Tips for Perimeter Perusing at Target

By Linsey Knerl on 5 February 2008 (Updated 13 May 2010) 30 comments
Photo: Jay Reed

Want a deal on a Dyson, a jogging stroller, or a jewelry armoire? What if I told you that it could be on sale at your local Target for 75% off, and there is little chance anyone else knows about it? In addition to the fantastic finds on the end caps of most aisles of your local Target store, there are fabulous hidden deals to be had for those of us who really want them.

Save Big Money

Target has a crazy system of marking down their merchandise. Those that are familiar can get some really great deals before anyone else even knows that they are on sale. Clearance items at Target are usually marked with a red sticker in the upper right-hand corner of the packaging. Sometimes, however, the stickers don’t display the full discount, or there may be no sticker at all.

Secret Deals

Regular Target deal hunters know that it can really be a hit or miss type of deal. Some parts of the country have fantastic deals on high-end items, with no hint of the discount from their sticker price. Other areas never mark these same items down. The only way to really know if an item is on “secret clearance” is to scan it, made handy by the self-scanning stations placed throughout most stores. In order to get an idea of what might be on secret clearance, it is often necessary to browse message boards and web forums of those shoppers that do this regularly. (For a great resource for getting awesome Target deals, do a search for “Target Perimeter Perusing” and see what you may find!)

Daily Markdowns

In addition to the odd lot items that may be lurking among the regular merchandise and could be haphazardly stashed at the end caps, Target has a system for marking down their merchandise weekly:

Monday: Electronics, Kids Clothing and Stationary (Cards, GiftWrap, etc.)
Tuesday: Domestics, Women's Clothing, Pets and Market (food items)
Wednesday: Men's Clothing, Toys, Lawn & Garden, Health and Beauty items
Thursday: House Wares, Lingerie, Sporting Goods, Shoes, Music / Movies, Books, Decor and Luggage
Friday: Auto, Cosmetics, Hardware, and Jewelry

By closely following the markdown schedule, and hitting the stores early in the morning, it is possible to get what you want before anyone else knows about it. (We often hit the food items on Tuesday morning and come home with armloads of canned goods, boxed dinner kits, and gourmet juices for pennies!)

Holiday Deals

Target participates in a generous markdown after major holidays, as well. Clothing is at a fabulous price during their after-holiday clearance, with many Valentines or Independence Day t-shirts for under a buck. (By picking some generic prints and designs, they can be worn year-round.) Their holiday markdown schedule is usually as follows (with the exception of Christmas, which can vary):

50% off the day after holiday for three days.
75% off the fourth day after holiday for three days.
90% off the seventh day after holiday for 1-2 days.

Some additional points to note about Target shopping:

  • If you find an item at 75% off, and you want it, don’t let it get away! They rarely mark down non-holiday items below this discount.
  • If the price ends in the number 4, you may be looking at your last chance to buy.
  • Check to be sure that an item marked “As Is” is worth purchasing. I have been duped on a few occasions by unscrupulous customers who opened a package and swapped out the contents with a knock-off or broken merchandise. Target will not honor returns on “As Is” merchandise. That being said, I have also gotten some great deals on a Graco Pack N’ Play and a car seat simply because they were ordered online and returned to the store. There may not be anything wrong with the item at all!
  • Don’t buy just to buy.< Unless you are planning on reselling merchandise, or need the item anyway, don’t get tempted into buying for the thrill of it. Every penny you spend is that much more work you will have to do to earn it back. Play the game, but don’t lose at it.

The Target shopping game can be very competitive, and there will be others out there trying to get the same deals as you. Get there early, get what you want, and get out. You’ll save a bundle, and maybe even have some fun!

(Edited to Add:& Many wonderful readers have given me tips on the BEST places to find out which items may be on "secret clearance." The following sites have forums that track the deals as they are discovered. To see the active Target thread at each site, visit the forums section, and then search for "Target")

FatWallet

Deal of the Day

GottaDeal

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Paul Michael's picture

As an avid Target fan, this is a great article for me. Maybe too great. I just know I'll spend more money in there now! Thanks Linsey, stellar post. Worthy of a Digg.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Cool, I work right across from a Target.  I could seriously camp out there everyday. 

