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!

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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 thefrisky.com, 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.

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By gingerchrismc on https://flic.kr/p/ciih4W

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 leaf.tv on Chanel purse burnings to ensure that only the most elite consumers have access to the products).

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By Eric Pouhier (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, 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.

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By Mike Mozart on https://flic.kr/p/nRfuzc

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,

–Kim

Current Fave: H&M Lyocell Jacket in Powder Pink

Last night, I was searching through my favorite lifestyle blog, The Everygirl, and I came across this super chic pink jacket from H&M.

 

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Image created and owned by H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB

I’ve coveted a light pink jacket ever since Lorelai Gilmore sported one, oh so long ago…

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While looking at the H&M jacket’s product description, I noticed the fabric was called “lyocell” and the item was tagged as being “Conscious.” This certainly peaked my interest!

Looking into this further, I discovered that lyocell is one of the most eco-friendly fabrics on the market. It is made from repurposed wood pulp and can be altered to match many different textiles, including suede, leather, and silk. Because of the (natural) chemical processes necessary to make the fibers, Lyocell is more expensive to manufacture than other eco-friendly fabrics like cotton, but it is naturally wrinkle-resistant. So at $49.99, a new eco-friendly jacket in the color of my dreams would clearly be a savvy purchase!

So, on to the “Conscious” label on the H&M site:

I’ve always been a huge fan of H&M for providing a full range of sizes at affordable prices, but I didn’t realize that sustainable practices were at the core of their mission. As stated on their website:

H&M’s business concept is to offer fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way.

Searching further, I came across my favorite thing on the H&M website (even more than lyocell pink coats!), the company’s sustainability reporting page. I was blown away by the transparency offered to the public, including all GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) sustainability reports, a Supplier Compliance list, and a Working Conditions statement.

The label of “Conscious” refers to a collection of clothing showcased for being produced in this excellent manner with sustainable fabrics (there are also menswear and kids Conscious collections). In H&M’s own words:

Conscious is the name for everything we do for a more sustainable fashion future. Hundreds of Conscious Actions – big and small, short- and long-term – are dedicated each year to make sure these commitments are put into practice. Our Conscious fashion collection is just one of the many examples of what we do for a more sustainable fashion future.

This all sounds well and good, but looking at the other pieces from the Conscious collections, I noticed that they were arguably more expensive than the lyocell jacket, to an unreasonable amount ($99 for a kids dress!). Therefore, since my jacket was clearly a bargain and a steal, how could I not buy it?!

Plus, H&M offers a Conscious Home collection, which is extremely affordable and offers a $4.99 organic cotton cat-printed tea towel. Sold!

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Image created and owned by H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB

Eco-friendly production from a company that values ethical working conditions and produces goods in all sizes and at an affordable price point–count me in! As per my routine, I’m off to my closet to find one thing to donate so that I can justify adding my jacket.

Stay savvy!

–Kim

(For a slightly more cynical perspective on H&M’s Conscious line, see this wonderful Quartz article. It’s not enough to dissuade me from the excitement of the pink lyocell jacket, but the author, Marc Bain, brings up some interesting points about the inherent contradictions of running a large chain and being sustainable)