In most places, August typically marks the end of summer and the official transition back to school, which means plenty of sales on end-of-season items from retailers like Walmart, Best Buy and Target. The bulk of sales this month focus on back-to-school, with many anticipating a return to in-person learning despite an influx in Covid cases across the nation. The National Retail Federation expects total back-to-school spending to be $108.1 billion this year, a 6.4 percent rise from last year, with the average spending for all age groups predicted to rise 10.8 percent to $2,049.
There is a high demand for school supplies this year following advance child tax credits and stimulus checks. But between high production costs, supply shortages and other challenges, stores and retailers may struggle to offer discounts. Despite these issues, experts expect larger retailers to continue hosting deals and savings events “not only for students, but for basically everyone, including upgrades for the home, home office, work and the entire family,” said Vipin Porwal, the founder and consumer expert at Smarty.
SKIP AHEAD Best sales and deals in August
What to buy in August
Whether you’re returning to in-person learning or outfitting your dorm or home office, August is a great time to purchase a variety of supplies, from pens and folders to art supplies and backpacks. Not only do major retailers like Target, Amazon and Walmart have large school selections, but more than a dozen states also offer a tax-free shopping weekend on school supplies. “Some states include electronics, clothing, backpacks and shoes in their tax-free weekends,” noted Kristin McGrath, an editor at savings destination RetailMeNot.
In line with back-to-school, August will see deals on a variety of tech upgrades, including tablets, laptops and headphones, that can be a treasure trove of savings for everyone — not just students. McGrath suggested checking out Apple’s 2021 back-to-school offer — which includes free Airpods and discounts on select products — as well as Best Buy’s Deals of the Day for tech savings. “This will be the last time before Black Friday that you see a lot of popular tech on sale at the same time,” she said.
However, these deals won’t last very long. “Expect the majority of back-to-school sales to wind down at the end of August as most needs have been purchased for the beginning of the school year [by then],” said Porwal, adding that those looking for last-minute supplies can find savings during Labor Day and back-to-school clearance sales in early September. You can consider shopping for these supplies just before school is back in session — retailers will be eager to offload supplies at that point. “You may not want to use this tactic for items you actually need, as the shelves will be largely picked over by this point,” said McGrath. “But it can be a smart way to get essentials you know you or your kids will use next year at much-lower prices.”
Home items will also see discounts as retailers push dorm decor for college students, including throw pillows, desks and chairs, shower curtains, trash cans and more, according to McGrath. College students can take advantage of college-specific sales like Bed Bath & Beyond’s College Savings Pass through the end of September, which gets students 20 percent off all college supplies.
With the end of summer vacation around the corner, you can expect retailers to host end-of-season clearance sales and mark down everything summer-related, including clothing, outdoor products and camping equipment. “Knowing that shoppers’ priorities will change with the weather, retailers will move all that stuff to the clearance racks and price it to sell,” said McGrath.
With campgrounds and national parks seeing a surge in summer camping this year, McGrath added that top outdoor retailers like Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Academy Sports + Outdoors and Walmart will likely have sales on outdoor equipment, including portable grills, tents, hammocks, chairs and more. And if you’re looking to revamp your own outdoor space, most retailers will likely be trying to sell their summer items as the season fades out, “which means patio furniture, patio umbrellas, outdoor dishes, outdoor rugs and grills will be on sale,” she said. As the colder weather gets closer, large retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s will also start marking down gardening equipment and tools like weed wackers and lawnmowers.
While deals on tech like laptops and tablets are expected this month, August shoppers will want to wait for better sales on home electronics and video gaming accessories. “Pricing on those items gets more competitive as we approach the holiday shopping season” around Black Friday, said Porwal. Additionally, those in the market for a new smartphone “may want to hold off until the new models are announced for pre-order in the fall,” he added.
Biggest sales happening in August
Best deals to shop now
- Lowest price since Nov. 2020 (excluding Amazon Prime Day), according to Honey
The LARQ Self Cleaning Water Bottle, which is marked down as part of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale this year, activates a purifying UV light every two hours that neutralizes up to 99.9 percent of odor-causing germs, according to the brand. It includes a rechargeable battery — with one charge lasting up to a month — and a double-insulated construction that can keep liquids cold for up to 24 hours.
- Lowest price ever, according to Honey
These popular leggings from Zella are constructed from a moisture-wicking fabric and feature a stretchy, no-slip waistband with a hidden pocket to hold small items like keys, cards or headphones. While these leggings are slim fit — meaning they’ll fit tighter on the skin — the polyester and spandex hybrid material isn’t see-through, according to the brand.
Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 Aero Hiking Boot
- Current lowest price across major retailers
If you’re planning one last outdoor adventure before the end of summer, these Salomon X hiking boots are one of the best pairs of hiking boots to shop. They feature a hybrid mesh and leather upper and soft textile linings that can wick away moisture if you walk through a puddle or it starts to rain. They also provide great ankle protection for navigating moderate trails and a wide toe box for additional comfort and stability.
One of the best noise cancelling headphones, these can pair with multiple devices at once, which can be useful for listening to music on your phone and taking a work Zoom meeting call through your laptop. It features built-in Amazon Alexa that gives you hands-free voice access to music, calls and other apps on your mobile device. To make you more comfortable with the noise cancelling properties, these headphones come with ambient sound control and quick attention mode that allows you to pause noise cancellation and participate in conversations.
- Lowest price in the past 120 days, according to Honey
As the return to campus approaches, you might be looking for a laptop — and you may want to consider this Lenovo Yoga 7i. It has a 15-inch FHD display equipped with Dolby Vision and Intel Iris X graphics meant to make colors pop. It also has touchscreen capabilities and you can fold the keyboard back to use it like a tablet. It uses Intelligent Cooling that is designed to help prolong battery life by keeping your laptop from overheating.
- Lowest price in the past 120 days, according to Honey
If you are continuing to work from home for the time being, you may want to upgrade your desk set-up. In our coverage on small space living, Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s resident trend expert, recommended thinking vertically when looking to maximize your space. This tiered desk meets that criteria by expanding upward rather than outward. The top two shelves can hold up to 50 pounds while the main desk can handle 100 pounds. At 72 inches tall, the desk design makes it appear as though it’s leaning against the wall.
If you or a loved one are looking for a backpack to return to work or head to in-person classes, you make want to consider this one from Herschel. It has a 4.6-star average rating from nearly 1,000 reviewers on Amazon. The backpack can carry your computer and some other essentials with its two front pockets and a padded 13-inch laptop sleeve. It comes several colors, including Ivy Green, Ash Rose and more.
A mesh Wi-Fi system can extend the coverage of your home network. The Google Wi-Fi System is a highly-rated option with a 4.7-star average rating from over 6,000 reviewers on Amazon. The pack of three covers up to 4,500 square feet to boost coverage in different parts of your house. When paired with the Google Home app, users can pause Wi-Fi to specific devices on the mesh network, track screen time and restrict certain adult content with parental controls.
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Rebecca Rodriguez, Shop TODAY and Shari Uyehara, Shop TODAY contributed.