MONEY Advertising

Kmart Unleashes Season’s First Christmas Ad

Xmas displays in Kmart store
Richard Levine—Alamy

They're trying to be cute by calling it the "Kmart Not a Christmas Commercial," but that's not fooling anybody.

Last year, Kmart received some grief for its decision to start airing Christmas commercials in early September. Mere days after Labor Day, in fact, when most families were still in the thick of back to school shopping and the winter holidays were note remotely on the radar.

After being subjected to the unseasonably early ads, consumers took to Kmart’s Facebook page to air their grievances. “What happened to Halloween and thanksgiving?” one commenter posted. “Stop with the Christmas commercials ALREADY!!” Another raged, “Why don’t you just start this on 1st each year! This is ridiculous and if I see on ad on tv I will never stop in your store!”

Fast-forward a year, and lo and behold, Kmart is again airing a Christmas commercial within a few days of Labor Day weekend. Yet it can’t be said that Kmart, which has managed to put together some remarkably clever and funny viral commercials of late (remember Ship My Pants and Big Gas Savings?), is entirely tone deaf to last year’s criticisms.

The new Christmas commercial, the ad’s spokeswoman clarifies, is “not a Christmas commercial.” She then goes on—coyly, with strategically raised eyebrows—to make the case that shoppers should start using Kmart’s layaway right now if, “say you have an event in late December that you need a lot of gifts for,” deadpanning, “Like maybe if your entire family is having a birthday on the same day.” The ad ends wishing everyone a “Merry Birthday.” Watch it yourself if you like:

Why is Kmart taking the risk of yet again turning customers off by unleashing a Christmas commercial more than 100 days before Christmas, thereby raining on everyone’s late summer? (It’s technically still summer for a couple more weeks, remember.) It seems like every shopping season seems to expand every year, so retailers are constantly trying to beat the competition to the punch in terms of snagging shopper dollars. If a shopper puts some toys and electronics on layaway at Kmart in September, after all, that shopper isn’t going to later be buying those same items at Target, Walmart, Amazon, or wherever.

What’s more, Kmart, which tends to attract low-income shoppers, has an especially longstanding layaway tradition. The big toy store chains and all-purpose retailers revamped layaway program a couple of years ago, slashing fees and adding perks to try to get customers on board. That trend came as something of a surprise considering that just a few years before that, many big-box stores had largely gotten rid of layaway as an option. During the years that the majority of retailers played down or did away with layaway entirely, however, Kmart kept its layaway tradition alive. And Kmart’s latest commercial and layaway promotions—no money down, no fees for many layaway contracts—shows that the retailer still considers layaway to be very important for the company, especially during the Christmas season.

Oh yeah, forgot: It’s not Christmas season yet!

The other reason Kmart executives decided to air the early commercial is that, presumably, they think it’s funny, and they hope that viewers do too. Not everyone is on board, however. Here’s a recent comment posted at Kmart’s Facebook page:

On September 5th I have seen the very first Christmas ad of the 2014 season. SHAME on you Kmart, summer isn’t even officially over and you have the nerve to run a Christmas ad!!!! I wouldn’t shop at your store if it was the last one on the face of the earth!

MONEY Apple

Why Only Apple Has What It Takes To Disrupt Our Wallets

$50 on screen of iPhone
Erik Dreyer—Getty Images

Many companies have tried to revolutionize how we pay for things, but only Apple has what it takes to succeed.

Apple’s September 9 event is quickly approaching, and there is widespread consensus that the Cupertino computer giant will release a new iPhone, a smart watch, and, perhaps most unexpectedly, a mobile payments platform.

The iWatch has gotten the lion’s share of the media’s attention so far, but it’s mobile payments that might ultimately be Apple’s most important announcement next Thursday. The future has brought us fancy touch-screen phones and video chat, but we’re still paying for things in roughly the same way we did 25 years ago: by putting it on the plastic. Tech lovers have been waiting years for a digital wallet or other service that could dislodge the old system. And while many have tried, Apple may be the only company that has a real shot at succeeding.

Crowded Market, But Few Successes

If Apple actually does announce a mobile payment service—likely powered by a near-field communication (NFC) chip in the company’s newest iPhone that will allow users to “swipe” their devices at checkout—it certainly won’t be the first to promise a new and better way to pay for things.

