Where to find big deals for the new year

Who said holiday shopping has to end once all the gifts have been opened?

With the start of the new year comes a slew of new deals, as retailers try to capture late-in-the-season sales, clear out their fall and winter inventory, and encourage consumers to redeem billions of dollars in gift cards.

People shop during day-after Christmas sales at Citadel Outlets in Los Angeles, California December 26, 2014.
Jonathan Alcorn | Reuters
People shop during day-after Christmas sales at Citadel Outlets in Los Angeles, California December 26, 2014.

The aggressive promotions appear to be working. In a note to investors on Wednesday, Citigroup boosted its forecast for fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth to near 3 percent, listing holiday shopping as a contributing factor.

"Consumers have responded to widespread holiday discounting among retailers," the note said.

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Whereas 30 or 40 percent off was once considered a substantial discount, it appears 60 is the new magic number. Among the companies peddling post-Christmas deals: Gap is offering up to 60 percent off, with a $25 GapCash reward for every $50 spent; Express is also advertising up to 60 percent off, and Ann Taylor is pushing an extra 60 percent off all sale styles.

The specialty retail sector is expected to post lackluster fourth-quarter results, partly due to the lack of an overriding fashion trend.

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Elsewhere, Nordstrom—which recently abandoned its half-yearly sales cadence—said customers can save up to 50 percent off select items through Jan. 4, and Victoria's Secret is holding its semi-annual sales event. And privately held Brooks Brothers is advertising items up to 50 percent off through Friday.

As many shoppers have grown tired of endless emails about discounts, some retailers are trying to spice up things up with New Year's Eve-specific bargains. Old Navy, for example, is offering 31 percent off online purchases on Dec. 31, while DSW is giving its rewards members $20.15 off a $99 purchase.

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"Heavy promotions, with 50 percent off the entire store the starting point for many apparel retailers, provided the impetus for what has been a solid holiday shopping season," Retail Metrics President Ken Perkins said.

Perkins added that the season could end up generating the strongest holiday sales growth in several years. The National Retail Federation is anticipating sales will grow 4.1 percent this holiday.

As it relates to the overall industry, discount-tracking website DealNews earlier this month published a list of items that are best to buy in January. They include fitness equipment, winter apparel and electronics.

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But while discounts have been widespread, that doesn't mean bargains can be found everywhere. According to Matt Powell, an analyst at the NPD Group market research firm, the sports retail industry was one of the only categories to taper its deals both before and after Christmas—a reflection of the movement toward athletic apparel and footwear.

"Compared to the rest of the stores in the mall, the discounting in sports retailers was quite muted," he said.