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Our Favorite Holiday Shopping Secrets

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It depends on how you define a "secret", since there are probably other people out there who know about them, but we have some pretty reliable, tried and true places and gifts that we can always depend on, holiday season after holiday season. We consistently find great sales and products we know will be a hit with relatives and friends. Here's our list of retailers that haven't let us down with their holiday offerings:

1) Bath & Body Works

Don't ever pay full price, particularly around the holidays, for items here, especially for the Signature Collection items. This store always has a variety of gift bag options, and combined offers of multiple items for a fraction of a price that they normally cost. There frequently are 4 for $10 (hand soap) or $5 for $25 sales going on, that include products that normally range from $5 and up a piece. Who couldn't use a little extra lotion or anti-bacterial hand soap? We know that we'll put it to use (eventually). Plus, items from C.O. Bigelow and even True Blue Spa hit the combo-sale. The only items that tend not to go on super sale are the high end lines carried, like the anti-wrinkle creams and such by Dr. Wexler. Don't forget about the guys: Bath & Body Works recently started to carry a selection of men's grooming and skincare products as well.

2) Saks Fifth Avenue

You may be surprised by our mentioning of the upscale retailer in this list, however if you know where to look, you can get a deal. We have found some good deals in the past at Saks Fifth Avenue on accessories, in particular cold weather items (type "scarf", "hat", etc. into the search box to find all products). Scarves seem to be a particularly good deal, and we've even seen the ever-classic Burberry print wool scarves marked down. Don't forget that a nice pair of gloves can make a great, practical gift. We like the Yves Saint Laurent Chain-Trimmed Gloves for $177 (were $295). Sometimes at Saks you can luck out with a handbag or small leather goods, such as a wallet, but the store tends to carry less of these items.

3) Old Navy

Prepare for most items to be marked down! After Christmas a lot of items tend to hit the 75% off mark, but if you can't wait that long, the sales before the holiday are pretty good too. Old Navy is also a pretty safe bet for a relative or friend's kids, for those people that you don't know that well but want to get something (a trio of socks or a scarf and hat set), or even a cute little shirt or hooded vest for a pet!

3) Macy's

You can pretty much always guarantee non-stop sales at Macy's, as well as coupons and a big rush of people raiding the racks and shelves. Sounds lovely, right? That's why we love online shopping, no further explanation needed. And of course, you get the same great savings. Macy's always has little jewelry gift sets (search "jewelry set") that can come in handy for everyone from your teenage niece to your great aunt, a secret Santa gift, and more. Without fail, they keep these little boxes full of earring/necklace sets on round tables between the main islands of jewelry, and a ton of them can also be found online.

4) Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters rarely lets us down, and we can find an unusual, quirky gift from a Christmas ornament to a pop-culture something or other. Here's the catch: although nothing seems to get drastically marked down, we can usually find a coupon for an online discount, or free shipping offer. Plus, we've also noticed that the prices aren't always consistent, in particular the sale prices, between online and in-store. We know a secret though: if you know that the item that you have in your hand is cheaper online, simply mention this tidbit of info to the cashier, and they will honor the lower price for you. We think it's easier though just to shop online!

5) J.Crew

J.Crew seems to have what we like to call "pleasant surprise" sales—there will be no signs in store that items are reduced or further-reduced, but when you check out, you get a lower price than what the price tag indicates. You can anticipate this around the holidays, but what days? What percentage? Sale and non-sale items? We had the same questions too. If you sign up for their email newsletter however, you will get emails informing you of the "sneak attack" sales. Generally savings are 20% off, but we've experienced them reaching 40% off (a rare occasion, however). As far as gift-giving goes, for us, J.Crew is synonymous with cashmere, and the products they carry are made in the exclusive Italian Loro Piano mills. This essentially means you are getting really, really, really, good cashmere for the price. Also, of note, if you have a student ID, you can get 10% off of your purchase (in-store only). Unfortunately, this can't be on top of the "pleasant surprise" sale discounts we mentioned above.

6) Laila Rowe

Just like the more you buy at Bath & Body Works the more you save, the same holds true at jewelry and accessories retailer Laila Rowe. We like this store because nothing is expensive, and all merch carried is very of-the-moment jewelry items. On top of that, there are deals such as buy 1, get the second for 50% off, or sometimes markdowns reach 75% off, making items as low as $1.99 each. Some promotions are even buy 3, get 1 free. This store is a good stop for stocking stuffers, gifts for your girlfriends, Mom, and of course, yourself!

-Julia DiNardo

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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