Square, a San Francisco startup headed by one of Twitter’s founders, in 2011 introduced the Square Wallet app, which promised to let users connect their credit cards and pay for merchandise at participating retailers simply by giving their name. LevelUp, another mobile app, also connects to a shopper’s credit card; users then scan a QR code at checkout to pay for their purchases. Even mobile carriers have gotten in on the act. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have banded together to create their own payment system, Isis Wallet. The service works through NFC and ships with certain smartphone models.

But none of those businesses has managed to make the mobile payment dream come true. Square Wallet was retired in May of this year, and LevelUp lingers in obscurity. Isis, for its part, has not only failed to catch on, but might be responsible for torpedoing Google Wallet—another mobile payment effort—out of the gate when Verizon, in an effort to protect its own platform, blocked Google’s service from using NFC components on its devices.

Why have these efforts failed? Two key reasons: Processing payments isn’t a good model, and even if it were, none of these players has enough market clout to get businesses on board. Luckily for Apple, its service will be immune to both of these issues.

Great Feature, Bad Business

Being a middleman in a transaction sounds like a great business model. Billions of smartphone users spend money every day, meaning even a small slice of that commerce could be extremely lucrative. Unfortunately, those slices are generally too small to create a profitable company. Ben Thompson, founder of the technology news site Stratechery, points out that most of Square’s 2.75% transaction fee actually goes to credit card companies or the card-issuing bank, leaving Square with just 43 cents on a $50 transaction. With margins that low, it should come as no surprise that Square lost about $100 million in 2013. In mobile payments, just breaking even is a win.

That’s good for Apple, though, because the iPhone maker would be adding mobile payments as a feature, not making them its central business. Like iTunes, which until recently was run at cost, and iCloud, which gives out five gigabytes of storage for free, a payments service wouldn’t be expected to turn a profit. Instead, it would simply be a nice feature that helps sell more iPhones. That’s where Apple actually makes its money.

Too Big to Fail

Most mobile payment companies run into the problem of scale. It’s hard to get merchants to adopt a new technology if they aren’t sure a lot of their customers will use it, and the mobile payments market has been too fractured to accumulate a critical mass of users. Enter Apple, and the roughly 400 million credit cards that are tied to its iTunes service. That’s quadruple the amount of payment information Amazon holds, according to Business Insider.

In one fell swoop, Apple could become the dominant player in mobile payments and turn a confusing, splintered industry into one merchants can’t afford to ignore.

It’s all speculation for now, but the strategy adds up. Apple’s no stranger to industry disruption, and come September 9, we’ll find out whether our wallets are next on the company’s hit list.

MONEY Odd Spending

Fine! Whatever! Top 10 Gifts for the Passive-Aggressives In Your Life

Reclining airplane seat into passenger's knees
Jason Hetherington—Getty Images

The Knee Defender—which prevents airline seats from reclining—is one of many products passive-aggressive consumers can use to protect their turf or ward off uncivil behavior. Hopefully without confrontation, of course.

Two recent passenger squabbles on airplanes have greatly boosted the profile of the Knee Defender, a $22 device that can be attached to the back of an airline seat to prevent it from reclining. The device prompted a brawl on a recent United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver, causing the plane to be diverted to Chicago, where both the man who attached the Knee Defender and the woman who didn’t like it (and threw a glass of water at the guy behind her) were escorted off the aircraft. Sales of the device soared after the news of the incident went viral, and plenty of observers weighed in with opinions, some defending the Knee Defender, others bashing it and anyone who would selfishly prevent a fellow passenger from “right to recline.”

Many others lamented the apparent need for such passive-aggressive behavior in the first place. Ira Goldman, the inventor of the Knee Defender, said the airlines are to blame for these ugly incidents because they’ve reduced legroom. By extension, the airlines are also to blame for the newfound popularity of his odd gadget. “When the airlines solve the problem, I’ll go out of business,” he said.

Flying is hardly the only sphere where humans have been known to exhibit uncivil behavior, and where others feel forced to resort to passive-aggressive (OK, sometimes more aggressive than passive) strategies as a counteroffensive. Here are some other products for the passive-aggressive people in your life.

The Parking Chair
People in Boston, Chicago, and other snowy cities regularly use chairs (or ironing boards, or buckets, or oversized kids’ toys) to call “dibs” on the street parking spaces that they dug out in front of their homes. The passive-aggressive tactic for defending one’s spot is popular but often illegal. In fact, a “No Savesies” movement was launched via social media by police in Philadelphia to spread the word that savesies, dibs, or whatever you want to call it is not allowed.

