If you grew up a child of the ‘90s like me, milling about at the mall was an easy way to stave off boredom. With all the brick-and-mortar retailers filing for bankruptcy — Toys R Us, Payless and The Limited to name a few — I’ve been battling with the bittersweet feels. On one hand, there’s nostalgia. I fondly recall time spent window shopping while snacking on a Cinnabon. On the other hand, the deal-seeking opportunist in me wonders how to take advantage.
Here’s how to get the best deals when a store goes out of business.
Warning: You may not be getting the best deal
Want to know a retailer’s secret? Liquidation sales usually start at 13% off, said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews. That’s less than the usual discounts at a Ross or Marshalls.
Sometimes these sale items were cheaper a few weeks earlier during the store's normal promotions. Some retailers bring prices back up to the original retail price, then bump them down. So you may not be getting the best deal after all.
Wait for the sweet spot
Unfortunately, people who shop store closing sales sometimes believe everything is an amazing deal because the store is trying to get rid of inventory, said Sakraida.
“Liquidation sales are designed to create a sense of urgency, and shoppers can get the best deals if they wait until the end of the sales,” said Sakraida. “If you wait for the half-off discounts, inventory is reduced, but you're more likely to encounter genuinely good prices.”
So when is the best time to pounce on a liquidation sale? Store closing sales typically take five to seven weeks to run their course, so try shopping during week four to get the higher discounts, said Sakraida.
Shop at mom & pop shops from the get-go
While major retailers may not give you the best deal right away, mom and pop stores are unlikely to increase prices for a liquidation sale, said Sakraida. Instead, they’ll offer new markdowns to existing discounts. So if a local, independently owned store is going out of business, the deals are more likely to be worth your time from the start.
Comparison shop online
While in the store, take time to compare prices online. You can use the price check tool on the ShopSavvy or Amazon app.
Use gift cards
If the entire retailer is filing bankruptcy, be sure to use your gift cards stat. However, if just the brick-and-mortar shops are shuttering, you may still be able to redeem a gift card online.
Check return & exchange policies
Chances are if it’s a liquidation sale all sales are final. But if only a few physical locations are shutting down, you might be able to make returns and exchanges. When in doubt, ask the person at the cash register about their exchange policy.
I’m a sucker for sales too. But you’ll want to avoid the shopping traps retailers like to set. Remember: The best way to save money is to avoid spending.
If you’re on a budget, the same rules apply: Make a list of things you want, and budget on exactly how much you want to spend. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. If you’re concerned about shopping on impulse, consider carrying only cash.
A store closing up shop could potentially save you some money as long as you’re savvy about retail trickery.