How Do T.J. Maxx and Marshalls Sell Their Designer Fashions at Such a Discount?

TJ. Maxx I have a confession; I’ve never been much of a bargain shopper.  I blame my mother for this.  When I was a kid, my mother (we like to call her the original bargain hunter) would drag my sister and me to the sales racks at just about any clothing store we went to.  Too small to see over most of the racks, I would spend a lot of time staring at sleeves, hems and my mother’s legs while she searched for a great deal.  It was boring, tedious and tiring.  Therefore, as an adult, boring, tedious and tiring are the first things that come to mind when I see any sort of a sale rack or find myself in a discount store.

T.J. Maxx

So, today, when I had a chance to attend a blogging event held at T.J. Maxx that would explain to me how they and Marshalls manage to sell name brand and designer fashion for up to 60% off the retail price I was interested to see if they could change my mind about shopping at a discount.  It wasn’t going to be easy, but I was open minded.  After all, in this economy we can all benefit from saving a few pennies!

Here is what I learned.  It’s actually quite fascinating!

First, I should point out that T.J. Maxx and Marshalls does not sell past season clothing on sale.

You see, even though I had seen plenty of commercials claiming that they do in fact sell current merchandise at up to 60% off the retail price, I always believed that these stores were where clothing that didn’t sell in department stores went to die.  You know, old past season stuff that nobody else wanted or would wear.   This is why I had such an aversion to shopping in discount retailers.  The idea of digging through racks and racks of duds to find one gem, I’m sorry, but I have better things to do. However, the first thing I learned is that this is not the case.   What T.J. Maxx and Marshalls claims is, in fact, very true; they sell current merchandise that you can find in department stores at the same time for up to 60% off.

T.J. Maxx
A perfect example of savings at T.J. Maxx: A Maggie London dress that sells at a department store for $148 sells at T.J. Maxx for $29.99

However, I was still curious, how could they do it?  How is it possible that they can sell the same exact merchandise in their store as regular department stores at the same time and at such a steep discount?   This is what I wanted to know.

First, unlike most retailers who shop for fashion for their stores seasonally, the buyers at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls shop 40 weeks out of the year and have 11 buying offices around the world.  In fact, every T.J. Maxx and Marshalls gets 10,000 new pieces of merchandise sent to their store a week!  Holy Hannah.

While fascinating, that still didn’t answer my question of how they get it so cheap.  Well, this is where it gets interesting.  Because the buyers are so active and on the scene, let’s say a mainstream department store goes to a designer to buy some pieces for their stores and buy 15,000 pieces and leave the rest behind.  What happens next is the savvy T.J. Maxx and Marshalls buyers are right behind the department store buyers to pick what they didn’t buy.  Additionally, and here’s a little fun fact, when an item goes to a clearance rack at a large department store the designer has to often buy back what doesn’t sell.  Most people don’t know that.  So, you can see why any designer or manufacturer would be happy to do their business with T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.  Due to the fact that there are no sales, buying back their merchandise is something a designer or manufacturer doesn’t have to deal with.

T.J. Maxx Lets Department Stores Handle the Advertising

Another way the savings is passed off to the customer is this: T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are not out to compete with the large department stores, so they let these department store chains handle the advertising.  If you walk into a T.J. Maxx or Marshalls you won’t see big advertising and, instead, their product quietly sold on the racks.  Savings on this expense, that savings is then passed to the customer.  If you notice in T.J. Maxx and Marshalls commercials they never mention designer names.

You’ll Actually Find Things at T.J. Maxx That You Can’t Find Anywhere Else

T.J. Maxx
T. J. Maxx’s Fall Color Palette as presented at today’s event

This last bit of information I also found fascinating.  T.J. Maxx and Marshalls will often buy yardage from a designer or manufacturer.  Meaning that, let’s say a designer planned on making a dress in five colors, but the department stores only showed interest in two of the colors.  The designer is then left with remaining yardage in the other three colors that weren’t bought.  Well, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls will often come in and say, “Hey, let’s make that dress in the remaining yardage colors you have leftover.”  Therefore, you could potentially go into T.J. Maxx and Marshalls and find more color options of the same dress you would find in a department store.   So, not only is it possible to find the same things at both T.J. Maxx and Marshalls that you would in a department store, but you may find even more color variety.  I thought that was super cool.

Well, needless to say this event definitely schooled me and I was grateful to walk out of there fully knowledgeable on how they can do what they claim to do.  As someone who works with clients, I feel more comfortable bringing a client there knowing that it won’t be this colossal waste of time of us picking through garbage clothes to, maybe, find a diamond in the rough.

Yet, all that said, am I a bargain-shopping convert?  I can’t say that two hours of information changed me forever.   I’ve still got some of my scars from childhood.  However, if I am going to rummage and search for a great deal, you can believe that I will be shopping at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, for sure!

  • Liz

    Yes, some scars do take a while to fade… just get over it. As the “Original Bargain Hunter”, it makes for great sport and some pretty good deals on nice things. lol Bridgette’s Mom 😉

    • LOL, Mom. I spent a lot of time as a kid staring at your knees. I remember walking through Macy’s (Bambergers at the time) to get to our car and the women’s department was on the way and Beth and I would beg that you didn’t stop. HAHA

  • Sherri

    what you berate as bargain shopping is just plain ole common sense shopping for some of us normal folk.

    • Berate? Where did I berate in this post?

  • My mom and her two favorite stores have been redeemed through this article! Thanks, Bridgette, for getting the inside scoop on how they work.

    • No problem! I have to admit, it was quite an eye opening experience for me as well! I am a big fan of both stores now!!!

  • Kelli

    I am like you, never walked in TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, but I have since visited. I found a pair of bootcut Earl Jean jeans, they are fabulous so I purchased them. Knowing how hard it is to find that great pair of jeans, I decided to go back and get another pair. Unfortunately they had none left on the rack. Do you have any idea where I might be able to find another pair? I did see online Macy’s carries the line but they only show them in petite.

    • Yea, you need to act fast. Each Marshalls and TJMaxx get 10,000 new piece of merchandise delivered a week! I did a quick search and didn’t see them either. I thought had them but they were, unfortunately, out of stock! Bummer. The rest seem to be petite, like you said. It seems like such a basic style, I can’t believe that they are so hard to find. I will keep my eyes open!
      Thanks for your comment!

  • Sika

    Oh, never knew that, so that’s how it works! Wait, what happens to the items they’re unable to sell at Marshalls/TJM? Where do they go?

  • No, they don’t donate the clothes that don’t sell; they put them on “clearance” and the last season rack..

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