Ross is the number two “off-price retailer” in the U.S. behind T.J.Maxx/Marshalls and ahead of Burlington Coat Factory. Ross’s reputation isn’t stellar and the stores aren’t always tidy. But how do the savings stack up?
I shopped, scoured, and interviewed whoever would talk to me — 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.”
My findings suggest that Ross sells last-season or last year’s goods at 50 – 70% off big box store prices. Almost everything I found was cheaper than every other retailer, except T.J.Maxx.
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1. Half off retail is a total gimme at Ross. Aim to save 60% in every department.
2. The best deals usually don’t have a comparable value price.
Given that most Ross prices are about half the comparable value price, many of the best deals in the store don’t actually list a “comparable value” like this Nike shirt, listed at 70% off retail.
3. Comparable values frequently underreport actual retail prices.
Ross buys inventory in batches — like 5,000 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. Household goods are the only exception I found. 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. Shop Monday afternoons and ask your associate what’s been marked down.
Every Sunday, Ross store managers receive the weekly markdown list from headquarters.
Markdown departments 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 (read: it might not be Monday for every department at your store). Or if you’re an introvert, shop while the markdown team is working and observe behavior. You can probably creep 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’s inventory is closeout merchandise: factory overrun or late shipments.
Opportunistic buyers like Ross swoop in and buy inventory at a huge discount when a vendor over-manufactures or runs so late on a shipment that it can’t make it to big box stores in time to sell. Sometimes department store items that don’t sell for one reason or another end up at Ross.
8. All irregular (defective) items are marked.
Ross carries some defective merchandise, but it’s 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. So, managers have very little say.
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 the comparable value without peeling.
But go ahead and peel!
13. Identical items arriving in different shipments get separate SKUs, which means unique markdowns.
Always check each item when you see multiple items on a shelf. Only put the one with the lowest price in your cart!
If the SKU numbers match (SKU is the twelve digit number along the right side), Ross will sell you both items at the lowest price. This just means the items were in the same shipment and one item missed its markdown.
But sometimes identical items have different SKUs, and when this happens, Ross will not sell the higher item at the lower price. For example, the baby bottles above.
14. And sometimes, pricing just doesn’t make any sense.
Barbie Fashionista dolls sell for $7.99 at Target and Walmart. These dolls came to Ross in different batches. One doll came in priced at $6.99 and was eventually clearanced to $4.99. The other doll was immediately priced at $4.99 when it arrived.
15. Look for department store beauty brands like Peter Thomas Roth, Clinique, Philosophy.
Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, 1.0 ounce $39.99 at Ross
Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, 1.0 ounce $54.50 at Ulta
Peter Thomas Roth FirmX Peeling Gel Exfoliant, $22.99 at Ross
Peter Thomas Roth FirmX Peeling Gel Exfoliant, $48 at Sephora
Philosophy Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel, $29.99 at Ross
Philosophy Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel, $72 at Macy’s
Philosophy Fresh Cream Body Lotion, 32 ounce $19.99 at Ross
Philosophy Fresh Cream body lotion, 32 ounce $22 at Philosophy
16. Look for steals like Nike Air Jordans.
When you can find them, these sneakers almost always sell for $69.99 at Ross and range in retail price from $110 on up.
17. Women’s athletic wear is the most popular clothing category in the store.
Just try to go to Ross without buying a $12.99 sports bra. I dare you.
18. Look for Carter’s sleepers to get the best value 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 would be 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.
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 clothing and less home inventory than T.J.Maxx.
Not only does Ross have more clothing racks, they also have more brands. In athletic wear, 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. Compare Ross perfume prices with Walmart before you buy.
You can’t be sure you’re getting a deal on Ross fragrances, and comparing with Walmart pricing is a must. Sometimes you’ll save a bit when you buy at Walmart, and sometimes you’ll save when you buy at Ross. It’s a crapshoot.
Versace Bright Crystal Toilette, 1.7 ounce $44.90 at Ross
Versace Bright Crystal Toilette, 1.7 ounce $48.72 at Walmart
Burberry Classic Parfum, 1.0 ounce $24.95 at Ross
Burberry Classic Parfum, 1.0 ounce $23.99 at Walmart
Prada Candy Parfum Roll-On, 0.34 ounce $14.99 at Ross
Prada Candy Parfum Roll-On, 0.34 ounce $29.99 at Walmart
22. Use the Amazon or eBay app to pull up the current selling price of any item while you shop.
23. 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 when you call them.
24. Hold any non-clearance item until the end of the day.
25. Ross doesn’t do price adjustments, so plan to return and rebuy.
26. Clearance sections only exist in clothing departments.
Every other department has clearance items next to regular-priced items, and you have to dig for clearance treasures.
27. The lowest clearance price you’ll ever find is $0.49
While super rare, $0.49 items do exist, and they’re either returns that ring up at $0.49 when scanned or items that missed a couple rounds of markdowns by accident.
28. Employee discount is 20% off every day and twice per year 40% off everything but jewelry and electronics.
29. Seniors over 55 save 10% on Tuesdays.
It’s the most official, unofficial senior discount I’ve ever seen. You just have to show any photo ID on Tuesdays. “Hey Mom/Grandma! Wanna go to Ross today?”
Pssst…the associate at my store said they usually don’t even ask for an ID. You just have to ask for the discount. You didn’t hear it from me.
30. Watch Raise for Ross gift cards that offer up to 15% off your purchase.
Raise buys unwanted gift cards and sometimes they’re out of stock, but when you can find one, it’s a score. You’ll pay less than face value!
Ross gift cards and store credit don’t expire. In California, Ross Dress for Less gift cards with balances less than $10 are redeemable for cash.
31. The Ross return policy gives you 30 days, and after that, you can only get the current selling price.
You’ll need your receipt, and if you don’t have one, make sure you have a valid picture ID. For returns without a receipt, you’ll receive a store credit, or you can make an exchange at the item’s current selling price.
32. Ross emails? Skip ’em. Facebook and Instagram? Pass. Ross app? Doesn’t exist.
There is absolutely nothing useful on any of Ross’s social platforms, and Ross doesn’t have an app.
33. Ross coupons and promos don’t exist. If you think you found one, it’s probably a fake.
34. Ross Black Friday sales don’t exist.
Ross hasn’t had a Black Friday sale, ever. They open a little early (around 7:30 a.m.) on Black Friday, but that’s it. And it’s the same for holidays and other big sale seasons.
35. Ross price tags have about a zillion numbers and none of them are useful.
The most important number on a Ross price tag is the SKU. Remember, 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.