Department Stores: Clearance Shopping

Markdown Mom usually finds the largest bargains on clearance racks and shelves in department stores and family-oriented chain stores.  However, there are a few tips MDM has developed through the years  to maximize efforts in shopping for these bargains:

Learn the Layout of the Store.  Stores have traffic patterns to lead the customer to the merchandise with the maximum amount of profit.  Only during the promotionals will you see sale signs posted near these high trafficked areas.  Identify the various departments, this is especially helpful for holiday rush sales when getting a bargain is tied into accessing the merchandise in the shortest amount of time and distance.

Clearance Areas Are Sometimes Hidden.  Obviously clearance will not be visible easily  to the casual browser. They will occupy the square footage that is the least profitable to the stores.  For instance:

(1)  The back walls of the store.  Dressing rooms are located near the side or back walls of the store’s building and so are clearance racks, especially in the high-end department stores.   Or they may be interspersed somewhere in the middle and usually comprise 1-3 racks; although, in family-oriented chain stores such as Target may be on several racks according to the markdown percentage.

(2)  At the end of aisles.  Shelves at the end of  an aisle will usually serve as placement for markdown items in that particular department. There has been a recent development in some stores to locate the markdown merchandise with the merchandise of the department, posting small signs flagging the clearance items.  This often involves merchandise like boxed furniture since the section at the end of the aisle could be blocked by placing large merchandise of this type there. 

(3)  In Moveable Containers. Shelves on wheels and shopping carts have been used by stores such as Wal-Mart to house lot items such as socks, plants, canning supplies, that have been recently reduced and are limited quantities.

(4)  Large Sections Labeled Clearance. K-Mart , Wal-Mart, and others will have large sections specifically labeled Clearance and will have signs posted as such.  However, these locations will change from time to time depending on the amount of seasonal merchandise not sold.  The other day, MDM found the toys K-Mart had on clearance in the back of the store on the opposite side of a shelf for the electronic department and the automotive department.

(5) Warehouse Stores and Large Designated Clearance areas.  Shopping Clubs like Sam’s have sections which will house markdowns from the entire store.  Our local club’s markdown area is in the back of the store located near merchandise truck arrivals and pick-ups.  Who would have guessed?  They will also put shelves in the aisles and tables for sale items that they want to move quickly.

(6) Shop Display Models.  One of a kind usually has the best prices especially in electronics.  An additional 30% off the markdown price is given.  Sometimes the display model may be missing a part, like instructions, or a remote in the case of a TV, but if the markdown is good enough you can always write the company to replace the part..

(7) Damaged.  It is always good to completely look over anything you buy for damage.   If it is not significantly damaged or you can repair it to your satisfaction, and you still can use the item–even if it is marked down, asked for a better price.  Chances are they will either give it to you, or if they don’t, just wait–it probably won’t be sold for the same reason it is marked down.

Always Check the Bar Code on an item. Sometimes regular merchandise becomes mixed-in with clearance items.  Usually a customer will just drop an unwanted item at the end of an aisle, etc.  Be sure to check bar codes if you can with available machines or have a clerk check it to make sure that the price has been reduced to prevent a shock at the checkout.  Additionally, you may be pleasantly surprised.  MDM found circular metal gift tags which originally were $1.19 were marked $$.99, when checked, the price was 32 cents.  Checking a markdown price not only prevents a misunderstanding, but can in the case of the gift tags determine the quantity you will buy of any one item. 

What If There Is No Markdown Price?  If there is a barcode, be sure to get it read.  Also, if you find another exact item in clearance, but it is not the same size bring it with you to the check-out so that they can correct and input the price into the computer.  Believe me this will save lots of time.  If you cannot find another, get a hold of a salesperson or stocking clerk that works in that area and ask them to check on the price for you.  Sometimes stock which has been out of their system will appear and they will offer you a price deal on the spot for it, just to clear it out of their inventory. 

What If One Item is Marked Down and Another One Isn’t?  First treat it as a if it didn’t have a price and ask.  MDM found a $99 topiary marked $78 and another one marked $11.   Since it always better to have a pair in this case, simply asking got both changed to $11.  However, that is not always the case.  MDM has found the exact article in a different size or color as the markdown price one and been told by the store salesperson that it was later merchandise and that is why it wasn’t marked down.  I don’t know if I quite believe that, but at any rate, it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

What Is A Good Markdown Price?  MDM doesn’t consider any price less than a third-off as a markdown.  Less than that is simply a sale price and one that is considered viable only on foodstuffs.  A decent markdown is 50% if the item has limited quantities and waiting later could mean that you won’t get it.  A really good markdown is 75% off and the best is 90%, which is infrequent, but possible.  In determining any price you have to assess when you  need it, how badly you want it, and if there is a possibility that it will go lower.  Additionally you have to know your merchandise, electronics may not get as big a markdown depending on popularity, etc.  Apparel and houseware are goods that can go low, especially off season items.  

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