelance writer and product expert covering product reviews, gift guides, and sales for RD.com. She is a former educator turned professional shopper dedicated to finding the best sales and products on the market. When she's not on deadline, she can be found exploring the East Coast or curled up at home with her nose in a book. She lives in New England with her husband, three children, and two dogs.