Spike Away Vest
Tired of fellow commuters bumping into her or otherwise invading her personal space, an industrial designer in Japan created the Spike Away vest, a plastic, porcupine-like accessory sure to keep strangers from rubbing up against you on the train.

Slogan T-Shirt
Rather than boldly confronting those exhibiting boorish, insensitive, or just plain dumb behavior, the passive-aggressive have been known to wear certain T-shirts as a way to get across a message—and perhaps their sense of humor as well. Here’s one offering the message “Thank you for not crop dusting” (a.k.a. farting).

Office “Courtesy” Signs
The office, a mishmash of different personalities from different backgrounds where everyone is expected to behave professionally and politely, is always a hot spot for subtle passive-aggressive behavior. And sometimes overt and totally juvenile passive-aggressive behavior too. Signs posted at cubicles (“Quiet Please… Important Work in Progress”) and in office kitchens are often rife with passive-aggressive intent.

Bumper Stickers
Pretty much every bumper sticker is passive-aggressive—a means to get some sort of message across without saying a word or doing much of anything besides driving around. Like this one, which aims to keep would-be tailgaters at bay: “Sorry for driving so close in front of your car.”

Toilet Decal
Confronting people in your house about their refusal to put the toilet seat down is so, well, confrontational. It’s also difficult to do in the middle of the night, when said people are probably barely awake. The passive-aggressive solution just might be a glow-in-the-dark toilet decal with the reminder to lower the seat after relieving oneself.

Curb Your Dog Signs
“Please Don’t Water Our Plants!” one Curb Your Dog sign pleads, showing a pooch peeing on what’s presumably a garden. “Make Sure Your Dog Doesn’t Drop Anything,” another sign warns, showing a dog doing something worse than merely peeing. Either option is nicer than putting a fake headstone on your lawn marking the spot of “The Last Dog That Pooped in My Yard.”

TV-B-Gone
OK, this one is probably more aggressive than passive. The TV-B-Gone gadget hit the marketplace in the mid-2000s, allowing anyone to turn off a TV blaring CNN or whatever at the airport or some other public venue. Tranquility at last!

The Ordinary Cellphone
Nearly everyone is in possession of a tool that makes it incredibly easy to passive-aggressively avoid talking to people or even making eye contact. According to a Pew Research Internet Project survey, 13% of all cell phone owners—and a whopping 30% of millennials—say that they have pretended to be using their phones for the express purpose of easily avoiding interactions with people they come across.

Related:
5 Reasons September Is the Best Month to Go Shopping

 

MONEY deals

5 Reasons September Is the Best Month to Go Shopping

Red lawn mower and sprinkler on lawn
PhotoSlinger—Alamy

September is an in-between month for consumers. It's not really a peak period to buy anything—which is why it's absolutely a peak month for savvy shoppers looking for deals on everything from lawn mowers to houses.

You may be still paying off your summer vacation. You may feel the need to start socking away money to cover your winter holiday shopping budget. There may be nothing that your household really needs to buy right now. Even so, there’s a good argument to be made that you can and should be shopping in September—and that you can feel smart, thrifty, and virtuous about it. Here are five reasons why.

1. Summer is over. The need for summery goods such as lawn mowers, barbecue grills, patio furniture, bicycles, bathing suits, and anything related to the beach is rapidly disappearing. So, naturally, stores want all typical summer purchases off their shelves and out of their aisles, pronto. Look for them at increasingly discounted prices until they’re gone. For instance, patio furniture should be listed at clearance prices of 50% to 75% off, according to dealnews. In addition to markdowns on summer items, Consumer Reports noted, shoppers can also expect stores to be discounting snow blowers for a similar reason—they’re just not top of mind for consumers, so some extra incentive is needed to make customers bite.

2. Kids are back in school. Retailers started pushing back-to-school sales in June, before most kids even started their summer vacation, and August is generally considered peak season for back-to-school purchases. But this year, at least, shoppers seem to have wised up to the simple fact that prices drop for those who wait. After a fairly lackluster summer season, stores were promoting early Labor Day deals to pump up apparel sales in particular. Even that wasn’t enough to drive many shoppers into stores.

