White sales are a seasonal opportunity to refresh your home linens and bedding at a lower cost. Usually held in January, white sales let you capitalize on deep discounts on items like sheets, towels, and other household textiles. The concept came to be as a marketing strategy to boost sales during the typically slow post-holiday shopping period.

Watch out for linen discounts, announcements, and deals from your favorite retailers during January. High-quality products can often be found at great prices during this time, but quantities may be limited. Popular items tend to sell out quickly.

Knowing what items you want can help you navigate white sales more effectively and get the best products at the best prices. So, we recommend planning ahead.

Key Takeaways

  • White sales offer significant discounts on home textiles like bedding, towels, table linens, and more.
  • Originally occurring in January, these sales can also be spread around the year nowadays.
  • The tradition was started by John Wanamaker in 1878. His business, “Grand Depot,” was one of the world’s first modern department stores. 
  • If you’ve missed discounts for household linens in January, watch for other promotions during late spring and early autumn.
  • Many brands across the US participate in this trend, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Target, and others.

The Origin of White Sales in January

White sales are marketing campaigns retailers hold to sell household linens, bedding, and towels. The term is from when these items were only available in white. The concept has evolved and now includes a broader range of products and colors.


Various retailers typically hold household linen sales at the beginning of the year, although the specific timing can vary.

The idea behind white sales is to entice consumers to refresh their home decor after the holiday season – a historically slow period for sales. The first white sales date back to 1878 when John Wanamaker, founder of a Philadephia department store, decided to boost his slow post-holiday sales.

The Start of a Trend 

John Wanamaker’s “Grand Depot” in Philadelphia is considered one of the first modern department stores in the world. It contributed to revolutionizing the retail world with its diverse range of products under one roof – from clothing to furniture, dry goods, housewares, and more. 

Wanamaker’s Philadelphia store also implemented customer-friendly practices such as posted prices and a money-back guarantee. This marked a significant departure from the traditional “general stores” of the time, which didn’t have official price tags.

Before Wanamaker, prices were set for each customer through haggling. John Wanamaker brought a lot more to retail than white sales, with “Grand Depot” being a beacon of positive change. His business also had the first in-store restaurant and electrical lighting!

White Sales Meaning Explained

One category of products sold at “Grand Depot” was household linen items, such as bed bedsheets. In the 19th century though, bedsheets were only available in white.

They seemed the perfect promotional campaign for Wanamaker for 2 reasons:

  1. Bed linens were traditionally a substantial household purchase. Everyone needed them, so it was a surefire way of attracting shoppers who might purchase other merchandise too.
  2. The start of the year is a time of renewal, with many people seeking to refresh their homes. Discounted bed linens capitalized on the sentiment of providing a cost-effective way to make a noticeable change for one of the most important rooms of the house – the bedroom.

It’s unclear whether Wanamaker had an overabundance of bedsheets at the time and if this played a role in his white sales decision. It’s a plausible idea though, as many retailers often have an inventory surplus after the holiday season.

Over time, the range of white sales items has expanded. It is no longer restricted to the color white and includes a wider variety of products, such as towels, tablecloths, bath accessories, and other related items. However, the name stuck! This marketing strategy continues to thrive in today’s retail landscape.

How Did Wanamaker Promote White Sales?

John Wanamaker was a pioneer in the field of advertising. He is often credited with hiring the first full-time advertising copywriter, John E. Powers. Wanamaker’s innovative approach also extended to print advertising – he was among the first to print copyrighted store ads!

He understood the importance of compelling ads to draw customers to his store. His strategies were groundbreaking at the time and laid the foundation for many modern retail advertising practices.

Wanamaker also decided that all promises in his advertisements (white sales or not) had to be 100% true. This earned him a lot of goodwill from customers, and he’s remembered for his honesty and integrity in business practices.

The copywriter he had hired, Powers, was also well-regarded for his direct style (even blunt at times). It makes sense that the two of them were a formidable team and ushered in revolutionary changes to the retail industry.

When Are White Sales Happening?

After the frenzy of holiday spending, many customers are looking for bargains, and retailers are looking to clear their inventory to make room for spring merchandise. So, substantial discounts are offered on linens in January to make room for new products.

