Behind The Seams At Marshalls and TJ Maxx


Style expert Alison Deyette compared a trench and bag from Marshalls for $169.97 vs. a trench and bag from a department store for $393.

Shopping may as well be listed as my favorite hobby, and can say I have always been a fan of Marshalls and TJ Maxx. So I was happy to be invited to Behind The Seams, a media event at Marshalls that proved why off-price retailers are a better way to shop for your spring and summer fashions. I was even happier that we were going to get to shop at a Marshalls before it was open to the public! I am not a morning person, but this opportunity (or should I say shopportunity) certainly got me out of bed! They offered drivers for the event. It just made me smile to see limos and drivers in front of a Marshalls in a strip mall in Berwyn, IL at 8 am.


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Style expert Alison Deyette was there to give us off-price shopping tips and also explain how Marshalls/TJ Maxx are able to offer designer merchandise for less. In a nutshell, it's because they have the "strongest buying power" meaning they have the most stores of all off-price retailers, so their buyers are constantly finding inventory and taking new orders. Over 12,000 Marshalls/TJ Maxx stores receive inventory every week. They always have merchandise from the current season. We were then taken on quick tour of the store, showing us an empty stock room – boasting that inventory constantly comes in and immediately goes right out on the floor!

Here's how it works: Designers need to sell their inventory to stay in business. So inventory the department stores do not buy gets snapped up by Marshalls/TJ Maxx. The designers don't mind since Marshalls and TJ Maxx are not advertising their brand name, so it does nothing to take competition away from their collections in department stores. Alison explained that you may actually find more color options at Marshalls/TJ Maxx than at a department store. For example, Nordstrom may only order a dress in black and tan, but you may find it in black, tan, red and yellow at Marshalls/TJ Maxx, because they will buy it with fabric that is left over by the designer. This is not to be confused with "seconds" or cheaper designs on runs on items that you may find at shopping outlets. These are still first quality fabrics and the same design as in department stores, manufactured through a designer.

Alison gave great advice, notably pointing out that shopping at Marshalls/TJ Maxx is a bit of a hunt. You really should not expect to find a specific item, like a little black dress, (you might) but instead you may find a great little red dress! She also calmed our fears about the food products you find at Marshalls/TJ Maxx! Yes, they are new, they are not old and they are indeed fresh! I found no problem with the Jelly Belly's I could not resist at the checkout.

Marshalls dress and bag $129.98 vs. department store dress and bag $277

Marshalls bathing suit and scarf $34.98 vs. department store dress and bag $138

What is the difference between Marshalls and TJ Maxx? (I could not tell, and frankly I enjoy jumping from one store to the other to find the exact same Calvin Klein dress in my size.) Apparently, Marshalls is stronger with their shoe inventory, whereas TJ Maxx covers more trends, jewelry, and (coveted by me) Runway. A Runway TJ Maxx is where you will see high end designer brands like Chloe, Missoni, and Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, and items that may still have tags from Bergdorf Goodman. Oh how I love when they get a truckload from Saks or Bergdorfs. I noticed these designers at a store when I was in Oakbrook recently!

So, how do you find what I call "a good one"? I mean finding a Marshallls or TJ Maxx with great designer merchandise and prices. If you go online, there are little codes next to the Locator when you enter your zip code. Since I realized that I love the Runway TJ Maxx stores, I looked for them using the TJ Maxx Locator. Now I know which ones are worthy of a road trip, so it's back to Oak Brook for me!


According to the Marshall's Locator, Chicago can enjoy many "CUBE" stores (each with a sort of mini-boutique in each store) and "ShoeMegashop" stores with several designer shoes. As a self-professed shoe addict, I'll say you do have to be patient and diligent to find great designer shoes at Marshalls. I saw some DVF wedges that were from last summer (I know – because I own a pair!) but who cares? I'll wear them again this summer, and probably the next, so it is a great deal. They were over $220 retail and at Marshalls $69.99. I also saw some gorgeous Elie Tahari and Chie Mihara sandals. Marshalls price was $129.99 for either, and these shoes were originally around $400! You've got to weed thought to find designer shoes  because a high-end pair may be next to a stack of Nine West shoes.

After the event a few stray bloggers and I had a blast laughing and talking fashion, shopping and celebrities with Alison Deyette. She was so entertaining! We also talked about some of our best bargains and finding "a good one!" Thanks to Alison at Behind The Seams, I can say I learned how to do exactly that!

—Carol Calacci

Alison Deyette

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