“Consumers, not stores, are driving the trends these days, which means September will be the busiest back-to-school month this year, contrary to what stores and retailers may think,” the NPD Group’s Marshal Cohen noted recently. Here’s how Cohen explained why consumers have changed in their approach to back-to-school shopping:

Parents are prioritizing by purchasing supplies first, then some basic wardrobe necessities, and lastly following up with fashion, putting summer aside and purchasing clothing and apparel for colder rather than warmer weather. The reason consumers are delaying this significant aspect of their back-to-school shopping is twofold: they want to find out what’s “cool in school” before making their purchases and, looking at the broader trend, consumers don’t want to buy early anymore; consumers today want to buy in season.

Seasonality is just part of it; parents are also hip to the fact that prices are likely to drop on many back-to-school items and fashions once retailers consider peak back-to-school season to be over.

3. New gadgets are coming. Which means that older models will be marked down soon, if they haven’t been already. Consumer Reports suggests September as a great month for buying all sorts of small electronics (MP3 players, Blu-ray players, etc.), and dealnews points out that iPhones currently on the market are bound to be discounted when Apple introduces the new model, which should take place next week.

4. The winter holidays are looming. The overarching reason that stores are extra aggressive with markdowns in September is that they are eager to gear up for the Thanksgiving–Christmas shopping period. Sure, summer is an important season for retailers, but it pales in comparison to the end of the year. Some outlets routinely ring up more than half the year’s sales during the winter shopping season. So they understandably want to be fully prepared to make the most of it. To do so, it helps to start with a clean slate, with little or nothing in stores left over from the summer. Hence, major deals to clear out stores.

5. House hunting slows to a crawl. A new Trulia report explains that September marks the beginning of a sharp slowdown in people searching for homes to buy in most markets. For the most part, the arrival of Labor Day is bad news for owners who have listed their homes but have yet to close a deal with a buyer. On the other hand, fewer buyers in the market means an advantage for those who remain. Sellers who would have laughed off a lowball bid in, say, early June will be much more likely to consider such an offer come September.

MONEY Shopping

WATCH: Why Abercrombie & Fitch Will Ditch Its Logo

Responding to years of declining sales, the youth-oriented clothing retailer has decided to pull its logo from most U.S. clothes.

MONEY Shopping

The 6 Best Apps for Labor Day Shopping

The Level Money app can help you make sure you don't blow your budget.

Sales abound this holiday weekend. You'll improve your chances of nailing the best deal if you download these free apps and tools before you hit the stores.

Summer is about over, but don’t despair. Labor Day weekend means some of the best shopping deals of the year. And the right mobile apps and tools can show you shortcuts to the best sales and countless ways to streamline your shopping experience, making a good thing even better. Here are a few of our favorites.

PriceBlink

Think you’ve found the perfect Labor Day sale online? There may be a lower price out there, and PriceBlink can find it for you. Available as a free browser add-on for your iPad, PriceBlink scans more than 4,000 merchants to let you know if you’ve missed a better discount. To sweeten the deal, you’ll also automatically be alerted to any current coupons.

Smoopa

When you’re looking to compare prices from your iPhone or Android, Smoopa lets you know where to find the best sales. Browse or scan products, and if you’ve found the lowest price on an item, a green button will appear. If you see a yellow button you’re cautioned not to buy yet, and you’ll be directed to a better deal.

RedLaser

Before heading to the register, scan an item’s barcode from your smartphone with RedLaser to make sure the price isn’t lower elsewhere. This app knows which retailers are close by and compares prices at thousands of local and online stores. It also stores all your loyalty card information, so you won’t miss out on points. RedLaser is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows phones.

Aisle411

Tired of wasting time trying to find what you’re looking for in large, confusing stores? Download the Asle411 app to your iPhone or Android phone and get maps of more than 12,000 U.S. stores. This app pinpoints your location in the store, directs you to the merchandise you want, and sends you alerts about special sales and offers.

Coupons.com

Once you’ve located the best deal, use the Coupons.com app to search for and “clip” thousands of coupons that could slash the price even further. It’s compatible with iPhone and Android, and you can redeem coupons from major retailers such as Sears and Nordstrom in stores or online.

Level Money

In all the excitement of Labor Day shopping, it’s easy to overspend. Having a budget app handy can help keep you in line. This secure app is one of the simplest budgeting tools around, letting you know how much cash you have available for today, the rest of the week, and the entire month. Simply link the app (available on iPhone or Android) to your bank and credit card accounts, and enter your goals.

Technology takes most of the work out of researching the best Labor Day discounts, and can help keep you on budget. By downloading just a few useful apps, you’ll be left with more time to enjoy your purchases. And you’ll have some extra cash to spend—remember, Black Friday is less than three months away.