Guest's picture
Swistle

Hey, I'm an endcap cruiser, too! I didn't know about markdowns happening on certain days of the week, though, so THANKS!

rstlne's picture
rstlne

Target in my area always has some clothing at a serious markdown. It's probably overstock, not post-holiday. Recently, I got pants at 75% off. Often, the clearance rack is the only place I look.

Guest's picture

These are some fantastic tips! I forwarded your article to my wife and she planning our attack to find some great deals! Thanks for putting this together.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I had followed a system for shopping Target for years.  Then after my 4th was born, I became severely homebound.  It never occurred to me until today that anyone else would find this info useful.  I still have dreams of finding that perfect buy at Target!

Myscha Theriault's picture

That days of the week markdown schedule is killer information, particularly on the grocery front. I know I love to ge the reduced for quick sale stuff, but knowing when to get the best haul isn't always easy. I really like how your post is easily tweaked to meet the needs of individual families. Good job.

Guest's picture

Very evil, but useful.

My October Target budget total was OUT OF CONTROL!!!! But I've since nipped that devil in the bud. But this... this is..I hope I can control myself knowing what I know now..lol

Guest's picture
Guest

Electronics, does that include video games and movies too.

Linsey Knerl's picture

My Target was doing video games on the same day as electronics (Monday) and Music/Movies on Thursday.  This is the common markdown schedule (although each store could have a slight variation.)

I found that you can always ask if you are unsure.  They are usually very helpful.  Just be sure to ask the person in each individual department. 

Myscha Theriault's picture

Good luck, and LOVE the title of your domain name!

Guest's picture
Joel

Way to go! Ruin this for the rest of us. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Guest's picture
Guest

a friend sent this to me, as i am the person in my store that heads up the Price Change team. we are the ones that put the little red stickers on the clearance items. And yes, most holiday merchandise doesn't get the little red stickers, as it's easier just to mark it down in the system and put up signs with the percentage off.

The days of the week that clearance is done in certain departments, is across the board. The only difference being is that we are able, at times to work one day ahead, or, unfortunately, we can be one day behind. so all depending on the team in the store you shop in, will decide when the merchandise gets marked down.

One last thing to remember, not all stores mark down the same merchandise at the same time. it's done geographically. it depends on whether or not it is selling in a particular store, or if it's almost sold out, with one piece left.

We love Target clearance merchandise !!!

Carrie Kirby's picture

It's funny to read this today, because some of my latest Target haul is actually still sitting out in my car. I got on clearance:

 A grill cover, which we had been meaning to buy since we bought our grill last May

A sunshade for the back window of the car. I didn't even know these existed, but if the sun ever comes back I'm sure our baby will appreciate it.

A lipstick with a tiny nick in it.

A bunch of cans of Old El Paso chiles.

Several bags of pumpkin pie spice flavored Archer Farms coffee.

A dented can of Archer Farms hot cocoa.

A tube of Dove moisturizing face wash.

I can't even remember what else. So much clearance junk out there yesterday. 

 

 

Linsey Knerl's picture

I had to cut back on the Target clearance after I was getting a little out of hand.  I would dream of Target.... but I still love to look at the food items (and ocassionally the makeup.)  My best haul ever was buying a bunch of those Brita on tap water filters for $1.72 each.  They were CLEARLY marked, but there were 12 or so sitting on an endcap.  I bought half, so as not to be greedy.  After my filter broke a few weeks later, I turned those babies around on Ebay for $21 each!  Tidy profit, indeed!

My other best buy was getting a bunch of American Crew grooming spray for my hubby.  He loves that stuff, but I couldn't justify spending $15 a bottle on it.  I got him 7 bottles for $.87 each.  We just ran out a month or so ago, and I want to cry! 

 

Also, thanks to the Target employee for verifying my info.  Good to hear that we all have an equal chance at scoring some cheap goods! 

