White Sale Wonderland

By Sharon Naylor

October 17, 2014 5 min read

If your sheets and towels have seen better days, or if you've been looking forward to upgrading to higher thread count linens for that luxury feel and experience, it's a good idea to hold on to any home supply gift cards you receive for the holidays until the calendar flips to January.

According to Mark Di Vincenzo, author of "Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There," department and home stores' January white sales offer the best discounts on those pricy bedding sets and towels on your list.

How did January get to be the best time for stocking up on linens? There's a historical origin: "In 1878, John Wanamaker of Philadelphia department store fame decreed January to be the time for a "white sale." Bed linens, which were available in white only, were sold at a discount. It's believed he might have done so to keep linen makers in business during a slow time of year," says Laura Dellutri of The Healthy Housekeeper. Dellutri says that it wasn't until the 1950s that colored sheets and patterned linens were also included in January white sales, making January a great time to get discounts on a wide variety of bedding and towels, plus blankets, kitchen towels, bedspreads and other fabric items.

Currently, you may find January white sale discounts on placemats, napkins and napkin ring holders, which Dellutri says, "can add a nice touch and change for your kitchen and dining areas this year. A few colorful placemats can change the look of your whole kitchen." And to organize all of your new bedding and towels, "Many stores also have great sales on storage items to help you get more organized."

Before you hit the white sales, it's wise to completely empty out your linen closet and assess your supply of bedding and towels. Look for bleach stains, signs of wear and tear, incomplete pillowcase sets, faded fabrics and even sheet sets purchased for a mattress size you don't even own anymore. It's quite common to hang on to old bedding and towels "just in case," figuring you can put them down on the floor when you're painting a room or use them for kids' costumes and school projects. But any old linens can be relocated to a basement storage area, making room for your new, fresh, upgraded linens that will then be stored beautifully and in an organized manner, not crushed onto over-filled linen closet shelves.

With your old linens bagged for donations or relocated for repurposing, you can now make your shopping list for January white sale discount hunting. Items on your list might include:

--Sheet sets, in higher thread counts that feel more luxurious.

--Softer sheets in warmer fabrics, such as flannel or jersey knit for fall and winter seasons.

--Extra pillowcase sets.

--Kids' bed sheet sets.

--Comforters and blankets.

--Throws for your couches, including indoor living rooms and dens, and outdoor entertaining areas.

--Allergy-reducing mattress pads and pillowcases.

--Place mats.

--Fabric napkins.

--Dishtowels.

--Towel sets, including oversize bath towels and extra washcloths.

--Extra sets of towels for when you have houseguests.

You may also find January bargains on bathroom area rugs and other items meant to entice the buyer into refreshing the entire bathroom while those towels are on sale. When a great white sale beckons you into a store, it's easy to make extra impulse buys, so as you're loading up on fluffy towels, discounted holiday-themed hand towels and other linen items, be careful about impulse buying additional items placed intentionally near these sale items. The idea of a completely new bathroom look may lure you into erasing those savings after you end up buying lots of extra accessories for the room.

Another aspect of white sales is giving gifts of bedding and towels, perhaps purchasing for a wedding couples' bridal shower or wedding gifts, or buying a new comforter for your college-aged child. If your recipient doesn't have a gift registry set up, where white sale discounts are applied, it may be best to give a gift card to your recipient so that he or she can pick the texture, color and style of bedding or towels that suit their own preferences. If you do choose to give a blanket, comforter or other white sale find as a gift, Dellutri suggests taping a gift receipt to the top of the box for easier return and exchange.

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