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July kicks off one of the nation's biggest shopping times of the year.

Look for sales on furniture, sporting goods, gas grills, lawn mowers, materials for home-improvement projects and clothing.

Before you buy, don't be afraid to ask retail clerks if there's an upcoming sale. Salespeople sometimes are the first to know.

Shoppers also are turning to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for information on deals. And check for online coupons. Just enter a store or product name into your search engine, along with the words "coupon code," and see what turns up.

Nordstrom, for instance, is having an anniversary sale that runs through July 18 on clothing, shoes, accessories, handbags and home decor. For those who shop online, there's free shipping and free returns.

Macy's also lists sale items, along with a special section posting clearance items and closeouts. And shoppers at H&M, may buy two sale items to get one free.

At Salt Lake City-based DownEast, summer clothing is deeply discounted to make way for the new fall collections, which are being stocked in stores this month. Along with discounts at its 50 stores in the West, including 25 shops in Utah, the chain has two clearance outlets at 375 W. Hope Ave. in Salt Lake City and 3505 W. 3500 South in West Valley City.

"We always have lots of great markdowns in all store locations that offer tremendous savings to consumers," said Klane Murphy, DownEast CEO. "We're also staring a series of markdowns on most of our summer items, which are selling at great price points."

DownEast stocks its own high fashion, low priced private labels for its clothing and furniture lines, as well as factory seconds and overstocked national brands on both apparel and home furnishings. Murphy said furniture sales usually are promoted around holidays, such as the Fourth of July weekend. The next big sale on furniture will be coming up on Labor Day.

The chain has done significantly well during the past few months, added Murphy, with revenues 10 percent higher than the same period last year.

"We're bullish about the retail market for the next six months," he said. "We're also expecting a great back-to-school season."

David Davis, president of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, said the summer season is an important time for retail sales.

"In Utah, retailers are doing better than retailers nationwide because we have a better unemployment rate," he said. "We've been blessed to see positive economic numbers and economic gains, which makes a big difference in retail sales."

Nationwide, there are good buys on gas grills, lawn mowers, paints and stains, sporting goods and a favorite in Utah — ice cream, according to Consumer

Look to save on indoor and outdoor furniture as well, says USA Today. New designs hit the showrooms after the holidays, in February and again in August — making July a big clearance month for furniture. You can likely pick up a new sofa and love seat at a steep discount, but don't expect new fabric colors debuting for fall.

Overall, improved consumer confidence and spending helped drive retail sales in May up nearly 5 percent from last year, according to the most recent figures released by the National Retail Federation.

"The American consumer continues to drive the U.S. economy," Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation president and CEO, said in a statement. "In spite of fluctuating gas prices, severe weather in much of the country and fiscal policy uncertainly, consumers continue to demonstrate an inherent resiliency and flexibility."

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Save on clothes

Clearance • Significant savings in store or online, even on fancier attire.

Garage sales • Find clothing people have outgrown or no longer need.

Consignment shops • Normally top-notch clothing and brands are offered.

Thrift stores • Provide plenty of fantastic deals including special sales.

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Summertime saving tips

Sweat a little • Moving home thermostats up one degree could mean a 3 percent cut in cooling costs.

Every drop counts • Turn on sprinklers early in the morning when less water will be lost to evaporation.

Pump percentages • Keeping car's tires properly inflated can cut gas usage by as much as 3 percent.

Garage gold • Arrive early at yard sales for best bargains and shop several locations for best deals.

Free admission • Check cities and shopping centers for outdoor movies, concerts and festivals.

Sharing soiree • Throw a potluck party and ask friends to bring their favorite side dish or dessert.

Squeeze travel dollars • Research deals for hotels, airfare and rental cars online; book condo with a kitchen for cheaper home-cooked meals.

Source: LendingTree

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