My store closing sale pact

There were 4,763 announced retail stores closings in 2009 (National Council of Shopping Centers). When a company closes a store, goes out of business, or goes through a restructuring due to bankruptcy, they often try to reduce their inventory by holding a going out of business sale. While I’m sad to see businesses fail, I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a last-chance sale. There’s a small part of me that believes that I will stumble upon a deal-of-a-lifetime.

Recently, the highest of the high-end retailers in one of our city’s toniest neighborhoods announced that they would be closing its doors. Instantly, what was a very sophisticated shopping environment was transformed into a glorified flea-market. A third party professional liquidation manager hung giant red signs that promoted markdowns and displayed naked mannequins with price tags affixed to their bald heads. Every holiday item was hauled out of storage leading to an odd mingling of angles, leprechauns, and turkeys.

On my first visit to the store, all items were marked 30 to 50 percent off of the “lowest ticketed price” (the vast majority being 30 percent off). What I noticed was that the lowest ticketed price was the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) which is based on somone's opinion of what an item might be worth.  The one thing that MSRPs have in common is that they all seem very high and that most retailers regularly sell items for less than the MSRP listed on the manufacturer’s tag. In other words, this retailer took the highest prices they could possibly change and then discounted them 30 percent bringing the “sale” price close to what everyone else is selling the stuff for. Not really the chance-of-a-lifetime bargain I was hoping for.

A week later, I visited the store again. Items were now marked 40 to 70 percent off their MSRPs. While the prices were getting more attractive, I noticed a drastic reduction in inventory. In fact, an entire floor’s worth of merchandise was gone. Looking around the empty store, I couldn’t imagine that they had moved that much merchandise in a week. What I discovered is that some of the merchandise was being shipped to other unnamed places causing me to take a second look at the out-of-season and out-of-style leftovers. I also noticed merchandise that didn’t exactly fit in and learned that liquidation companies often bring in extra items in to make the most of the excitement.

 I’m embarrassed to admit that even though I wasn’t impressed by the prices or the merchandise, I asked one of the employees when they were going to do their next round of markdowns. And I probably would have gone back for a third and last chance if it wasn’t for a chance meeting with an old friend. As we were walking out of the store (empty-handed), my friend mentioned that she hadn’t been in that store for years. This made me realize that I had never once been inside the store before they announced the closing. After laughing over our gullibility, we made a pact to only visit store closing sales if we actually shopped at the stores when they were open. Actually, since I obviously cannot be trusted, I made that the first of several items of my store-closing sale pact.

Kim’s Store Closing Sale Pact

I will not:

-visit a store closing sale unless I actually shopped at the store when it was open;
-wear my sale-goggles*;
-feel a false sense of urgency because most store closing sales last for months;
-buy things for other people just to justify my need to buy;
-shop when rushed, tired, sick, or sad;
-buy things that are a little too big or a little too small thinking that I will grow or shrink into them;
-purchase items that require me to purchase other items (ex: I will not buy a dress that I can’t wear unless I also bought new shoes and a purse); and
-pretend that I’m cool with the “all sales final” stipulation.

*’Sale-goggles’ refers to altered perceptions caused by a low price or high percentage off.

I am relieved to have this pact in place since the Border’s store closing sales started on Saturday (2/19/11)!

What do you think of store closing sales? Do you have items to add to the pact? Please share your thoughts through the comments section.

You might also enjoy reading:

What's a 'Compare At' price?
A tale of six sales
Should layaway go away? 
Do you get a deal at the dollar stores?
80 cent pants aren’t worth it

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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