U.S. Markets close in 2 hrs 45 mins

How consumers can capitalize on the Sears and Kmart liquidation sales

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

Consumers can expect big going-out-of-business sales at 77 Sears and 65 Kmart stores as Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD), once the largest retailer in the U.S., filed for bankruptcy this week. Consumers expecting to score deep discounts at the 142 locations shuttering their doors by the end of the year, might finally be stepping into a Sears store for the first time in years. But the savviest shoppers will wait until next month.

“Often liquidation can be misunderstood as ‘I’ll get a deal’ but liquidation pricing might not be as low as one might hope for,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyle, founder of retailminded.com. While consumers can expect some sort of discount immediately, the prices won’t drop significantly until you get closer to that particular store’s official closure date.

Hundreds of stores remain open for business.

At this point, shoppers will find typical end-of-season sales that they’d see at any other retailer on items like outdoor grills, patio furniture, and summer clothing and accessories. 

“If these liquidation sales follow the same pattern that Sears normally follows, the discounts will start at 10 to 40%off, then end up at 30 to 80% off, though the final discounts will vary from store to store,” says Mitch Nolen, a retail and bankruptcy expert who’s been chronicling the decline of Sears. The liquidation sales will be conducted by the same firm that has closed over 800 of the company’s stores over the past 16 years, Abacus Advisors.

Final days at Sears

For discounts on bigger-ticket items, Reyle says merchandise analysts within large corporations like Sears will implement a liquidation strategy that includes the re-allocation of products based on sales history. As Sears cited 400 of their stores to be profitable, consumers can expect to see some of the more popular appliances to be moved to those locations that have a stronger sales history in that particular category. And certified resellers, both in-store and online, will surely be loading up on merchandise for their own businesses. 

But shuffling products between locations costs money, so it’s likely that items like clothing, jewelry, toys, and decor will remain in the original stores. As many of the Sears stores will be closing next month, it’s a good idea to wait until the first two weeks of November for the 50% to 90% off deals.

Follow Jeanie Ahn on Twitter.

More from our Women + Money series: