Big Brand Love: Marshalls


This is the first in a series of posts about my favorite “big brands” at which I can justify shopping. Looking good and being savvy are not mutually exclusive!


Growing up, shopping at Marshalls became our favorite special trip when my Grammie visited. About twice a year, she would take my sister and I to a strip mall and let us literally “shop till we drop.” As I got older and understood more about the prices and values of objects, particularly clothing, Marshalls became even more magical. How, I wondered, could a successful store sell top brands for bottom-dollar prices? In order to understand the genius behind the TJX brands (Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods), I needed to research clothing production and pricing.

In the fashion industry, it is widely accepted that the largest expense for high-end companies is advertising and other marketing ventures. In fact, companies purposely raise their prices to appear more elite, which consumers fall for time and time again: “If it’s more expensive, it must be worth more.”

However, this is not the case, as the general price of goods, typically manufactured through outsourcing in Asian factories, depends more on the fabrics used than the name of the company. Take, for example, two shirts made out of the exact same fabric. They should cost about the same to produce, and would logically be sold for the same amount. However, as Julie Gerstein explains in her article for, nearly identical cotton-blend t-shirts can range in price from $50.00 at Madewell to $1,520.00 at Lanvin (both are way too expensive, given that the average gross margins for such luxury companies are around 65%. Remember how people don’t have homes or food???). Consumers expect to pay more for Lanvin goods; consumers want to pay more for Lanvin goods; consumers are empowered to pay more for Lanvin goods. It’s a psychology that works for the designer labels.


By gingerchrismc on

Additionally, high-end consumers are more likely to stay with the newest “season” of clothing, purchasing more overpriced items and discarding of the “old” ones. Past-season items that do not get purchased are hopefully sent to outlets or warehouse stores, but are also trashed or even burned to avoid counterfeit (see this article by Lisa Henshall for on Chanel purse burnings to ensure that only the most elite consumers have access to the products).


By Eric Pouhier (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

So, why is this important to know when considering shopping at Marshalls? Because at Marshalls, the same brand names are not reliably stocked or necessarily from the current “season,” nor are they intended to be. As Marshalls reports on their website,

We take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities, which can include department store cancellations, a manufacturer making up too much product, or a closeout deal when a vendor wants to clear merchandise at the end of a season…If you love it, grab it! We don’t hold replenishment stock in our back rooms and often, the store managers don’t even know what’s coming until they throw open the delivery truck doors! That’s what makes us so exciting to shop.

So if you were reading this and feeling sad about the corruption of fancy fashion lines, don’t fret! Marshalls’ got yer back. Instead of buying only brand new merchandise or having items manufactured for the store (they do have some globally imported home items created specifically for TJX stores), Marshalls finds product that needs a home and offers reasonable prices that still compensate the costs of production and resale. Which–as you know if you’ve been to Marshalls–can be extremely less expensive than buying the item as a “luxury” piece directly from the retailer (think 60% off plus clearance!). Same items and same production, but more reasonable prices and significantly less wastefulness.


By Mike Mozart on

Leaving Marshalls, I feel good knowing that my purchases came from a store that values selling merchandise that already exists on the market, rather than creating new items to be marked up. Also, their headquarters is in good ol’ Framingham, MA–a “local” business!

What’s your favorite thing about Marshalls? Respond in the comments below!

Stay savvy,



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