Oops! Major retailers bought too much and are offering shoppers deals to take it off their hands

Photo (c) G. Sheldon - Getty Images

Finding the sales may be tricky. ConsumerAffairs gives you a head start.

Since the beginning of the summer, major retailers like Walmart and Target have suffered with piles and piles of overstocked inventory. They loaded up at precisely the time consumers, breaking out of their pandemic routines, stopped buying “stuff” and started spending money on travel and services.

But the retailers' pain could be consumers' gain. Deep discounts will likely rule the rest of the year, but to find them, consumers might have to look deep and wide.

What retailers are flashing sales signs early?

What’s a store to do when its shelves and inventory rooms are stacked to the gills? Have a sale – a big, ginormous sale. And that’s exactly what some retailers are doing to get ready for retail’s peak sales season.

RetailDive says that with consumer demand cooling, Gap, Kohl’s, and Nordstrom are going all out on deep discounts and pulling items from the shelves so they’ve got room for all the fall and holiday items they’ve ordered. 

And that’s just scratching the surface. There are also reports that Walmart, Target, and Best Buy are desperate to move the piles of inventory they have sitting on their shelves, too.

Those piles are large, too. When ConsumerAffairs researched Macy’s, the company listed more than 5,000 items at 70% off and 145 at 80% off in its furniture section alone.

One of the more willing retailers to move inventory out at all costs is Urban Outfitters, as well as its Anthropologie and Free People brands. 

“We will have to deploy incremental markdowns throughout the third quarter to sell through this excess inventory,” the company’s co-president and CEO Frank Conforti, said during the company’s second-quarter conference call.

He added that the company is planning for a higher markdown rate in order to clear through all that excess stock.

Where will consumers find these bargains?

For shoppers to lay hands on these bargains, it looks like they might have to visit some stores, going from retailer to retailer and asking a clerk where the markdowns section can be found.

One expert – Erika Marsillac, professor of supply chain management at Old Dominion University – told RetailDive that consumers shouldn’t depend on advertisements and social media posts to learn about sales that retailers are using to clear out excess inventory.

“If someone is not in the store, is not looking online, they’re not going to see those markdowns,” Marsillac said.

However, it doesn’t hurt to do searches for the name of the retailer and “inventory clearance sale.” When ConsumerAffairs looked to see what our luck of the draw might be, we found that there are a handful of retailers that have set up special inventory sales website pages. Those include: Kohls, Dillards, Macy’s, and Target.

Don’t forget factory outlets

One route major retailers may take advantage of to shed inventory is their own system of factory outlets. Not every brand has one, but in doing some quick research, ConsumerAffairs found a couple of interesting ones which are situated near airports and distribution centers.

For example, Zappos has its own in Louisville because Louisville is a major UPS hub and Zappos has a distribution center nearby. The company can’t sell shoes as “new” if a consumer has already bought and tried them on, but it can mark the shoes down and still make a profit.

Another factory outlet in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana region is The Gap’s Clearance Center in Hebron, Ky., near the Cincinnati airport. Most of the items available there are from Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, or Ralph Lauren – and all are either a return, damaged, overstock, or clearance item. However, once you buy it, there’s no return.

U.S. News put together a list of the 10 best outlet centers shoppers can shop online, such as Amazon Outlet and the Zales Jewelry Outlet. You can always do some bargain shopping sleuthing on your own, too, by searching for “distribution centers or outlet stores near me” and see what comes up.

A phone call to those places to ask if they sell marked-down inventory to the public may turn out to be your lucky day.

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