Procrastinate and Save This Christmas


WASHINGTON, D.C. (TheStreet) — Let all the rubes and suckers slug it out during the holiday season — it's the post-holiday shoppers who get all the spoils.

According to the National Retail Federation, 10% of holiday sales occur in the week after Christmas, with an American Express (Stock Quote: AMEX) survey finding that same share of shoppers holding out for post-holiday deals. Consumer Reports says 4% of shoppers won't even finish their gift-getting until after Christmas. For them, the waning moments of 2009 will hold not just bargain-priced gift wrap, turkey and candy canes, but deeply discounted TVs, MP3 players, refrigerators and ottomans. Just don't expect it to be like 2008, when Consumer Reports said 44% of Americans hit the stores between Christmas and New Year's as prices plummeted faster than the ball in Times Square.

"You're not going to be seeing a repeat of after-holiday last year," says Ellen Davis, vice president of the National Retail Federation. "You're not going to be seeing 60% or 80% off the whole store."

Forgive Davis if her words echo those of pundits heading into Black Friday and the rest of the holiday season. There were deals then, and with a greater-than-expected 28% of shoppers handing out gift cards this year, the following items could provide big payoffs for procrastinators this year:


About 40% of shoppers told Consumer Reports they were trying to buy more practical items this holiday season. We'll see how that holds up after Christmas, when televisions and appliances get cheaper to make way for the arrival of new models in the spring. While prices of ranges, ovens and refrigerators can drop by hundreds of dollars during this period, you can't play Microsoft's (Stock Quote: MSFT) Xbox or watch Julia & Julia on the overwhelming majority of them (love the fridge TVs).

Retailers haven't hinted at their post-holiday offerings as of yet, but if a TV is on the low end of the features spectrum (mid-sized, 720p resolution, inferior or nonexistent PC or Internet connectivity), there's a good chance it's getting shipped off to the island of misfit toys.

Tech toys

There's that solid week after New Year's when that sweet, but not state-of-the-art, camera or MP3 player seems like the best little gadget on Earth. Then the Consumer Electronics Show comes along on Jan. 7 and turns America's precious toys into the tech equivalent of Lincoln Logs.

No gizmos are immune, as companies roll out new laptops, netbooks, smart phones and other playthings with impunity. For techies and hard-line geeks, it's out with the old and in with the new. For the mainstream public, it's time to get a good price on the 1-gigabyte netbook you always wanted and the dozen-megapixel point-and-shoot you'll never need.


Of all of the post-holiday sale items, furniture has the tiniest window of opportunity. According to Jackie Hirschhaut, spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, new furniture hits showrooms at the end of January into February.

This gives consumers three weeks to capitalize on 10% to 50% discounts on tables, recliners, hutches and oversized sectionals that will dominate their living area for no good reason. However, this sector also instills the least urgency, as Hirschhaut says shoppers who miss these deals get another chance in six months when stock rotates again.


Post-holiday auto sales won't need to pair the words "cash" and "clunkers" to motivate sellers.

After an abysmal year, the auto industry received some good news in November from the Department of Commerce's Census Bureau, which reported sales up 1.6% from October and 1.5% from the same period last year. Meanwhile, in a rare burst of optimism from Michigan, the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research predicts that U.S. auto sales will jump 20% next year behind burgeoning demand and strengthened credit. Until then, dealers looking to unload last year's stock will resort to their annual post-holiday push to make way for new models.


Yes, you're tired of turkey, squash and potatoes at this point. We all are. This is why supermarket sale items look like a list of holiday leftovers once the last Christmas dinner plates have been cleared. Apples, clementines, cranberries and other seasonal items all need to go, and cheaply. This is why the food segment of the Consumer Price Index remained relatively unchanged for December 2008 and January 2009, and prices for fruits, vegetables and other foods eaten at home dipped. If you want to stock up for a long winter, stow away a bit of that bargain holiday bounty.

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