Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marshalls and TJ Maxx Review

OK, OK, I know what you're thinking. "Do these reliable U.S. discount retailers NEED reviewing?" And I kinda thought the same thing. I've been shopping at TJ Maxx and Marshalls since I was small enough to ride in my mom's cart, and thought I knew what I was in for when they sent me a $25 to each store.

Not so, my friends. Not so.

On the way to TJ Maxx, I was carping to Husband Mike in the car. "Whenever the Budget Babe posts about her Marshalls and TJ Maxx finds in New York, I just drool. I mean seriously. The stuff in the Midwest is great, but there's no Prada to be found in our stores."

And what did I see when I waltzed in? A giant Prada handbag on the front table. Right next to racks of See by Chloe, Nannette Lepore, Robert Rodriguez, and Theory. You guys know that I admire designer stuff but don't bankrupt myself in pursuit, especially just for the sake of a label. But these were some of my favorite fancy brands! Elizabeth and James! McQ! Vince! Frye! Kate Spade! I was absolutely floored. Size ranges were spotty and unsurprisingly in the average range only, and prices were no lower than $70 with most in the $150-$300 range, but still. NOT what I expected to find at TJ Maxx.

I didn't see anything I loved that was in my price range amongst the designer duds, so I headed for my discount store standby: Calvin Klein. I nabbed this white sweater bolero with my gift card:

Calvin Klein, $25

And this white dress with my own cashes:

Calvin Klein, $50

The bolero is already well worked into my outfit list, and I know it'll be a staple for spring and summer. The dress is far less practical, but I felt like a pretty, pretty princess in it and have been hoping to find a white dress with some structure. So it came home with me. (It's also a bit big - I was between sizes and went with the larger version, which I'll have tailored.)

The Calvin Klein stuff I see at both stores isn't his high-end line, but it's not the jeans line either. I've sometimes wondered if it's made specifically for these stores, or perhaps shows up in outlets, too. Either way, it always has the same clean, minimalist design aesthetic and the quality is top-notch.

I was surprised and pleased by my experience at TJ Maxx, and will definitely be going back in the near future.

NOW. On to Marshalls.

Oh, Marshalls. I've spent so much time at this chain, both with my mom as a tot and on my own as an adult. And it's pretty much the same now as it was back in the day: A mish-mosh of mid-market and lower goods sold at reasonable prices. My recent visit - which was purposely made to a Marshalls far from my home, so I could be sure there weren't better pickings further afield - showed me that this store is still a little messy, a little dingy, and decidedly overwhelming.

Due to very loose organization of and on the racks I had a harder time spotting brand names that piqued my interest at Marshalls, and the shoes looked picked-over, so I went for workout wear. I'd been meaning to upgrade mine for a while and figured this would be the ideal time. I came home with these two tops, which have already proven FAR superior to my crappy oversized men's tees:

Adidas, $15

Reebok, $10

I'm thrilled with these. Truly. And every bra I've bought has come from Marshalls - again Calvin Klein, at HALF the cost in department stores. So I'm not saying it's a rotten place to spend your dough, by any means. But do I go there to pleasure shop? Nah. It's more of a task-oriented shopping destination for me. They've got a little of everything, including wardrobe basics, so I'll probably find what I'm looking for. But I'd rather hit a thrift store and snag something unique than drop $25 on an only so-so sweater at Marshalls.

Are you a fan of TJ Maxx? Marshalls? Both? Do you shop there to browse, or go for specific items? What do you like or dislike about these chains? Any suggestions for them that I can pass along to the folks who provided these gift cards?


Karena said...

Great shopping sleuth!! You came out with terrific finds! LOve the dress and bolero!

Art by Karena

Giveaway up on mu site, come and join in!

Karena said...

Sally forgot to mention, I have found some really great buys, my daughter is even better at the designers deals!


Kelly said...

That white dress is TOO pretty on you!

Ecc3ntricCynic said...

The white dress is gorgeous!

I like TjMaxx occasionally. I don't have one too close by though. Marshall's I'm a little less fond of. Mostly because it's usually more picked over.

Leah said...

