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Smart Buying

Fewer Big Sales, More Custom Deals for Shoppers

Stores reward loyalty by tailoring their discounts to your shopping habits.


Bargain hunters may need to tweak their strategies as more retailers change markdown policies and some scale back on traditional sales altogether. Stores hope to lure shoppers and build loyalty without resorting to big discounts, so expect more promotions based on previous purchases. For example, you might earn credit on one trip to use later. Retailers are tracking you more closely to better personalize deals. A few stores, such as Lord & Taylor and Macy’s, use “beacons”—devices that feed deals to a customer’s phone via Bluetooth as they shop.

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Other retailers, including Express, Kate Spade and New York & Company, say they’ll dial down the frequency and depth of large sales and emphasize the value of their brand at full price. Bucking the trend, Nordstrom, known for department-specific blowouts, will instead mark down merchandise storewide on traditional sales holidays, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Shoppers will snag the most discounts with loyalty programs—by signing up for a mailing list, say, or by using a store app to enable in-store notifications of deals. Or ask a sales associate whether a promotion is approaching. You might be able to hold the item, or decide to wait.