Making the Most of Shopping at Marshalls
Famous for affordable luxuries and discount home goods, Marshalls is also a great place to shop for other things, such as career clothing, Christmas presents, and baby shower gifts. If you want the best bargain shopping experience available however, it pays to go in with a plan. Here’s how I make the most of any shopping trip to Marshalls. (See also: Tips for Perusing the Perimeter at Target)
How to Shop
Having a few penny-pinching strategies up your sleeve will go a long way towards making sure you get the price point you’re hoping for. This relates as much to how you shop as what you actually shop for.
Look for Red Tags
If you’re wondering how much longer you should wait for the price to drop on an item you’ve been coveting, wonder no more. Once an inventory item has reached the point of receiving a red sticker, the price has dropped as low as it is going to. According to Sonya Cosentini, a Marshalls style expert, red tags indicate a clearance item. What’s more, clearance markdowns are made at only two times per year (July and January), when the chain is making room for new fall and spring merchandise, respectively.
...But Also Keep an Eye Out for Purple
Cosentini points to purple as another color to be on the lookout for while scouring your local Marshalls. Apparently, the lavender stickers denote high-end merchandise by designers you are likely to see on the runway during Fashion Week. Items of this sort can range from shoes to jackets and offer significantly greater savings. These fashion finds move quickly, however, so don’t be surprised if your first few forays into the store don’t result in the discovery of the coveted purple sticker. I spent a couple of hours during my sleuthing session without noticing a single one. Persistence is key however, so those with a bit of time on their hands should eventually find success.
Patience Will Be Rewarded
While it’s typically possible to go in and grab a last-minute gift without difficulty, finding just the right clothing item to replace a critical wardrobe piece may take a few tries. Always having a list of classic items you’re looking to replace or upgrade will enable you to pounce on any hot deals that make their way to the Marshalls racks. Jeans, black dress pants, workout wear, and seasonal wraps all come to mind as frugal fashion pieces that are worth the wait when you’re looking for the right deal.
Compare Prices to Sniff Out Savings
While Marshalls always has a price comparison listed on each item’s store tag, I’ve found that for some reason, these can be more of a conservative estimate. That’s why I like to check for the original price tags to see how much more I might actually be saving, particularly on clothing items. For example, I recently purchased a reversible Ralph Lauren dress belt for my husband. The Marshalls price was $16.99 with a “compare at” listing of $55. While that was a decent deal in its own right, I noticed that the original price tag from Ralph Lauren showed an even higher original price of $95. A quick internet search upon arriving home confirmed the cost, but I could have easily accomplished this on site with a price comparison shopping app. I guess it’s not really a big deal since I’m saving money either way, but I found the price difference of note, and it’s nice to know when I’m getting an even greater savings opportunity.
Become the Store Manager’s Best Friend
Boatloads of new items arrive in Marshalls stores weekly. Buddying up with the managers is a great way to stay informed as to when shipments including your favorite brands will be delivered. Remember, their job is to move merchandise. So if you’re prepared to power shop, don’t be afraid to let them know. This is also a fab strategy for sought-after seasonal items such as specialty chocolates, back-to-school goodies, or holiday ornaments.
If Necessary, Haul in the Professionals
It’s a discount store, remember? That means wide aisles and other streamlined shopping perks aren’t necessarily as prevalent. I’m not saying Marshalls doesn’t do their best to make it as pleasant as possible, but when you have that many categories of items in a smaller retail space, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually need to ask for help. The other day, I was hoping to find a particular item and for the life of me I thought I’d looked everywhere it could possibly be. I hadn’t. Which is why I’m glad I was so shameless about flagging down a clerk to point me in the right direction. I was able to get the item that I wanted (a travel case for reading glasses) at a price point I could afford (roughly $5).
What to Buy
Some product categories offer more spectacular savings than others. While a great deal of the purchasing decisions for any shopper will be personal in nature, there are a few categories that most of us shop for at one time or another.
Shoes, Shoes, and More Shoes
OK, maybe not that many. But of all the shopping categories up for grabs at this retail chain, the shoe department is one of the most extensive. They have a number of higher-end brands at greatly reduced prices, making them one of my go-to sources for seasonal replacements, special-occasion shoes, and reconnaissance for classic options I’m looking to add to my wardrobe. Once a year, I usually pick up a pair of Ann Klein t-strap, high-heeled sandals in black. I wear these frequently with jeans, dress pants and mid-calf dresses. They’re a casually dressy footwear option that will let you show off a pedicure and are easily tucked into a tote purse when you need to slip on something sturdier for a couple of hours of shopping. I’ve also scored Born shoes at 80% off, and glittery special-occasion sandals when the situation demanded it.
