Shopping Smart

A Guide To Scoring Excellent Deals During The “Retail Apocalypse”

By | Friday, October 25, 2019

The Retail Apocalypse has been going on for nearly a decade now, with no signs of stopping or hopes for recovery (Except for TJ Maxx, which laughs in the face of death). And while it’s usually talked about in a very foreboding way, for me, witnessing it IRL is kind of…fun? At least, as far as the sales go. 

A closing sale or closeout sale is, as the name would suggest, the massive discounts on merchandise that results from a store permanently going out of business. As of this month, a Saks Off Fifth outlet near me is closing, which means a lot of very expensive clothes that I never looked at before have suddenly slashed a few digits off their price tags and become budget-friendly.

This is not my first rodeo with closeout sales. In my area, department store chains seem to be shutting down left and right. Several K-Marts and Sears have permanently shut their doors this year, which gave me an excellent trial run in closeout sale etiquette. I thought I’d share some methods I’ve developed for making the most of the discounts without losing myself in the flash sale fever.


Buy anything at an outrageous price just because it’s “on sale.” 

If you wouldn’t normally spend $400 on boots, don’t go throwing that cash out now just because those particular boots happened to be $800 originally. A good question to ask yourself is this: “Would I buy this in any other store if this was its regular price?” If the answer is no, put it down.

Be selfish. 

We have this tendency to think of shopping as a game where we “score” items and enjoy getting things before they get snatched up by somebody else. But if you see something at a good price that you don’t need or even particularly care much about…let someone else have it. Even if it only costs a dollar, don’t buy it just because you can. Who knows? That mediocre sweater could make somebody else’s day.

Wait until the absolute last minute. 

If you try to go in 1-2 days before the store shuts down for good, you’ll often find a wasteland of bare racks and empty shelves. In my experience, medium and large sizes tend to go the fastest, followed by smalls, with plus and micro sizes often being the last ones standing. (That likely differs quite a bit from region to region, but do with this information what you will.)

On the other hand…DO

Wait a few weeks. 

Don’t rush in there on the first day of the announcement. Most retail outlets will start their closing sales with 30-50% off, but later (as they get closer to their Death Day) shift into the 70-90% range. In my experience, it helps make more than one visit to the store. The perfect timing can be hard to estimate because no two stores are the same. Some won’t even have a definitive date for when they’re actually shutting down. But generally, you want to do your major shopping halfway through the sale, when the deals are good and there’s still a decent amount to choose from.

Have a list.

It can be mental or physical, of things you actually need before you enter the store. Not only will this help you avoid picking up useless things while aimlessly browsing, but it will also give you a greater sense of accomplishment if you can walk away with something you were really after.

Buy gifts! 

Closing sales are often an excellent opportunity to get some really nice, high quality and new things that you normally wouldn’t be able to afford for all your family and friends. Figure out whose birthday is on the way and get prepared early. If a more general retailer is closing, this is also a great opportunity to stock up on things like wrapping paper, gift bags, and even holiday cards.

Remember: these points apply to any kind of shopping.

While a lot of the above is aimed at clothing retailers, these guidelines apply to all types of stores and shopping experiences. Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice is to have fun. Especially if, as in my case, it’s a store your normally can’t afford or don’t go into much. Take the opportunity to enjoy something a little different and maybe get a good deal out of it.

Casira is an avid traveler who is always saving up for her next trip. When she’s not writing, she’s working on her goal of becoming a polyglot. Follow her on Instagram @cejayce.

Image via Unsplash

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