Whether or not you consider yourself a "Maxxinista," you've probably shopped at T.J. Maxx or Marshalls at least once in your life. And while you were shopping, you might have been surprised to find items from Marc Jacobs or YSL or Gucci or even just Vince and Theory basics discounted for more than half off the retail price.
Yesterday T.J. Maxx and Marshall's hosted a group of fashion bloggers at their headquarters in Framingham, MA to learn more about how these stores buy and sell all that designer merch on the cheap. It's quite an operation. The big questions, answered: - Is the merch in season? Spokespeople from T.J. Maxx and Marshall's really beat us over the head with the message that they sell in season merchandise. Of course, some of the deeply discounted items are from past seasons, but over 85% of merchandise is current season. We were dubious, as we spotted some Coach wellies during a tour of their fall line up that we thought we'd seen before, but they set up a demonstration to put an end to our doubts. One of their buyers went out and purchased the exact same items at a T.J. Maxx and a major department store. A gold Michael Kors clutch at the department store? $198. At Marshalls? $79.99. - Why are the prices so low? T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are constantly buying merchandise--not just per season like most department stores. And when we say constantly we mean over 40 weeks out of the year, buyers are on the road brokering last minute deals with over 12,000 vendors in more than 60 countries. They can buy surplus when a vendor has over-produced, or buy returns when a major department store has backed out of an order. And while department stores return merch to the vendors when they don't sell it, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls buy their merchandise for keeps so they can get goods at a much better price. They also have the power to buy in varying quantities since they can place goods in all stores, or just select stores. This explains why you might find an awesome YSL bag at one store (we saw one trust us) and not at another store. - What's the difference between T.J. Maxx and Marshall's? Turns out there isn't much of a difference. Marshall's has a bigger men's and shoe selection. T.J.'s has "the runway" which has all the best designer duds. If you want to try to discern the difference, hold out until mid-Fall when Marshall's sets up shop right on top of the T.J. Maxx on 18th St. and Sixth Ave. - Is e-commerce in the works? Not in the immediate future, as T.J. Maxx and Marhsall's merch turns over so quickly and is bought and distributed in different quantities at different stores. But T.J. Maxx's marketing exec said that they are looking into it, and that they're looking at flash sale sites like Gilt and Rue La La as models.
Questions we wish were answered: - How does the buying work? We got a brief rundown of fall from a few buyers but we really want to know how they do their jobs. How do they get those last minute deals? Where do they travel? How do they decide what to purchase and when and for which stores? Tell us!