Goodies for the Guys
I realize that most of the time, these shopping tips articles tend to leave the guys out in the cold. That’s why I made sure to give the men’s section of Marshalls a thorough going over when I drove down to research this article. Items of note included belts, brand-name sport and dress socks, and a number of gift items such like traveling shoe care kits, Rockport and Woolrich slippers, and fragrance selections. There is also decent men’s fashion selection, although it’s not as extensive as the women’s one.
Entertaining guests in your home at any time of year requires a variety of serving items, and this is one area where Marshalls has a fair amount to offer. Serving trays and platters, barware, and even a brushed steel cake server were on the shelves on the day I did my walk through. Also present are many excellent items to bring as hostess gifts when someone else is throwing an event, such as gourmet food items for gift baskets, sparkling organic juices, scented candles, and gift-worthy Christmas ornaments.
Special gift-giving occasions take place all year long, and when you want to give an elegant present without breaking the bank, it’s nice to have a place to go where the bargain selection is a bit snazzier than the dollar store. Don’t get me wrong — dollar stores definitely have their place, and I shop that circuit for many items, including gift wrapping supplies. But when I’m shopping for a baby shower, graduation, or wedding, I’m usually searching for a way to give the best gift I can on a budget. And while the selection changes weekly, I know there’ll always be something I can pick up when those events arise. Also of note are a variety of items suitable for children’s gifts (love those board games), classroom supplies, and even stocking stuffers.
Personal Care Items
From facial hair grooming tools for men to hair care products for women, there’s always something available at Marshalls when I want to step up our collective “beauty” routine at home. Recent finds include discounted Bed Head shampoo and conditioner and Body Shop body butter for $5. Normally, a basic lotion and sunscreen make up the bulk of my skin care routine, but every once in a while it’s nice to have a more luxurious moisturizing treatment on hand. Particularly during the winter months when elbows, heels, and other areas need a bit more TLC.
Looking for some luxurious items to stock your at-home spa bathroom? If you’re not stuck on searching for a particular brand and are open to adventure, then stop by on a deal-sleuthing trip and see what you find. Again, these are the kinds of items that rotate in and out weekly, so shopping with a particular brand and scent in mind could very well end in frustration. That being said, heading into the store with an open mind could result in some seriously fun finds. A few that caught my eye on my last visit to Marshalls were cupcake guest soaps, pomegranate bath pearls, and a reasonable selection of scented French lotions all priced at a level comparable with generic bargain brands at my local big-box store.
One of the things that kept us from upgrading to a king-sized bed long before we did was a concern over the cost of bed linens. When you pay full price, the cost difference between queen and king can be significant. But as I mentioned in my article Savings in Every Room, hitting discounts stores such as Marshalls makes purchasing these items as affordable as it would be for a smaller size of bed at the regular, full price.
As with other Marshalls household items, you are at the mercy of what their buyers were able to negotiate deals for. That being said, there are some seriously slamming gourmet kitchen supplies available here on a regular basis. Stock pots, woks, sauté pans, and more line the shelves, albeit with a fluctuating selection of brands. Since one of the best ways to score cheap food that’s also good for you is to prepare it from scratch, young people starting out will be able to stock a much nicer kitchen for less and save money on their grocery bill to boot.
While it doesn’t represent a major portion of their inventory, Marshalls does carry a variety of travel gear. I recently purchased a Swiss Gear toiletry bag for my husband with a separate lower compartment suitable for first aid and pharmaceutical supplies. The $15 price tag was half of what I had paid for another name-brand bag of comparable quality that had been damaged on vacation. While this piece of gear was designed more for adventure travel, there were other brands of shaving kits on the shelves that would appeal to the business or luxury travel crowd.
Additional travel items I spotted on the shelves were hand-held luggage scales, document wallets, and women’s business totes designed for traveling light. There’s also a luggage section featuring larger pieces for checking and smaller, wheeled carry-on totes. Wardrobe item replacement from the road is also a concern for frequent travelers. Broken heels, torn sweater sets, and ripped dress pants are part and parcel of the road warrior lifestyle. And while you certainly can’t expect to waltz in and come out with an exact duplicate of the item you’ve damaged or lost, you can expect to be able to find something suitable for the duration of your trip and shoes you can feel confident about for your next after-hours business social. With some of the brand options that regularly surface in their inventory, you might even find a clothing item you like better than the one you had to replace.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of savings opportunities you can expect to find at Marshalls, but it does represent the areas of need that arise most frequently in my home and life. Clearly a bit of flexibility and patience are key. If that’s OK with you, then you may be able to incorporate the use of this particular retail chain into your long-term arsenal of savings strategies as I have.