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I want to understand the difference between clearance and sale. So are these words synonyms or not? E.g.

  • Receive 60–90% off CookiesKids Clearance from Cookie's Kids.
  • Receive 50–85% off After Holiday Sale Items from Woodwind & Brasswind.
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Both advertise sales. A clearance sale is usually intended to "clear the shelves of the sale items" because the store will no longer sell them. A normal sale is just a discount (usually for a specified length of time) and is intended only to increase sales of the sale items, which the store may or may not continue to sell (new models might be coming in soon, or a new shipment might be coming, so it's necessary to sell more of these items to reduce stock on hand). –  user21497 Jan 10 '13 at 13:51
    
Welcome to ELU, Littleshot. What did you find when you looked in the dictionary? (You did check the dictionary first, didn't you?) Why are the dictionary definitions insufficient to remove your confusion? (Dictionary.com: 4. the disposal of merchandise at reduced prices to make room for new goods vs. 4. a special disposal of goods, as at reduced prices makes it clear to me that the difference lies in the making room for new goods.) –  Marthaª Jan 10 '13 at 15:00

4 Answers 4

A clearance is a sale (event in which a large number of items are discounted) in which the vendor intends to get rid of all remaining stock (whether before new stock, or before closing down). A sale may not necessarily cover this case.

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Clearance is most often used (but not exclusively) when a shop wants to clear a particular stock line. In your example this would be CookiesKids. The reasons vary, but most often because they're not stocking that line any more or they simply want to clear old remaining stock before the new season stock arrives.

Sale is most often used when referring to multiple branded stock items or more than one type of item from the same brand. In your example this applies to multiple brands or items from the shop or brand Woodwind & Brasswind.

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Sale is used whenever anything is temporarily offered at a discounted price- I think it's overcomplicated to bring multiple branded stock items into it. –  Jim Jan 10 '13 at 14:50
    
@Jim I would tend to agree. However, I'm trying to make a distinction between the words clearance and sale as used in the OP's two examples. In those two examples clearance clearly refers to a specific brand, hence my distinction using brands. To say a sale is whenever anything is temporarily discounted does not help explain the difference between the two examples. –  spiceyokooko Jan 10 '13 at 16:37
    
Clearance does not need to be a specific brand. A store may clearance all of its furniture offerings if it has decided to get out of the furniture business. The distinction is that clearance is a sale for the purposes of getting rid of inventory whereas a plain sale could be for other purposes as well- for example to draw customers into the store. –  Jim Jan 10 '13 at 20:56
    
@Jim I never said it did :) I think I said that quite clearly and without ambiguity in my answer. I believe you are now being unnecessarily pedantic. –  spiceyokooko Jan 10 '13 at 21:02
    
I guess it was when you said "clearance clearly refers to a specific brand, hence my distinction using brands" that threw me. –  Jim Jan 10 '13 at 21:21

As a rule of thumb you might look forward to deeper discounts/better price-offs at a clearance sale.

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Welcome to ELU, autoresponder. Why do you believe a clearance sale has better prices? What is your source for this belief? –  Marthaª Jan 10 '13 at 15:03

Walmart informed me tonight that "Clearance" is not a sale ... just reducing the merchandise. They had a giant "Clearance" sign over a rack of clothes and NOTHING was marked down. All the stickers had the everyday price. I asked the sale lady, the manager of that department and the store's assistant manager why the merchandise had just the everyday price and not a clearance price and that's when she informed me that "Clearance" did not mean they were on sale.

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