Well, I had a brain fart in a big way. Wal-Mart built a new store here -- it's only been under development for like two years, and was in the rumour mill for a couple of years before that, so it's no wonder it crept right up on me -- and when I went into the existing center today to get a birthday present for one of my kid's classmates I was shocked, shocked! to find a nearly-bare WM store that is closing this weekend. Over in the toy department there was a huge shelf of last-in-stock items, all new, all for tiny fractions of original retail. I wandered over to electronics. And women's. I lamented not having had much set aside for unexpected opportunities, but never one to let an opportunity pass, I proceeded back out the front door to go home and swap out the car for my wife's Expedition and borrow her Blackberry. Thirty minutes of price shopping on the Blackberry later, I loaded up the truck and am a very happy camper with what I scored. I left a lot behind, but c'est la vie.
The moral here: be aware of major developments at major chain stores in your area. It doesn't have to be bad news -- the Wal-Mart here isn't closing; it's moving into a larger building. But the stock is generally cleared down as much as possible before it goes to liquidation or back to distributors (and in cases where the store is closing without a new one to replace it, it is generally marked down farther and farther until nothing is left.) Store closings are an opportunistic thing, but those, and major clearance sales on regional companies, consolidations from mergers etc. are all outstanding places to pick up new merchandise for super cheap.