Over the last several years, I may find myself at a mall or outlet mall shopping where my wife or daughter is shopping for shoes, blouses, or dresses. Especially during our cold and dark winters in the Midwest, it gives me an excuse to get some exercise, sample food/drink items, review merchandise and people watch. Not all mall visits includes these four items, however, the longer I spend shopping, or waiting for shoppers, the more likely I touch all four bases.
While waiting in the huge women’s department, I may sometimes yawn and casually gravitate towards the men’s department. Whether in Macy’s, Penney’s, Men’s Warehouse, Nordstrom’s, I check out their merchandise. In particular, their dress shirts, belts, and dress pants. Being someone who doesn’t like to spend full price on items, my initial sticker shock of $80 for a Ralph Lauren dress shirt pulls me in the discount bin direction. These items may be 25-50% off. If a Kenneth Cole Reaction Fitted shirt is $75 retail, a quarter reduction means a sale price of $56. On special sales, 50% off on a $80 Michael Kors slim dress shirt simply brings the total to a more reasonable cost of $40.
I’m a frugal consumer although my wife would call me tight. She might say I’d treat a nickel like a manhole cover. My approach is practical in nature, not against spending money but value is a key component. What this typically means is I’ll search the bargain bin for a $25 comfortable cotton shirt at Macy’s or Men’s Warehouse. Patience and persistence has taught me that there are good deals to be found but one must look high and low and don’t be afraid to get an item scanned that’s missing a price. I must confess that every so often, there are situations where I must quickly buy a dress shirt at the mall and in those situations; it clearly means I’ll pay more.
A strong aptitude to do math in one’s head is quite useful in the effective shopping arena. Calculators or smart phones can be leveraged but quick thinking on one’s feet might be best. For example, if the sale is 35% off selected merchandise or buy one and get the second half off, is the item a contender or pretender? Information is power in the shopping game.
Besides mall consumerism, there are times my daughters invite me to Marshall’s or T.J.Maxx as they’re looking for a skirt or belt. If my attention sways, I’ll slowly stroll to the men’s shirt area. Mind you, these stores are not as expensive as Macy’s or Men’s Warehouse but your focus is still required. In fact, the deals might be greater at Marshall’s or T.J.Maxx although with more merchandise compacted into a smaller floor space; good deals might take more focus and persistence.
A month ago, my family spent a day at the Lenox Square mall in Buckhead, an affluent neighborhood north of downtown Atlanta. We visited stores such as J Crew, Macy’s, Brooks Brothers, Bloomingdale’s, Michael Kors. In terms of dress shirts, regularly priced dress shirts were from $50-90 — with certain sales and incentives, you might find some sale items between $40-60. I enjoyed the architecture and people watching but didn’t feel wowed at all to stock up on dress shirts.
At Costco, you can find nice dress shirts for around $18. That’s the normal price. Sometimes, you can find Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger or Polo shirt between $15-25. In addition, about one month ago, I found two Calvin Klein dress shirts for $10. They were entirely made of cotton (a requirement) and were made in India or Pakistan, which, from my past senses produces better feeling clothes that many clothes made in the world’s second largest economy.
So here’s the dilemma, it’s fun to shop and save money but often the fun is in the hunt, you are searching and searching for that perfectly sized and designed dress shirt for a competitive price. In today’s world, I find myself doing this less and less. Perhaps age is setting in where I’m less patient trying to peruse through a sale rack of shirts that are jammed together. On the other hand, sale shirts where different brands and sizes are just tossed into a wooden bin for perusing. Sometimes, during the hunt, I say to myself, “Costco. Why bother with this mess?” Why not briefly shop the displays at Costco regularly and find some great deals. In addition, when I’m perusing the bins at Costco, there are several employees regularly organizing and folding clothes. It goes without saying better-displayed merchandise makes for a more pleasant shopping experience.
Regarding future shopping, when I’m out with my family, I’ll continue to review dress shirts at clothing stores although it might just be to help me past the time. Frankly, if I’ve found a good supplier of casual and dress clothes at Costco that are nicely displayed, Costco may handle 50-75% of my outer wear needs and occasionally, I may grab a pair of pants or dress shirt at Macy’s or Men’s Warehouse. Maybe my motivation with the other merchants will be out of want (and boredom) and less out of need and remember what brand represents a good product at a very competitive price.
By Kevin Schwarm
I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.