Store Closings in 2018: 4 Tips for Making the Most of Liquidation Sales

by Jessica Sommerfield · 1 comment

liquidation sales
After filing for bankruptcy last fall, the well-known international toy retailer, Toys R Us, recently announced it will be closing all 740 of its US stores. Toys R Us is one of the hundreds of companies that filed for bankruptcy last year — including Radio Shack, Wet Seal, Payless, and Perfumania. The trend isn’t ending anytime soon, as many other retailers are scheduled to downsize this year too.

If you enjoyed shopping the aisles of these nostalgic stores, this might be sad news to you. The upside is that you’ll still be able to purchase many of your favorite branded products online, whether on company websites or from e-commerce giant Amazon — which is where a lot of our business has been going, already.

With so many store closings, another positive outcome for shoppers is the potential to save big during total-store liquidation sales. Since it’s easy to get carried away when you hear the word “liquidation” and see clearance banners go up, here are some tips for shopping responsibly to get the most savings during these last-chance sales.

liquidation sales1. Be Skeptical of the (Real) Savings

Even though these stores will start advertising price reductions on their merchandise labels, these prices don’t always represent true savings. Retailers count on you falling for the illusion that liquidation prices are going to be rock-bottom. But, when the dust settles on the last empty shelf, liquidating retailers still want to make some money — and that depends on both the volume of merchandise sold and the profit margin.

Many stores intentionally mark items up before putting them on sale so they can technically say “reduced price,” without losing as much of their margin (keep this in mind — it often applies to routine store sales, as well!). The retailer could also be advertising a “sale” price that’s compared to the MSRP – manufacturer’s suggested retail price — rather than the price they (and likely most of their competitors) normally sell it for.

So, how do you know whether you’re getting a deal or falling for the anchor price comparison trap? It helps if you’ve been watching prices all along, but, at the very least, pay close attention to the tags. If it’s a pre-printed tag with a printed line crossed through a higher price, it’s not a sale — that’s the retailer’s base price. Look for pricing gun stickers over the tags that show a lower price. It also pays to do some research online to see if you could get the same item for a better price elsewhere.

2. Shop Before Price Reductions Reach 50% — and Be Picky

If you’re holding out for the big 50% or 75% off deals, you might not find anything worth buying. Hit the sales right away for the best selection of quality and sizes, while still verifying the true savings.

Be skeptical of sketchy packaging. If you’re a thrifty person who’s used to shopping the scratch-and-dent section, you might be tempted to snatch up the items that are left — you know, the ones that don’t look good. This practice can save you money, but it can also cost you. It’s hard to see how an item might have been damaged, even if flaws appear to be superficial. This is especially true for home goods, appliances, and electronics.

Normally, you’d be able to return defective or damaged items for a full refund, but with liquidation sales, the window of time you can do this is narrow. For instance, some retailers stop taking returns as soon as they start liquidation, while others might give you a few weeks to a month.

3. Use Up Any Gift Cards or Promotions

Do you have any unused gift cards lying around? Now’s the time to use them. Many liquidating retailers will still honor promotions, member benefits, and gift cards up to 30 days, but it’s better not to push it — especially if there will be no physical stores in your area and you won’t be able to redeem the promotion online.

One good thing about using these during liquidation is that there’s a greater chance the retailer will override normal rules for using gift cards and rewards points. For instance, you might be able to get away with using your gift card or promotion on “clearance” merchandise if that’s all the merchandise they have left. This is where you’ll find the most significant savings.

4. Only Purchase Items You’ll Use

Great sales can be easy opportunities to spend wastefully. They make us tend to focus more on how great the price is than whether the product is something we need or even want. Don’t let a sale price trick you into wasteful spending habits.

Brick-and-mortar stores are becoming victims of the digital age and large-scale changes in the way we shop — and that’s a bit sad. But, as a consumer, you can use these tips to wisely take advantage of the savings during the upcoming surge of liquidation sales.

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  • There’s a kitchenware store near my place. They had a “closing down sale” last year, and I was a sucker enough to go and buy stuff. They’ve been having that same “closing down sale” for the past 1.5 years. Guess it’s just a marketing gimmick.

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