Matthew Ong is the senior retail analyst at NerdWallet, a website that compares everything from shopping deals to credit cards to save consumers cash.

MONEY online shopping

WATCH: Kickstarter Raises a Record $11 Million…for a Drink Cooler

The Coolest Cooler comes loaded with USB chargers, a cutting board and a Bluetooth speaker. It'll even cool your food and drinks!

MONEY Odd Spending

7 Crazy New Products You Can Buy to Spoil Your Pet

BEETHOVEN'S 2ND, Beethoven and Missy, 1993
Dating services can coordinate matches for you--and your pets. Universal—courtesy Everett Collection

Pet dating services? Dog selfies? "Pre-pups?" The world of pampering pets has hit new heights. Like: outer space. Literally.

In recent years, pet owners have been tempted—perhaps guilted—into treating their beloved dogs and cats to products and services that run the gamut from $350 doggie strollers to pet tattoos, luxury doghouses , and gourmet pet cuisine. And how can anyone forget about the fitness-tracking dog collar and the Grumpy Cat-endorsed line of bottled coffee? (The latter was created for human consumption, natch.)

At some point, it would seem like pet marketers simply must run out of every dog-gone idea under the sun. But based on American pet spending—a total of $56 billion last year, and forecasts call for $60 billion in 2014—for entrepreneurial players in the pet economy, the best time to roll out new pet-related products and services is always right meow. Here, in celebration of National Dog Day on Tuesday, are some of the latest options to trot onto the scene.

Personal Trainers for Dogs
Crain’s New York recently reported on some of the latest ways New Yorkers are giving their dogs the very best, including organic artisanal food and the hiring of specialized dog trainers. Not simply traditional trainers who will do the basics like teach a dog to sit, but ones who will run pooches throughout a calorie-burning workout like personal trainers do with humans. Other trainers give dogs swimming and Frisbee-catching lessons, or teach them tricks like taking their own selfies with an iPad. (Warning: Once your dog knows this one, your iPad will bear traces of a wet nose. But the resulting images are probably worth it.)

In-Home Pet Suites
Home builders such as Standard Pacific Homes now offer optional in-home pet suites as part of new construction designs. “The optional pet suite can be customized with a pet shower and removable shower head, built-in cabinetry and other conveniences,” a brochure for one design in a residential community in southern California explains. Pet suites add an average of $8,000 to a home, but more extravagant ones, with flat-screen TVs and a pet door that opens up to a dog run, can go up to $35,000, the Los Angeles Times noted.

Pet Memorial Space Flights
At long last, you can send your deceased pet’s remains into space thanks to Celestis Pets, “the world’s first pet memorial spaceflight service.” The company, which already offers a similar service for human remains, expanded into the pet market this summer. Services range from the basic “Earth Flight,” in which only a symbolic portion of the pet’s cremated remains are sent skyward before returning to earth, to the top-of-the-line “Voyager,” which for $12,500 takes the remains into the deepest space for eternity.

Pet Dating Services
The Associated Press covered the rise of pet-friendly dating services such as PetsDating.com and YouMustLoveDogsDating.com, where like-minded pet-loving singles are supposed to find matches. Love isn’t necessarily the goal, though; PetsDating, “an online community for pet owners who want their pet to enjoy a long, healthy, and fulfilling life in the company of another pet,” has pets rather than human hookups as the primary focus. People who meet through the site could wind up dating, but they also might simply be looking for doggie play dates or someone (and some dog) to go for a walk in the park with. Yet another service, DateMyPet.com, is indeed all about making love matches—within one’s own species, to clear up any confusion about the name.

Dog Toiletries
Companies like Fort Lauderdale’s Synergy Labs are “tapping into the worldwide trend to humanize pets,” according to the Sun Sentinel. The company sells a kennel’s worth of atypical pet merchandise, including a lineup of Pooch Scents (basically: perfume for dogs, with scents like POSH, Rain Fresh, and STUD), high-end organic shampoos and conditioners, and a forthcoming one-of-a-kind toothbrush “designed with three heads to clean the inside and outside of the mouth and the pet’s face at the same time.”

Pet Annuities
A survey by the Securian Financial Group found that nearly 20% of pet owners have made financial plans for the wellbeing of their pets if the owners pass away. Of those, 13% had bought annuities that named the pet’s caregiver as the beneficiary.

