Which Discount Stores Are Best for Which Goods?

Which Discount Stores Are Best for Which Goods?

You're stylish, trendy, and, yes, even a bit brand-conscious. That said, you're not going to spend $280 on a pair of Diane Von Furstenberg heels (even though you're seriously tempted).

So, you take a deep breath, stop ogling the DVF website, and go to Marshall's. Or T.J.Maxx. Or Loehmann's.

These off-price retailers sell clothing and accessories from designer brands at steep discounts. Here's how: When a major designer produces more items than it can sell at department or specialty stores--or if a full-priced store can't sell all of the items in a particular line--off-price retailers step in to buy the merchandise at discounted prices. Then, they pass these savings onto customers. It is not tacky to shop at these stores; we can't think of anything cooler than nabbing designer products and steep savings.

Don't Worry About Merchandise Being Off-Season

These stores generally have a speedy turnaround time between buying and displaying their wares, often as little as two weeks. This means that most merchandise is on display at off-price retail shops at the same time as it's being sold for full price at department stores. It's perfectly possible to find the same full-priced top you were eyeing at Macy's for 60% off at Loehmann's!

Clearance Prices Can Go Really Low

Full-priced department stores have the option of returning merchandise to clothing manufacturers if it doesn't sell, but off-priced retailers' purchases are final. So, they have to sell everything they have in stock. As a result, the sales can be pretty astounding. DSW's clearance section epitomizes this "must sell all" pattern: The clearance section is color-coded with stickers to denote 30%, 40%, 50%, and, lastly, 80% off. Mind you, that's 80% off a price that's already lower than the suggested retail price.

Admittedly, some of these discount stores require that you do serious digging in order to find gold. LearnVest has shopped around to find you the best stores for the best items, so you can beeline for what matters. Here are the winners:

Designer Fashion: Loehmann's.

On our recent trip to the Manhattan Loehmann's in Chelsea, we saw a huge selection of dress pants and eye-popping spring cardigans from French Connection. There were dressy blouses by Dolce & Gabbana, summer heels from Diane Von Furstenberg sold for a mere $79.99 and even some Marc Jacobs purses sold for over 60% off the suggested retail price! We liked the designer handbag selection, but were unimpressed with the other accessories such as belts and jewelry, which we thought were a little on the gaudy side.

Plus, news flash: There are rumors that Loehmann's may be in financial trouble, though the company has denied these allegations. If these rumors do, in fact, prove true, we expect that selection will probably dwindle, but discounts will soar.

Jewelry: T.J.Maxx

When we stopped by, we found classic pearls, trendy necklaces, and even a luxury collection featuring real gold and diamond jewelry.

Shoes: DSW

DSW, which stands for "Designer Shoe Warehouse," is shoe heaven. The stores are lined with aisles of every imaginable kind of shoe: Spring sandals, tennis shoes, work shoes, high-heels, and flats. DSW also has an amazing clearance section that features a trove of perfectly good designer boots and heels for up to 80% off.

Here are 5 ways to optimize your off-price shopping experience:

  1. Search online for names like T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, Daffy's, Burlington Coat Factory, Syms, Filene's Basement, Loehmann's and DSW. Each company has varying store locations by region, so see what's in your neighborhood.
  2. Hit each store often. Stores like Loehmann's, T.J.Maxx, and Ross receive new items every week. Ask a sales clerk when and how often shipments arrive, and then shop soon after, to give yourself access to the freshest selection. The best items usually go quickly!
  3. Some retail branches have a better selection than others. To find the best stores in your area, reviews on Yelp before you go. A quick search online will ensure you’re making the best use of your time.
  4. All of the merchandise at these stores is wearable, but sometimes an item will be there because of a small defect like a nick or a seam that's slightly imbalanced. Try everything on and examine your items closely.
  5. A lot of stores will feature weekly deals online. Check out the store's website to see if there are any additional online coupons that you can print out before you shop.

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