Other Times to Shop for White Sales

The start of the new year is only one of many times to look for household linen sales. While January is the most popular period, many stores also roll out discounts during:

  • Late spring: as the season changes, retailers aim to attract shoppers with fresh sales. Look for these in May or June.
  • “Back to school” season: late August and early September can bring another round of white sales, timed with students returning to college.

Pro tip: to maximize savings, keep an eye on online promotions. Digital storefronts often align sale events with their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

White Sales Best Practices

For Customers

Maximizing savings is the main benefit that customers will get in January. We recommend strategies such as:

  • Time your purchase: aim to shop early in January to get first dibs on a wide selection.
  • Combine discounts: Look for coupons that can be stacked with sale prices.
  • Sign up for newsletters: Join mailing lists of favorite stores to receive exclusive offers.
  • Check thread count: for sheets, a thread count between 200 and 800 often indicates a good balance between comfort and durability.
  • Read reviews: evaluate product reviews to assess satisfaction and quality.
  • Understand return policies: ensure you can return items that don’t meet your expectations.

For Retailers

White sales allow businesses to draw more customers to their stores during a traditionally slow shopping season. By slashing prices on bedding, towels, and other domestic linen items, they achieve goals such as:

  • Inventory management: post-holiday sales let retailers clear out last year’s inventory to accommodate new collections.
  • Revenue stimulation: retailers spark consumer spending by offering discounts during a usually quiet period, which helps maintain cash flow and financial stability.
  • Customer engagement: white sales strengthen customer loyalty. High-value deals encourage store visits and online shopping, potentially leading to increased sales in other departments too (the same tactic that Wanamaker used).

White Sales FAQs

What Is a White Sale?

A white sale is a retail event, typically held in January, where household linens (such as sheets, towels, and tablecloths) are sold at a discounted price. The term comes from the late 19th century when such items were only available in white.

Why Are They Called ”White” Sales?

The term “white sale” was coined in 1878 by John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia department store owner. Back then, household linens were only available in white. Even though these products are now available in many colors, the term “white sale” continues to be used.

When Do White Sales Start?

They typically take place in January, after the holiday season. However, the specific timing can vary among different retailers, and some stores also hold white sales at other times throughout the year.

What Discounts Are Offered during White Sales?

During white sales, you can typically expect discounts ranging from 10% to 60% off on bed linens, towels and other home goods. Here are a few discount examples:

  • Low-end retailers: usually offer discounts ranging from 20% to 40%. This includes department stores and discount retailers.
  • Mid-range retailers: these stores might offer discounts within the 30% to 50% range.
  • High-end retailers: for luxury items, the discount might range from 20% to 30%, although these figures can occasionally reach up to 50% during certain promotional periods.
  • Online retailers: discounts can be anywhere between 10% and 70%, largely dependent on the specific item or brand.

Some stores might also offer additional discounts for clearance items or offer coupons that can be applied on top of the sale discount.

Which US Retailers Hold White Sales?

Many large United States retailers participate in white sales, particularly those specializing in home goods. Here a handful of nationwide retailers known for participating:

  • Bed Bath & Beyond: discounts on bedding, bath towels, and other home goods.
  • Macy’s: discounts on a wide range of items including bedding, towels, rugs, and other home items.
  • Kohl’s: discounts on bed and bath items, sometimes coupled with Kohl’s Cash promotions.
  • Target: deals on bedding, towels, and home decor.
  • JCPenney: sales on a variety of home goods including sheets, comforters, and bath towels.
  • Overstock: discounts on home goods, including bedding and bath items.
  • Pottery Barn: discounts on luxury bedding and bath items.
  • West Elm: discounts on bedding, bath items and more.

Which Products Get Discounts during White Sales?

White sales traditionally focused on bed linens and bath items. Nowadays, the range of products has expanded considerably. You’ll find discounts for products such as:

  • Bedding: sheets, comforters, duvet covers, blankets and pillowcases.
  • Towels: bath & hand towels, as well as washcloths.
  • Table linens: tablecloths, napkins, placemats.
  • Bathroom accessories: shower curtains, bath mats, and related products.
  • Home decor: curtains, rugs, throw pillows, and occasionally even furniture.
  • Kitchen linens: dish towels, aprons, and oven mitts.
  • Mattress pads and toppers
  • Pillows and mattresses

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