One woman’s treasure is another’s eyeroll

I attended a blogger event at TJ Maxx’s San Francisco store. I had never been there before and knew nothing about this category of shopping called “off-price retailers.” I was there to learn.

That's not me. That's RookieMom Heather (red hair) with Liz, a PR rep. They were also there to learn.

I saw some familiar faces, and met some new people. I listened carefully to our enthusiastic host, Allison Deyette, a television correspondent and stylist.

I came away with some tips we can all use for shopping at off-price retailers.

  1. Adopt an attitude which embraces the “thrill of the hunt”. Plan to feel victorious when you save money.  TJ Maxx treated me to a gift card which I used immediately to buy shoes that should have been $79.99. I paid $49.99. Victory was mine.
  2. Bring a buddy. Someone who can tell you that just because this dress is $34 does not mean it looks good on you. This same person can encourage you to try on that cardigan. Seriously, on the hanger it may look like it’s for an old lady in Palm Beach, but on you, it looks super cute!
  3. Open your mind. Don’t go in looking for a little black dress. Go in looking for a super cute dress. You’ll be more likely to succeed.
  4. Don’t miss the accessories, toiletries, housewares and boring necessities. There are really good deals in these sections.  I bought my son some white socks and a boatload of scrapbook supplies for about half the regular price.

Allison explained how when name brands like Elie Tehari or Theory sell their goods to department stores and boutiques, there are likely leftover quantities. TJ Maxx swoops in and buys them at deep discounts and sells them to us – at the same time they are in department stores – at generous discounts. That’s  it.

As Allison provided example after example of sought-after name brands that participate in the TJ Maxx buying business, I tried to appreciate the excitement she aimed to generate. I wanted to ooh and ah.  The truth is, however, that I don’t value those brands. I am not a Gucci, Prada, or Manolo Blahnik girl. When I watch Sex in the City, I don’t think “MUST HAVE THOSE SHOES”. I think “OUCH!”

So the trade off, I concluded, is that you save gobs of money, but you don’t get the soothing department store experience of seeing merchandise nicely lined up, in order by color and size, because TJ Maxx is committed to buying for LESS, not buying for making an aesthetically pleasing set of coordinated merchandise. It turns out that many consumers are willing to trade that out if it means they’ll save a lot of money. And maybe I’d be more obsessed with saving a lot of money if the brands I love cost a lot more money.  A $900 handbag for $250 is quite a steal; but, if you are happy with your $100 handbag, you’re not even playing that game, right?

What do you think? Do you love the thrill of the hunt?

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.