Guest's picture
mattson

I've returned As-Is stuff before with no problems.

Guest's picture
Guest

its hilarious how much you all dwell on the clearance.

Linsey Knerl's picture

only if you buy stuff you don't need.  But if you have been lucky enough to have been blessed with an amazing deal on a large purchase item at the exact time you need it, then not stupid at all.  In fact, some people might call us -- frugal.

Myscha Theriault's picture

You go, girl!

Guest's picture
Guest

You were sold a returned car seat? I assume it still had the original packaging tape and everything? I used to work at a Target's the Guest Service Desk, and most infants merchandise (toys and clothes excepted) were automatically marked defective and either destroyed or returned to the manufacturer as a matter of policy.

As for "As Is" merchandise, unless things have changed since I worked there a couple years ago, nearly everything is returnable unless specifically listed in the return policy (certain things like season clearance, most bicycles, and visibly used items). This at least did include repackaged items. If you're ever in doubt, check with an employee who is familiar with the details of the return policy (most cashiers and many sales floor employees DO NOT get detailed training on this).

Also, the notion of "secret clearance" is a matter of the price change teams not updating a clearance tag in a timely manner. For any number of reasons it can be easy to miss some items. Plus, those clearance stickers don't stick as well as they should sometimes. Clearance merchandise is priced as it is for a reason -- they want it out of the store as quickly as possible. There is absolutely no reason the stores would intentionally leave merchandise mislabeled.

Guest's picture
Target1031Employee

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Linsey Knerl's picture

Thank you to the Target employees for chiming in on this topic.  I can't tell you how valuable your input is!

And to answer the question about the carseat, it was still sealed in the box from the manufacturer.  None of the plastic had been taken off or anything.  I think that the reason they were able to resell it was that the box had a mailing label addressed to a lady who owned a boutique.  It appeared that it was shipped to the lady from an order placed on Target's website, and she simply brought it in to the store after finding out she had been sent the wrong carseat.  (The only concern I would have had is that Target left her name and address on the side of the box for anyone to see.)

Thanks! 

Guest's picture
Guest

Mhhm, the Target "employee" that claims we have secret sales... are wrong. Those are just simply items that have had a price cut that was missed when putting up price accuracy labels. And a discount for a damaged box doesn't happen. There has to be damage to the actual contents to get a discount. Also it is a complete and utter lie that prices are changed at Noon, prices are changed late at night when our registers get updated. As far as clearance markdowns, it varies by district and items can be marked down any day. Most stores have a 4am process for price change teams, or the overnight team for larger volume stores.

Guest's picture
Guest

Price scanners do not show a ballpark figure. This is illegal. Also, no secret sales, just price change team not on best practice. That and the price on the register will not change until 12:00 am, due to the fact that no stores are open at that time. Most stores are 8-10 through the week, although there are perhaps 10 in the company with odd hours because of local laws.

Guest's picture
Guest

I hate to share my little secret, but since I learned so much from all of you- if you look up in the right top corner of those red stickers, you'll find a teeny tiny number, 15, 30, 50, or 75. That's the percent off! Can't tell you how many times I've waited for that 30 to turn to a 50, then a seventy five! Don't bother reading the % off signs, just look at the little number!

Guest's picture
Guest

In the olden days Target had much better clearance sales. When they stopped doing that, I stopped shopping there for many years.
I'm back now, but the sales policies haven't improved much, in my opinion.
One thing to watch out for is merchandise that has a red sticker but the price is actually the original price. I have seen this frequently enough to warrant a second look at the price.

Guest's picture
Joey from VA

Thanks! These are GREAT tips...Someone sent this link to Ross from the Rossblog!:)

Guest's picture
Joey from VA

Thanks! These are GREAT tips...Someone sent this link to Ross from the Rossblog!:)

Guest's picture
Kathy

I found this through the Ross Blog also. Thanks Ross...You rock!
Kathy In Youngstown, Oh

Linsey Knerl's picture

Good to see so many of Ross' Blog Buddies here!  Thanks for stopping by!