Unable to restructure after filing for bankruptcy in March, Sports Authority is now closing all 463 of its stores. That means the highly-anticipated going-out-of-business sales are finally here.
Liquidation sales tend to lead shoppers to believe they're scoring a great bargain on merchandise, but that's rarely the case. Shoppers shouldn't flock to these kinds of sales expecting to see major steals. As we've shown in the past, they rarely provide notable savings.
Update: While we continue to advise shoppers to avoid Sports Authority's in-store liquidation sales, our editors have noticed several well-priced deals online. (Golf clubs are among the highest discounts.) If you decide to shop the sale online, just be sure to price-check everything before buying.
No Returns, No Credit, No Thanks
The whole idea of a liquidation sales suggests that prices will be at their lowest point ever. Liquidation comes when businesses are floundering, or have already given up. Yet even when a business is sinking, its primary goal isn't to quickly clean out its inventory, but to make money. And businesses aren't going to make money by "practically giving away" their products.
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These sales have all manner of drawbacks. There are typically no refunds or exchanges — meaning every sale is final, no matter what condition an item is in. There's also not likely to be any customer service or concerns with customer satisfaction. All employees are usually running registers, not assisting on the sales floor.
Plus, not all forms of payment are accepted. Depending on how far into the sale the store is, it's likely that gift cards and checks will not be allowed. The longer a sale goes on, the more probable it is that credit cards will also be excluded, meaning it's cash or nothing.
Liquidation sales are also typically staged events, meaning the suffering company has hired another company to come in and handle pricing and advertising. These firms will even hire extra salespeople, but those extra hires just serve as warm bodies to run the registers.
Sometimes Prices Increase During Liquidation
In 2011, the bookstore company Borders announced it had filed for Chapter 11. We spotted sales right away, but they only boasted savings of 20% to 40% off initially. As the sales continued, the savings actually got worse.
Prices actually increased the longer the sales went on. We checked 25 items from different categories early on, before the liquidation began. After noting the prices, we checked back a mere week later, when Borders had begun its "everything must go" advertising campaign.
Of the 25 items we'd previously checked, 19 were cheaper before the supposed liquidation sale started. Borders had also previously offered a 30% off coupon that showed better savings than the liquidation prices. Most of the time, though, Amazon and Walmart still beat the bookstore's pricing overall.
Resist the Urge to Go All Out at Sports Authority
Sports Authority's liquidation sales are starting this week, but we have no reason to believe they'll be worthwhile, even now. If you've been waiting on the massive savings on Sports Authority merchandise to roll in, don't be fooled — do your research. You might think you're getting a can't-miss deal, but check first with the surviving competitors.
Amazon, Walmart, and even Dick's Sporting Goods could have a better price. Odds are you can find a better deal elsewhere, from a business that isn't trying to wring whatever money they can out of shoppers before shutting their doors forever.
Don't forget: The purpose of a liquidation sale is mainly to make money. If you refuse to be swayed from shopping the Sports Authority liquidation sales, remember that any notable discounts won't show up until the end of the sale, likely in August. And by then, the good stuff will probably have been picked over by shoppers less savvy than you.
What do you think, reader? Can you convince us liquidation sales are in fact a good value? Sound off in the comments below.