July is all about clearance. Retailers this month will be scrambling to offload "small, piecey stuff" to clear space for autumn shipments, says Dan Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. Plus, "people are usually going on vacation in the summer months, so retailers really have to promote their values strongly to get their customer in the door." So keep your peepers peeled in July for these deals:
SLR cameras: "We've noticed lately there's been a spike in the number of 'editor's choice' deals (on single-lens reflex cameras) in May and June already," said Lindsay Sakraida, features editor at consumer website DealNews.com. "We're hoping that will continue into July. It might be a good thing to keep an eye on if you need a (late) graduation gift."
Apparel: Look for 40 percent to 70 percent off spring holdovers. "Some retailers will get very aggressive and mark things down dirt cheap just to get rid of it," Butler said.
Sandals: July introduces the best deals on sandals, and might include discounts from Steve Madden, Crocs, Polo Ralph Lauren and Teva, Sakraida said. Many national retailers will drop prices on flip-flops to under $5.
Garden/tools: Live plants intended for spring gardening are on a ticking clock, and garden centers will be shoving them out the door. July also begins sales on patio furniture. "The reason for that is they want to be clean by September," Butler said. And stores that don't sell garden supplies year-round, like Big Lots, will attempt to clear the racks by offering garden tools for 50 percent to 70 percent off, he says. Also look for deals on general tool sets, accessories and storage units.
Restaurants: "During the summer months, the restaurants have kind of a lull because everyone's out barbecuing," Butler said, "so there can be some really great deals." For example, Chick-fil-A is offering a free entree in July — for patrons who dress as cows.
Also look for beach gear and summer white sales.
But wait for clearance sales on grills and sunglasses.
"Black Friday" sales: Some retailers have hijacked the phrase, including stamping it on sort-of-summer sales. Don't buy something just because of the sale's name. "It's pretty obvious to most people that they're not as good as Black Friday," Sakraida said.
Back-to-school promotions: Retailers will receive shipments in July, so you might see some "first markdowns" on those products, especially in the young men's, juniors and children's departments. But they're not rock-bottom prices, Butler said.
Savvy parents might want to wait until the week their state holds its sales tax holiday weekend — Aug. 3-5 for Florida — for back-to-school items. Expect retailers to piggyback on the tax break by discounting a host of qualifying items, from clothes to computers.