The items you got are wonderful. But I must admit I won't shop at TJ Maxx, primarily due to the massive lack of security around their credit card and bank transactions. As far as I know they still haven't secured all their networks. They also were warned about the breaches and didn't do anything about them until forced to. So I just can't in good conscious shop there.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

"I've sometimes wondered if it's made specifically for these stores." Yes, most of what T.J. Maxx and Home Goods carries now is made specifically for them. I used to work for a high end bedding company. Home Goods would not buy our overstocks and leftovers, but they would buy lower quality goods we made specifically for them at very discounted prices. This is how we used up leftover fabrics, trims, etc.

Many years ago, when T.J.'s and Home Goods were new, you could find true designer goods at great prices, and every store would have different treasures. Now, you find the same items from store to store. Granted, the selection does vary depending on the neighborhood you are shopping in, as T.J. Maxx targets their audience in each location. But I rarely shop in either store anymore because the quality goods are long gone.

I agree with you about Marshall's and never shop there. Ugh.

Nishant said...

Great shopping sleuth!!
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EvaNadine said...

i pretty much view TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross all on the same level: theyre all hit-and-miss. sometimes i find really great stuff there, sometimes its all garbage. of course, i am also the type of person who cares little-to-nothing about name brands -- im looking more for something that i like that looks good on me, so i really dont notice the availability of designer goods, unless they strike my fancy...

Tina Z said...

I have to say my Marshall's and TJ Maxx are opposite from your reviews. The Marshall's near me regularly carries higher (but not too high) end brands. Evidence: tried on L.A.M.B and Michael Michael Kors shoes last week and spotted Joe's jeans. I LOVE that store, it's my favorite Marshall's of all time actually. And I've been to several. And might have to go this afternoon now that I think about it, thanks Sal!

My TJ Maxx on the other hand is filled with obviously older seasons and lesser quality goods. Go figure. The Marshall's location is better, maybe that's part of the stocking strategy.

Michael McGraw Photography said...

I find good deals at both places in men's suits and in luggage.

I'm too overwhelmed to look at regular clothes there--I cannot stand long racks of shirts, jeans, etc. It freaks me out.


Anonymous said...

A question: I have the dress you're wearing with the white bolero. That's how I was going to wear it too! {but with a blue cardi shrug}.

becky f. said...

Thanks for the review! And I agree with your "task-oriented" assessment. I've found my last two handbags at Marshalls -- and I love them -- but neither one of these stores is a place I go just for fun.

p.s. Love the LoL dress with the bolero! That print is gorgeous.

Kristen said...

I have to say that I really dislike Marshalls after many years of shopping there. The same stuff is at every store -- TJMaxx, on the other hand, is pretty good sometimes.

Sunny said...

Husband Mike -I get overwhelmed by the long racks of clothes and such too, I hate sorting through clothing racks.

But I do love the shoe and PURSE selection at Tj Maxx! Betseyville purse for $20? Awesome! Plus I like odds and ends and TJ Maxx always has tons of journals, pictures, goofy housewares etc.

The Budget Babe said...

great post! it is hard work, i agree. does your marshalls have a mega shoe shop? lots of good deals at mine, they keep improving steadily.

| Tex | Fashion Butter said...

I am a fan of both. I love digging through the crappy stuff and finding little treasures. Sometimes you come out with piles of stuff, sometimes with nothing. But when you do find something, it's so worth it.

Although as far as discount shopping goes, Loehmann's will always have my heart. That is my favorite store in the world.

grace said...

I'm a fan of both, and I agree with your assessment, although there isn't as huge a difference in the stores here (which are practically right next to each other, oddly enough). One thing I will say is that I tend to do better for non-clothes (housewares, cooking stuff, etc.) at Marshall's.

Kathleen said...

I'm a fan of both T.J. Maxx and Marshall's and have been shopping at both stores for over five years. Unfortunately, this means that I also shopped there when TJX had that huge security breach 3 years ago that Leah mentioned. Thankfully, I never saw any fraudulent transactions on my credit card accounts, but I ended up changing my card numbers anyway and that was a huge hassle.

