Bargain hunters can be an impatient group. After hearing the news that Bloomingdale's in Mall of America is closing March 17, the shock was replaced rather quickly with questions such as "When does the sale start?" On Sunday, when the going-out-of-business sale started, the question changed to "How good are the discounts?"

For Joy Kooistra of Burnsville, who plans to shop early in the sale for bedding and dishes, 40 percent off is the minimum discount wanted. That isn't unreasonable, said Burt Flickinger, president of Strategic Resource Group in New York, although brands such as Kosta Boda, Tumi or Breville have smaller discounts of 10 to 20 percent. Discounts range from 10 to 40 percent.

First, the worst deals.

Spring apparel: It's the last to arrive and therefore the last to get significant markdowns. Golf wear from Callaway was discounted only 10 percent Sunday.

Higher-end jewelry: Costume jewelry is discounted 20 to 40 percent, but the better stuff is marked down 10 percent.

Clothing staples: Underwear and stockings at only 10 to 20 percent off? You can do better than that, unless it's an exclusive brand.

Cosmetics: Makeup and fragrances rarely get any kind of a liquidation discount. Because cosmetics is often a leased department, it is not included in the storewide sale, despite signs saying "nothing held back."

Candidates for the best bargains:

Winter apparel, especially outerwear: Many winter coats were already marked down 40 or 50 percent last week, but no cold-weather gear has been reduced further yet. With a tolerably warm, dry winter so far, many buyers have decided to wait until next year before buying a coat, said Flickinger. That should mean aggressive markdowns soon on coats, hats, gloves, scarves and boots. But hold off until the discounts are 60 percent or more.

Bloomingdale's brands: Exclusive private labels typically are more profitable for a retailer, so bigger markdowns can be taken on labels such as The Men's Store at Bloomingdale's, Aqua, Hudson Park, Sky and C by Bloomingdale's cashmere.

Bedding: No retailer wants items as bulky as bedding or towels left at the end of a sale, so expect deeper discounts early. Most are currently discounted 20 and 30 percent, which is less than a good sale.

Men's suits: Many are only discounted 40 percent, as they were after Christmas, so wait for 60 percent or more.

Premium denim: Even a 20 percent discount on 7 for All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity and Joe's Jeans is rare; Sunday's shoppers were grabbing them.

Sale and clearance: Nearly all items on sale before Sunday are no longer on sale, making many of the discounts a worse deal than a few days ago. Items that were permanently marked down are now getting an additional 20 percent off, but few departments except women's have much clearance. Look for red clearance signs for the best deals.

Since the liquidation lasts about two months, don't expect additional markdowns quickly. You can ask, "When will the next markdown be taken?" but Bloomingdale's spokeswoman Marissa Vitagliano would not confirm the frequency.

On Sunday, one salesman speculated that the next markdown will be in a week. All sales are final and cannot be returned to another Bloomingdale's.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633