Ross is the number two “off-price retailer” in the U.S. behind T.J.Maxx+Marshalls and ahead of Burlington Coat Factory. Ross’ reputation isn’t stellar, and the stores aren’t always clean and tidy. But how do the savings stack up?
We shopped and scoured and interviewed whoever would talk to us — all to get the best tips for how to save. Ross claims to sell “in-season goods at 60-80% off big box store prices.” Our findings suggest that Ross sells last-season or last year’s goods at 50-70% off big box store prices. We had a very difficult time finding anything at Ross that wasn’t cheaper than every other retailer, except T.J.Maxx.
1. Half-off retail is a total gimme at Ross. Aim to save 60% in every department.
2. The best deals are often those without a comparable value price.
Given that most Ross prices are about half the comparable value price, many of the best deals in the store are those that don’t automatically calculate that comparable value like this Nike shirt, listed at 70% off retail.
3. Comparable values frequently underreport actual retail price.
Ross buys inventory in batches — like 5000 units of men’s Nike cotton tees. Ross has a few tiers of pricing for men’s Nike cotton tees, and the pricing team makes a best-guess assumption without ever looking up the SKU to see what the actual retail price of the item is.
The good news? When Ross is wrong, they’re usually undervaluing the comparable value price, especially on apparel. The only instances I found of Ross overvaluing items’ comparable prices were on household goods. So, it’s pretty safe to assume you’re saving at least the difference between the Ross price and the comparable value price.
4. Markdowns happen every Monday.
5. To save, shop Monday afternoons and ask your associate what’s just been marked down.
Every Sunday, Ross store managers receive the weekly markdown list from headquarters. Markdown departments will vary from one week to another but are generally the same nationwide. Most departments are marked down about once per month.
The only way to know where markdowns are happening is to ask. Or, for introverts, shop while the markdown team is working, and you can observe behavior and browse behind the people with the pricing guns all morning.
6. I shop about once a month, every time they mark down kids’ apparel or women’s shoes.
7. 80% of Ross’ inventory is closeout merchandise: factory overrun or late shipments.
When a vendor over-manufactures, runs late on shipment and doesn’t make it to big box stores in time to sell, or when an item from a department store didn’t sell for one reason or another, opportunistic buyers like Ross swoop in and buy the inventory at a huge discount.
This same Contigo steel water bottle sells for $22 at Kohl’s.
8. All irregular (defective) items are marked.
Ross does carry some defective merchandise, but it is clearly marked and drastically discounted.
9. Ross marks up inventory 100%.
If you see a suitcase priced $49.99 at Ross, you’d better believe they paid $25 for it. And if you’re thinking that leaves room to haggle, you’re wrong. The Ross point-of-sale system is not compliant with manager overrides. I once tried to purchase an item with a wrinkled barcode sticker, and after five minutes of trying, the Ross manager told me they would be unable to sell me the $29.99 item. Yikes.
10. But markdowns happen in tiny increments of 10-20%.
11. Second and third markdowns aren’t even worth waiting for.
The original Ross price on these sandals was $13.99. After three markdowns, the savings is finally 50% off — making the average markdown worth just over 15%.
12. Black-back clearance stickers make it impossible to see comparable value without peeking.
13. Identical items arriving in different shipments get separate SKUs, which means unique markdowns.
If there are multiple items on a shelf, always check each one before placing any item in your cart to make sure you’re getting the lowest price.
If the SKU numbers match (SKU is the twelve digit number beginning with 400), Ross will sell you both items at the clearance price. If SKUs match, it would mean the items were in the same shipment and one item just missed its markdown. But, in this case, the two sets have different SKUs, and Ross will not sell both sets of bottles for the clearance price.
14. And sometimes, pricing just doesn’t make any sense.
Barbie Fashionista dolls sell for $9.99 at Target and Walmart. These dolls came to Ross in different batches. One doll came in priced at $6.99 and eventually clearanced to $4.99. The other doll came in and was immediately priced at $4.99.
15. Some of the best buys at Ross are department store beauty brands: Peter Thomas Roth, Clinique, Philosophy.
Peter Thomas Roth Laser-Free Resurfacing Eye, 0.5 oz $29.99 at Ross
Peter Thomas Roth Laser-Free Resurfacing Eye, 0.5 oz $45.13 at Amazon
Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, 1.0 oz $39.99 at Ross
Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, 1.0 oz $49.50 at Ulta
Peter Thomas Roth FirmX Peeling Gel Exfoliant, $22.99 at Ross
Peter Thomas Roth FirmX Peeling Gel Exfoliant $48.00 at Sephora
Patchology PowerPatch Dark Spot Corrector, $19.99 at Ross
Patchology PowerPatch Dark Spot Corrector $60.00 at Nordstrom
Philosophy Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel, $29.99 at Ross
Philosophy Microdelivery triple-acid brightening peel $70.00 at Macy’s
Philosophy Fresh Cream Body Lotion, 32 oz $19.99 at Ross
Philosophy Fresh Cream body lotion, 32 oz $40.00 at Philosophy
16. One of the best items you can always find at Ross is Nike Air Jordans.
These sneakers almost always sell for $69.99 and range in retail price from $110 on up.
17. Women’s athletic wear is the most popular apparel category in the store.
Just try to go to Ross without buying a $12.99 sports bra. I dare you.
