Friday, September 14, 2012

Target Back-to-School clearance: Pretty much a bust and why that's a good thing

In past years, I've anxiously awaited the clearance at Target for their back-to-school items.  Call me, as another retailer basically called all couponers, addicted to savings (yanno, like a drug fiend...)  I would keep my eye on things that frankly I didn't want to pay full price for.  I'm a bargain shopper and freely admit that I'm that lady grabbing 3 boxes of pencils for 1 cent at Staples just because they're the loss leader that week.  Many of these things are overpriced in general and buying them on clearance when I can means that I not only got the best deal, but also means that I didn't overpay.

However, a few weeks ago, I cruised the BTS items at Target and it occurred to me:  they just didn't have the same amount of items out that they had in the past.  The selection was more streamlined and there didn't appear to be many items that there was an absolute ton of.  The prices weren't very competitive with other stores that were running specials like 4 Crayola crayons for .25 each. Last year, I bought oodles of notebooks for under 10 cents each, all of which were donated to my child's school.  I wasn't seeing a lot things that wouldn't normally have a home on Target's shelves otherwise.  I wondered if the clearance wouldn't be as good as in other years...

And it wasn't!  The main things left over were fashion and character folders, plastic rulers, lunch boxes, back packs, and some of the higher priced notebooks (Mead).  I imagine that they refilled their shelves with things that had a year-round home (and perhaps kept the back-stock) and marked down the homeless waifs to move them out for Halloween merchandise.  I didn't find much that I wanted to buy, even at 70% off.  I ended up with several 5 packs of plastic folders (to donate to my son's class) for 68 cents each, 1 roll of tape for 50 cents, and a duplicate pencil box for half way through the year when he breaks the one he just "had to have".  Far less of a clearance haul than in past years.

Why this is a good thing

No business should over-purchase items that they routinely have to mark down substantially.  Yes, there's a profit margin, but they have to pay someone to shuffle this stuff around, mark it down every few days, and eventually it will drop low enough to move completely out the door in some happy shoppers cart.  Though I didn't see the variety that I'd seen in past years, I also didn't see waste.  The Targets that I shop at did have a stream lined look for back-to-school and yes, they should have been stocking a lot of items that can be used to fill their pegs instead of putting out merchandise that's specially packaged for back-to-school that has different UPCs than the same items on their shelves (and thus gets marked down.) Tape, crayons, and pencils sell year round. 

Secondly, if a store has to mark down an entire 8' shelf stacked to the rafters with filler paper, then something went wrong.  I worked retail in the past, so I know some retailers just send stores things, even if they don't order it.  However, it appeared that this year, at least, Targets near me didn't get that overabundance items that hog shelf space until it's priced low enough to move.  I noticed that one Target store I visited several times in the past few weeks simply let things deplete without replenishing in the weeks leading up to school.  Last Saturday, I could already see things getting condensed down... at full price.  Empty bins abounded.  That is how it should be, in reality. 

Not that I don't love a good clearance, because I do.  But I also know that stores need to maximize their profit and that may mean a little less choice and less awesome clearance sales. 

That said, did you score any great deals at your Target's back-to-school clearance?  If you did, please share what you bought.
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