6 Tips to Use When Shopping a Store Closing Sale

Look around early but don't plan to buy then, and be ready to walk away from any 'deals' that aren't true bargains.
Person places store closing sign on window.

Given the recent announcements that Bed Bath & Beyond and Tuesday Morning are going out of business, many customers may be curious about what that means for their store closing sales. Are these events worth shopping? Are there actual deals? Or is it all a waste of time?

Check out our advice for navigating store closing sales below, including what kinds of early discounts to expect and if you should wait to shop.

6 Tips for Shopping a Store Closing Sale

Six tips for shopping store closing sales shown in infographic.

1. Look at the Inventory Early On

At the first hint a store closing is happening, it's a good idea to look at the currently available inventory. This step could determine whether the store closing sale is even worth shopping. If selection is already lacking, then the odds are good that once the sale gets going, it won't be any better. The retailer might not do any restocking, for example, so what you see may be what you get for the entirety of the event.

Take stock of inventory even before store closing sales begin. But don't plan to shop early, as initial discounts tend to be modest.

Knowing ahead of time what the shelves look like can make it easier to decide whether the event will be worth your time, and help you avoid the crowds later on.

2. But Don't Necessarily Shop Early

Though we recommend perusing the inventory, that doesn't mean you should go ahead and shop the deals. At least, don't do so without some consideration first. When store closing sales begin, discounts are often lackluster — think around 10%-13% off. If that's the discount level you're looking at early on, the event probably isn't worth shopping yet. But some items could see excellent savings early on. For example, items like power tools that have slim margins to begin with might be pretty great buys right from the start.

Even so, don't expect the majority of items to be worth shopping at the beginning of the sale. Take note of what the prices look like, too. Retailers have been known to increase prices before a store closing sale begins, only to then "drop" them to their previous regular prices and call it a discount.

3. Try Not to Wait Too Long Either

The flip side of waiting to shop is risking popular items selling out before they can reach the coveted 50% off discount. It's a fine line to walk, and sometimes it may be better to take advantage of the modest 10% discount at the beginning of the sale, rather than waiting for better savings and risking missing out altogether.

SEE ALSO: Ask an Expert: Should I Use 'Buy Now, Pay Later' for Groceries?

If you're targeting an item you've been waiting to buy, then you may want to go ahead and give in, regardless of the savings. Saving a little something is better than saving nothing at all. And if you've been eyeing a product for a long time and haven't seen any other discounts, even a lackluster one can be worth your time.

4. Don't Assume Everything Is a Good Deal

Don't be afraid to comparison shop before making a purchase at a store closing sale. Look to competitors that aren't going out of business to see what they're charging for the same items. After all, businesses that are on their way out are still trying to make whatever money they can. Because of that, even if retailers are trying to sell off everything they have left, other stores may be offering better deals.

In short, don't assume that every discounted item in a store closing sale is going to be the best deal out there, or even a good bargain in general. Check around, and don't be afraid to walk away if the deal isn't strong.

5. Use Coupons, Gift Cards, and Rewards ASAP

As soon as the news breaks that a store is closing, your first to-do should be seeing if you have outstanding coupons, gift cards, or customer rewards you need to use. Once you tally them up, make plans to use them the first chance you get. Stores that are in the midst of closing typically set hard deadlines for when these items will no longer be accepted. The sooner you use them, the better. Otherwise, you may end up leaving money on the table.

Retailers that are going out of business still need to make money, so not everything in a store closing sale will be a good deal.

Coupons may have the shortest deadline, so be prepared to shop immediately if you have any lying around. Other than that, you should have at least a little time to use gift cards and any rewards you may have earned, depending on how fast the store is moving. When retailers decide to close their stores, it's not necessarily a rapid process. Doors often stay open several weeks after the announcement. But coupon cutoffs may be only a few days after the news breaks.

6. See If Other Retailers Will Accept the Store's Coupons

Try to use your coupons, gift cards, and any earned rewards before the cutoff dates. But if you manage to miss the coupon cutoff date, you may not be out of luck. Other retailers may be willing to accept coupons from competitors that are closing up shop for good.

For example, the news about Bed Bath & Beyond filing for bankruptcy protection broke on a Sunday, but the company implemented a cutoff date for coupons that was just three days later. Yet, retailers such as The Container Store, Big Lots, and Joann announced they would take the famous coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond. For both The Container Store and Joann, customers could bring a coupon in to receive 20% off a single item, while Big Lots let them save 20% on their entire purchase of at least $50. Before you shred or toss out that coupon, see if another store will accept it so it doesn't go to waste.

That said, when it comes to gift cards and rewards, it's not likely competitors will — or even could — accept them. If you have these kinds of items, it's still best to use them at the store that's closing as soon as you can to avoid missing out.

Store Closing vs. Liquidation Sales

Sometimes people use the terms "store closing sale" and "liquidation sale" interchangeably, but they don't always mean the same thing. A store closing sale often refers to an entire chain closing down or a significant group of stores within a chain closing. However, a liquidation sale may be at a single store that is permanently closing. It can often include not just the products, but also furniture within such as shelving and displays.

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It's good to know which kind of sale you're eyeing, as the type can determine the level of discounts, as well as what items will be part of the event.

Is a Store That Closes Gone for Good?

Many consumers are disappointed to see their favorite stores close. But if we've learned anything from retailers like RadioShack and Toys"R"Us, it's that stores that close their doors don't always keep them that way. They may return in smaller formats, online-only, or even within other stores.

So once a store has gone out of business, there's no reason to assume it'll be gone forever. Someone may figure out how to revive it in the future. Until then, be mindful about store closing sales, and don't give in to not-great deals because a retailer is closing its doors, seemingly for good.

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Julie Ramhold
Senior Staff Writer/Consumer Analyst

Julie's work has been featured on CNBC, GoBankingRates, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, Money, The New York Times, Real Simple, US News, WaPo, WSJ, Yahoo!, and more. She's extolled the virtues of DealNews in interviews with Cheddar TV, GMA, various podcasts, and affiliates across the United States, plus one in Canada.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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1 comment
I went liquidations for many decades. Not anymore. 3rd party liquidators now handle them. They arrange with the chain that it will pay a small staff to handle sales and keep the shelves organized. The liquidator and chain split sales. This arrangement eliminates any bargain sweet-spot.
Prices return to full retail on day 1, and small discounts applied that basically put prices back where they were normally. This does not deter bargain hunters, though, so best merch is cleared out early. Subsequent discounts are decided by inventory and customer flow, not to dump merch, but to maximize sales $$$.
OP info is true and helpful, but does not mean there are values.
I only go now for two purposes. 1) Office equipment or fixtures like shelves, cabinets, chairs, computers, printers, security cameras/DVRs... Few ask about these, so there's little competition. The staff don't know worth, so may quote low. 2) High dollar items. You can sometimes negotiate for big $$$ items.