18. Carter’s sleepers are some of the best values you can find every day at Ross.
19. But Ross prices are NOT always better than T.J.Maxx.
Ya know? I thought since Ross stores weren’t as nice, that meant Ross prices were probably lower than T.J.Maxx, but I was wrong. When I did a comparison across five categories, T.J.Maxx beat out Ross prices about two thirds of the time. Stay tuned for a full cross comparison of off-price retailers in the near future on KCL.
These identical packs of men’s Nike crew socks sell for $12.99 at Ross and $11.99 at T.J.Maxx.
20. Ross has more apparel and less home inventory than T.J.Maxx.
Not only does Ross have more apparel racks. They also have more brands. In athleticwear, for example, T.J.Maxx carries primarily Nike, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance. Ross carries Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Reebok, Saucony, Columbia, New Balance, Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein, and many others.
21. Worst buys at Ross? Personal care brands you’re better off getting on sale at Target or Walmart.
Even though Ross prices are nearly identical to Walmart or Target pricing, Ross does not accept manufacturer coupons and does not run store promotions. Wait til Dove Men+Care Body Wash goes on gift card promo at Target, or wait for a Rollback of Walmart’s everyday low price of $3.97.
can you use manufacturer coupons at Ross??
22. Fragrance prices beat department store, but not best internet pricing. Price compare with Walmart before you buy.
Make sure to comparison shop fragrances, as only about half of Ross’ selection is better than internet pricing.
Versace Bright Crystal Toilette, 1.7 oz $44.9 at Ross
Versace Bright Crystal Toilette 1.7 oz $35.43 at Walmart
Burberry Classic Parfum, 1.0 oz $24.95 at Ross
Burberry Classic Parfum 1.0 oz $21.95 at Walmart
Daisy Dreams by Marc Jacobs, 0.13 oz $11.99 at Ross
Daisy Dreams by Marc Jacobs .13 oz $9.99 at Walmart
Prada Candy Parfum Roll-On, 0.34 oz $14.99 at Ross
Prada Candy Parfum Roll-On .34 oz $29.99 at Walmart
Burberry Weekend Parfum, 3.4 oz $19.99 at Ross
Burberry Weekend Parfum 3.4 oz $29.99 at Walmart
23. Ross resellers make a full-time job (and salary) out of hunting sales and reselling online.
24. Use the Amazon app or the eBay app to pull up the current selling price of any item while you shop.
25. Call additional stores to check inventory.
Ross doesn’t have a SKU lookup system, but most store associates will go look for an item based on its description.
26. Hold any non-clearance item til end of day.
27. Ross doesn’t do price adjustments, so if you find a lower price after you’ve purchased, your only option is return and rebuy.
28. Clearance sections only exist in apparel departments. Elsewhere, clearance is mixed in with regular inventory.
29. The lowest clearance price you’ll ever find is $0.49
$0.49 items may be returns that, when scanned for markdowns ring up at $0.49. Or they may be items that missed a couple rounds of markdowns by accident. Follow the convo on the $0.49 prices on Instagram.
30. Employee discount is 20% off every day and twice per year 40% off everything but jewelry and electronics.
31. Seniors over 55 save 10% on Tuesdays.
It’s literally the most official, unofficial senior discount I’ve ever seen. It used to be called the “Every Tuesday Club” and required seniors to carry a “Tuesday Club Discount Card.” Now, you just have to show any photo ID on Tuesdays. “Hey Mom/Grandma! Wanna go to Ross today?”
From Ross’ Facebook page:
32. Set a Ross gift card alert at GiftCardGranny.com to save 5-15% on your purchase.
GiftCardGranny aggregates gift card sales from all over the internet. Buy others’ unwanted Ross gift cards and pay less than face value!
There is no expiration on Ross Gift Cards or Store Credit. In California, Ross Dress for Less gift cards with balances less than $10 are redeemable for cash.
33. Returns for refund must be made within 30 days of purchase or are subject to the current selling price.
Merchandise returns without a receipt will require a valid picture ID and, if approved by the refund system, will be refunded in the form of a store credit or exchanged at the item’s current selling price.
34. Ross emails? Skip ’em. Facebook and Instagram? Pass. App? Don’t even.
There is absolutely nothing useful on any of Ross’ social platforms.
35. Ross coupons and promos don’t exist. If you think you found one, it’s probably a fake.
36. Ross is a black hole on Black Friday.
Ross hasn’t had a Black Friday sale, ever. They open a little early (around 7:30AM on Black Friday, but that’s it). And it’s the same for holiday and other big sale seasons.
Ross after Thanksgiving special hours are Friday 6 am-11:30 pm, Saturday 8 am-11:30 pm, and Sunday 9 am-9:30 pm.* There…
37. Ross price tags have about a zillion numbers on them, and almost none of them are useful to you, the shopper.
The most important number is the SKU. Remember that if you find an identical item on clearance that shares an identical SKU with another item, that means you can buy both items for the clearance price. But, if you find an identical item on clearance and the second item has a separate SKU, that means it came in a different shipment, and Ross won’t sell it to you for the clearance price.
38. There’s the security tag code, which only tells associates what kind of alarm to put on the item.
39. There are division codes that tell associates where items belong and ensure they’re in the right place come markdown time.
40. Ross is worth shopping at, especially for beauty and apparel, but only in addition to other off-price retailers like T.J.Maxx.
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