If you’ve never stepped foot in a liquidation sales store or discount retail store (think Dirt Cheap, Bargain Hunt, or Ollie’s Bargain Outlet), let me paint a picture for you: it’s a glimpse of over-consumerism at the max. It’s an overflow of inventory and deeply discounted deals on stuff you’re used to paying full price for at Walmart, Target, or Costco. In short, it’s a bargain-hunter’s paradise. That is, if your idea of Shangri-la is endless bins and racks to sort through.
All over the U.S., I’m seeing these discount retail stores pop up, including Target salvage stores and liquidation sales. With many retailers closing up shop, like Bed Bath & Beyond’s liquidation sales at 200 stores, there’s a lot that’s ripe for the picking.
But what is a discount retail store, exactly? In simple terms, it’s a store that sells brand-name merchandise for 30 – 90% off after it purchases overstocks, store returns, out-of-season goods, or extra inventory a big-box store no longer needs. But I’m going to get into more about what this means for you, the shopper, below.
For more money-saving tips and tricks, text HACKS to 57299.
Discount retail stores are a frenetic shopping experience.
When you enter one of these discount retail stores, there’s a hoopla of deeply discounted items waiting for you. That was my personal experience at a new discount department store in central New Jersey. It’s called Turn7, and the store can be defined as “everything must go.” And they’ll make sure they do just that by liquidating the items they have until they’re going, going, gone.
My store gets the name Turn7 because the goal is to get every single item “turned over” or sold within seven days. At least this is what store manager Damon Rappe tells me of this “recession proof” retailer. Each item automatically gets discounted 30% off its retail price the second it hits the sales floor. Then it gets discounted every single day it remains available in hopes that it eventually attracts a buyer.
And new inventory comes in on the reg — we’re talking 28 pallet trucks every day but Sundays.
“The only way to sustain a business is to keep customers seeing something different every day,” Rappe explains. “So we get the goods to sell, and in seven days, the store looks totally different.”
Turn7 is situated in a once-shuttered department store space within a mall. The second floor is vacant, but plenty of boxes sit on the escalator stairs and beyond, waiting to be sorted. I talked to customers, cashiers, and Rappe to get all the tips for deal hunting at discount retail stores. Here’s what I found out.
1. Be ready to dig through GIANT bins for the best deals.
At Turn7, the store sells merchandise from a variety of retailers, including Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and more. Basically, they have thousands of items to sell, if not hundreds of thousands. Don’t expect to come in on a whim, find the good stuff, and be back in your car within 30 minutes. Here you have to sort through huge bins to find what you’re looking for. Sale signs are also hard to spot since inventory changes quickly, so many bins are labeled differently, as the sale might’ve changed. For example, some bins at Turn7 were 5 for $1, but then another bin was 3 for $5. Ask an associate what the sale is before you dig in.
2. Go often for the good stuff.
One lesson I learned: you really do need to commit to frequent visits if you want to find the diamonds. We’re talking $5 Tide Pods, $3 for a 12-pack of toilet paper, or a 60-diaper pack for $10. “That’s all gone in one day,” a cashier confirmed.
3. Don’t ignore the home goods section.
“Everyone rushes to electronics, footwear, and apparel,” Rappe explains. “The home goods section is the most overlooked.”
That surprises him, since this is the section where you can find framed art for under $20 and even Studio McGee items for nearly 75% off. I spotted a lamp that my sister paid full price for at Target ($83.99), marked down to just $50 at Turn7.
4. The resellers get there early, so get in line if you don’t want to miss out.
About 20 resellers line up outside the store every delivery day. They arrive an hour before the store opens at 11 a.m. Once open, it’s a beeline for a section near the cashiers where the top of the top items are displayed. Nothing was left when I visited Turn7 on a Sunday, but shoppers have found unopened MacBooks, iPhones, PS5 consoles, and other high-end electronics for over 50% off. If you’re looking for those big ticket items, don’t sleep on the days when a new delivery comes in (which, again, is every day but Sundays!).
5. Make friends with the store associates.
Rappe confirms that if he has someone call him or DM him after seeing an item posted on TikTok or Instagram, he’ll save it for them. This is particularly true if they’re driving hours from another state or city. The workers are also happy to share their own deal hunting secrets, favorite finds, and the best sections, so be friendly. Ask for tips at your local store to get the inside info.
6. Look for the deals under $1 — that’s where the savings are at.
I saw a lot of amazing deals at my store, but the biggest crowds surround the $1 bins, especially when they hold $1 underwear and bras. I spotted bras from Old Navy, Target, and Kohl’s. Remember that there are no coupons accepted and no returns at most discount retail stores, including Turn7. Be mindful of that when purchasing.
7. Stock up on toys for birthday gifts, holidays, and more.
From $15 OG Dolls (the American Girl doll alternative that Target sells for $30) to Yoda dolls for $15, I spotted SO many tables of toys, games, backyard games, and craft kits. Really, the toys I saw made me instantly regret anything I paid full-price for during birthdays or Christmases. This year I plan on doing all my gifting and holiday shopping at Turn7, where the true deals are.
8. Make sure all items are still worth it.
Don’t be blinded by the thrill of it all and get a product that’s missing pieces, damaged, or just not worth your money. For example, I spotted the OG Hot Chocolate stand that retails for $55 at Target down to $20 at Turn7. BUT at a closer look, the 26 pieces and accessories were completely missing! So it’s important to make sure the product looks complete. Compare it with product listings on store sites if you really want to be thorough about your finds.
9. Look for the off-season items — that’s where the prices really drop.
Yes, my store had great deals on Target Easter egg dyeing kits and spring inventory when I went in early March. However, the real deals were on the off-season items: think Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Those deals were over 90% marked down, from holiday hot cocoa mix gift sets down to 2 for $5, to slashed down Valentine’s Day crafts sold at Target and Michaels. I’d advise stocking up on those off-season finds. Hide them away in your attic or closet, then whip them out when the holiday arrives in a few short months.