The biggest sales, discounts and deals: What to expect this Labor Day 2019

Julianne Ross, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu August 29, 2019

UPDATE: Labor Day sales are off and running for 2019! For help finding the best deals, visit our comprehensive A-Z guide.

A lot of people will be doing one of two things on Monday: grilling or shopping. Labor Day was originally established to honor American workers, but in the century or so since its creation, the holiday has come to mark the unofficial end of summer. It's also grown into one of the year's biggest shopping events.

As a shopping day, Labor Day might take a backseat to Black Friday in many people's minds, but there are tons of great deals to be had as summer comes to a close — if you know what to shop for. We're here to help.

What to expect

The biggest Labor Day markdowns are on summer goods, which are on their way out to make room for new fall inventory. So even though buying a bikini might not be at the top of your mind in September, this is actually a fantastic time to do so (and it will give you something to remind you of summer when the impending winter blues get you down). Ditto summer-centric appliances like grills.

"Labor Day is, first and foremost, a summer clearance event," said Michael Bonebright, a senior editor at deal-scouring website DealNews.com. "You should primarily shop for warm weather categories like summer clothing, patio furniture, gardening tools, grills and outdoor toys." And despite common advice to the contrary, you might actually want to hold off from jumping on electronics sales this year — more on that below.

When do sales start?

Now! Even though Labor Day isn't until next week, sales have already begun. Many will be in full swing from now until the day after Labor Day, so make sure to check in with your favorite retailers. Because it's too soon to know what retailers have planned, we'll keep you updated on the best sales and deals throughout the rest of the month here at CNN Underscored.

Where to shop

If the past few years are any indication, expect big box stores like Target and Walmart to have dedicated Labor Day landing pages curating a variety of sale items. Head to REI or Backcountry for outdoor gear, and Home Depot and Lowe's for major appliances. Nordstrom, Old Navy and Kohl's are great bets for clothes, as are outlets like Gap Factory. And, of course, there's always Amazon, which may or may not have a dedicated Labor Day sale; regardless, prices will likely be adjusted to reflect broader market trends.

What to shop for

Summer clothes: We know, we know, it's almost sweater weather. But if you can stand a little delayed gratification, you can snag major savings on items like bathing suits, shorts, tank tops and summer skirts. "Clearance summer clothes can see absurd discounts, like 70 or 80% off, and many retailers will stack a 20% off coupon on top of that," said Bonebright. "This can lead to incredible deals, like T-shirts for $2."

Outdoor gear and major appliances: Technically, summer doesn't end until September 23, and there are plenty of warm days left to enjoy being outside. Outdoor outfitter REI always has excellent Labor Day savings, making this the perfect time to pick up a sleeping bag, cooler or tent. Bonebright said customers can expect to find anywhere from 30% to 70% off items such as grills, garden tools and patio furniture at home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's.

Mattresses: Expect modest but reliable savings of 10% to 20%, both in store and online. Popular online retailer Casper is offering 10% off, for instance, while you can save $200 at Amerisleep. And Purple will toss in either a free set of premium sheets or two pillows (up to a $129 value). If you happen to be close to a Mattress Firm, you're likely to score big savings in store.

Cars: Dealers need to make room for the 2020 models that are released in the fall, meaning you can score a great deal on the outgoing inventory (as long as you don't mind not having the latest model). There are many deals to be had on cars throughout the holiday season, but you'll likely have a wider variety if you shop now.

Travel: Perhaps a surprising entry into the Labor Day sales realm, but there are also solid savings to be had. "Last year, we actually saw a couple great travel sales during Labor Day, which was a fun surprise," said Bonebright. "Hotels.com took up to 40% off select stays and Frontier Airlines took up to 90% off flights." He added that booking during Labor Day sales can yield great savings for travel on Columbus Day. "Our research says you should book by mid-September (at the latest) to get the best price for a mid-October flight," Bonebright said.

What not to buy

Fall-centric items: Don't give into the temptation to pick up a warm flannel shirt or fuzzy slippers just yet. "Stores are full of fall stuff," Bonebright said, but "don't buy any of it — no autumn clothes, no cozy boots, no Halloween decor, none of it! Everything will go on sale after October, I promise."

Electronics: Though you also may be tempted to snag a new HDTV or laptop, it's best to weigh the options. That holds especially true for Apple iPhones, given that new models are released in the fall. (As Bonebright puts it, "You'll be overpaying for a model that's about to be previous-gen."). Best Buy, Target and other retailers will likely have solid markdowns on appliances, TVs and accessories. But Bonebright is willing to bet items will be even cheaper on Black Friday. That's not to say that you won't save money now — you certainly can! — just that you might save even more down the road.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.