How To: Shop a Mass Discounter

In addition to Wardrobe Staple and Runway to Your Way, put2gether will also feature a How To each week. How To’s will answer your most frequently asked questions, so please email them in!

To kickoff our How To’s, I’m going to start with one that frightens a few women and many a man – how to shop mass discounters.  For those in the frightened category, I know what you are thinking. “They are big, there is lots of stuff and I don’t where to even begin, so I don’t even bother.” I understand – there is a lot of stuff and many discounters can be crowded and unorganized. But if you bring a method to the madness, you can walk out with some pretty sweet deals.

The example we’ll use today is TJ Maxx. (Invariably, whenever one of my friends asks me where I got something I’m wearing, I have the same answer – TJ Maxx.) To help you create a plan for navigating the stormy sea of sale merchandise, I’ve enlisted the big guns – my grandmother, Ruthie. Ruthie is the queen of ferreting out a good deal at “TJ’s,” as she calls it, and has schooled me in her ninja-like approach. I’ll be sharing some of her best tips today.

  1. Get ready. Ruthie always goes in with a plan. She knows exactly what she’s looking for, whether it be a winter coat or a replacement crisp white shirt, but she doesn’t think brand. “You may be disappointed if you are looking for a certain brand name,” says Ruthie. “Instead, focus on finding the right fit for your body. You will be surprised at the number of choices you will have.”
  2. Get focused. Okay, you have your plan – you want a new trenchcoat. Grab your cart, beeline it over to the coat section and work your way through the rack. Start at the beginning and look at each option. “Be open to what is available, but still be choosy,” says Ruthie. “If nothing catches your eye, don’t settle – remember, only buy what looks great on you.”
  3. Get a’grabbing. You see three trenchcoats that look like they may fit the bill. What do you do? Grab them all and put them in your cart. Don’t subject yourself to pre-buyer’s remorse, which is watching someone else walk off with that item you just put back on the rack. If you think you like it, grab it immediately. “There’s nothing worse than looking for that piece you just put back and seeing it being wheeled away in someone else’s cart,” says Ruthie. “I’ve learned that if I like it even just a bit, it goes in the cart – then I’m safe to decide when I’m ready.”
  4. Get sorted. Once you have grabbed everything that you like, either bring it to the dressing room or find a nearby mirror. Without the distraction of further shopping, you can now focus on what looks good and what might look better on the hanger. This is when you mentally shift gears. “Once you are done shopping, you can give those items some real attention,” says Ruthie.
  5. Get out. Yes, there are a lot of aisles, but you don’t need to shop them all. Make the trip less overwhelming by hitting just a few sections of the store, armed with your plan. “I tend to only hit a few sections on each trip,” says Ruthie. And remember, just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

In addition to Ruthie’s plan, which I follow to the letter (which I have to do because my TJ Maxx is next to my grocery store, so it’s a little too readily available for me), I also have a list of items that I will rarely buy elsewhere because retail discounters really do have great discounts.

  • Crisp white shirts – as previously discussed, whites yellow fairly quickly and need frequent turnover to remain “crisp”
  • Black pants – just as white yellows, blacks fades over time, particularly black pants
  • Trends with short shelf lives – if a trend looks to be big for the spring, but most likely won’t last past summer, then I’ll buy it at a discounter

Now you are armed and ready to shop!

My most recent favorite discounter buys include a French Connection grey and black knit dress, black Kenneth Cole heels with metallic studded trim and dark-wash Habitual jeans, at more than $200 savings off the regular retail price. What is your favorite fashion steal from a mass discounter?


March 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , . How To.

One Comment

  1. Juliana Knopf replied:

    $59.00 for a new pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans! I find so much stuff there I really can’t list all the great deals I find–and like you, Steph… local TJ’s is right across the street from my house! I have such a hard time staying away.

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