Pet Prenups
The rise of couples battling over custody of their pets when they break up—seen this summer with the split of Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, who wants to get their three dogs in the divorce settlement—has raised the profile of “pre-pups.” Like it sounds, the pre-pup is part of a prenuptial agreement that specifies who gets ownership of a pet in the case of a breakup. More attorneys are specializing in pet issues including custody disputes, and apparently there’s quite a need. Data cited by the Daily Mail indicates that one-fifth of separating couples with pets said figuring out who gets the dog was just as stressful as determining who would get custody of the children. Yahoo News reported that without a pet prenup, pets tend to be viewed in the eyes of the court as furniture or any other possession owned by the couple, and bidding wars often determine which party ultimately gets to keep the pooch.

MONEY deals

Labor Day Sale Prices Are Here—a Week Before Labor Day Weekend

Banana Republic 50% off promotion
Jin Lee—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a brutally competitive back-to-school season for retailers, clothing stores like Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch have busted out extra-early clearance sales to the tune of 40% and 50% off everything.

Check out some of the impressive sales taking place right now:

Abercrombie & Fitch: 40% off everything in stores and on the web;

American Eagle: extra 50% off items already on clearance;

Ann Taylor: 50% off a broad range of merchandise;

Banana Republic: 40% off your entire purchase online with the code BRGET40, or $50 off when you spend at least $100 in stores;

Gap: 30% off for everyone (use code AUGUST), or 40% if you have a Gap credit card (code: $40STYLE) now through August 24, plus $25 in Gap Cash for every $50 you spend now through September 1.

If you didn’t know any better, you might have assumed that these big, across-the-board discounts are for Labor Day sales, or for post-back-to-school clearance sales. Heck, 40% off everything has more or less been the standard markdown level to get shoppers to bite on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, renowned as the best sales days of the year.

So why are retailers pushing such hefty discounts at such a seemingly odd time? One reason is that right now is an especially competitive, arguably desperate moment for apparel stores in particular. Iconic retailers like Target, Walmart, and Sears have been struggling mightily of late, and a wide range of clothing stores are trying to cope with consumers’ shifting fashion (and shrinking household budgets) that have brought about the need for deals like $10 jeans.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), household spending on clothes during the back-to-school period is basically flat compared with last year. Shoppers said they planned on spending $231.30 on clothes this season, versus $230.85 a year ago. What’s more, more parents seem to be taking the slacker approach to back-to-school shopping, procrastinating on purchases rather than prudently completing shopping lists long before school starts. As of August 12, an NRF poll indicates, 24% of families hadn’t done any back-to-school shopping yet, compared with 21% at the same time last year. Though fashionistas would disagree, trendy clothing is less of an essential for the start of the school year—kids need notebooks and markers more than new outfits—so it’s a safe assumption that procrastinators have been shying away in particular from clothing purchases, especially if they’ve been avoiding back-to-school shopping because of a tight household budget.

All of these factors add up to a situation in which stores simply haven’t been able to convince shoppers to buy enough clothing yet during the end-of-summer, back-to-school period. They could have waited to drop their big discounts on Labor Day Weekend, but because stores are constantly trying to beat competitors to the punch nowadays, sales tend to start earlier and last longer than ever—hence back-to-school deals beginning in June and Christmas advertising starting just after Labor Day.

Speaking of the winter holidays, they’re a major reason why retailers are being especially aggressive in clearing out summer and fall inventory right now. The November–December period is by far the most important time of year for all of the retailers mentioned above, and to make the most of it, stores want to start with a clean slate (and cleaned-out stores) as early as possible, to prep for the busy months ahead.

In fact, the world’s largest retailer already announced the launching of a holiday season initiative two weeks before Labor Day. “At Walmart, we never stop thinking about the holidays,” a post from Walmart’s Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer, stated in mid-August. And yes, he was referring to the winter holidays: Starting around Black Friday, Walmart plans to have all of its store registers open during peak shopping times, according to a new Checkout Promise introduced by Mac Naughton.

All of which is a roundabout way of explaining why stores are resorting to big, broad markdowns at a seemingly strange time. But before you bite, bear in mind that next week, the sales will probably be even better on whatever merchandise hasn’t already been snatched up. The folks at dealnews anticipate that many stores will offer deeply discounted clothing during Labor Day clearance sales, sometimes with markdowns or 70% or even 80% off.

MORE: Why Parents Should Procrastinate on Back-to-School Purchases

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