That said, shopping at these stores is usually hit or miss for me. Just last week, I snagged a pair of Limited trousers and a pair of Liz Clairborne trousers for under $42 at Marshall's. I also visited T.J. Maxx during that same shopping trip but found squat. Aside from Limited trousers, I also sometimes get lucky and find Express trousers at these stores.

I like Marshall's Mega Shoe shop but I agree that their selections are usually too picked-over. You've really got to be patient shopping in that section and having to wade through pairs and pairs of mismatched shoes.

liz said...

love the dress and bolero. and i pretty much am a calvin klein [and kenneth cole] brand whore...

i haven't been in a tjmaxx or marshalls in awhile as they are usually very cluttered and things are so packed in, the hangers wont move around! i enjoy filene's basement and loehmanns as they have huge selections but somehow keep everything organized. however they might just be an eastcoast thing as i never heard of them before moving to new york.

Kate said...

I avoided TJ Maxx for years. I ventured in and out with no success. Over the last year I have discovered a new respect for the store. I look forward to any trips to TJ Maxx, and I almost always find something I want. I have a gorgeous Michael Kors bag that was purchased at TJ Maxx for a fraction of the original cost.

I've never been to Marshalls, but I frequently visit Ross. I have had the most success with their shoe and casual shirt sections. They have a great array of dresses, but it always seems incredibly overwhelming.

By the way, I l-o-v-e the white dress you found!

Melissa said...

I worked at a TJ Maxx in high school and college and still can't enter one to this day without feeling mild panic. The locations I've shopped at have been rather disorganized and dingy, but if you're willing to dig, you can find some good pieces there.

And who knows? Maybe things have improved since the last time I walked into a store.

Rachel said...

Like another reader my TJ Maxx and Marshalls are opposite of your experience. I find good values at Marshalls (L.A.M.B, Michael Kors, even a Vera Wang!) but the TJ Maxx here is awful. I've gone in there 2x and will not go again. Ross and Marshalls are in the same shopping plaza here so I usually go to both. If I strike out at one, I always score at the other. I really like that Marshalls carries mid range and high end beauty and bath products like Korres, Philosophy and Strivectin. I've even picked up some Bliss Spa and Juice Beauty products there.

I'm a bargain hunter who sees shopping as a sport so I love to dig through the long racks of clothing for amazing finds. I got a $130 (according to the manufacturer website) Adam & Eve Couture tshirt last summer for $8 - you can't beat that!

stealthnerd said...

Great review! I was never brave enough to hit TJ Maxx when I lived in NYC (crowds and I do not get along!) but since I've moved (and have a TJ Maxx RIGHT BEHIND MY APARTMENT) I've been there a ton! In fact, I just bought a Vince top there today--it was over half off!!

Shannon said...

One thing with Marshall's - the store at Lloyd Center in Portland is some sort of special shoe mecca version of their store. Instead of the standard disorganized discount-store racks, half of one floor of the store is dedicated to actually displaying boxed shoes, a surprising number of which are good quality. I've picked up a couple of pairs of Soffts for around $30 each there, for example.

I'm not sure if there are other ones like this, though I'd imagine there probably are. If you can find one like it nearby, it's certainly worth the occasional stroll through.

Delane said...

I have luck at Marshalls in the belt and shoe department for trendy shoes that are no investment shoes.

The TJ Maxx are hit or miss..but when they get a shipment of designer stuff they have some very good finds.

I tend to like Filene's and Loehman's better for finding high end designers.

Anonymous said...

I know the TJ's and Marshall's vary depending on location. If the store is in a "better" part of town, the merch will be a little more high end. I agree with the person who said it was sport! Have had some good luck over the years.


April said...

that white dress looks KILLER on you, i am such a fan.

and i lovelovelove both tjmaxx and marshall's, though they can definitely be hit-or-miss.

Laura. said...

just catching up here. . . i am not near a tj maxx, but i will often stop by marshall's for some targeted items--workout wear, swimsuits (just found an adorable ck suit that i can't wait to wear). i like to check on their shoes because, even though it's hit or miss, i can often find something for under $20 that ends up being a staple. and they have mrs. meyer's dish soap for $2, ha!