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Author Mark Ellwood Dishes on MA-Based Company TJX

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New York-based author and sale expert Mark Ellwood is on the brink of his October 17 book release, Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World, and though he spoke with Racked NY on the specifics of Big Apple sample sales, we got the scoop on a different type of discount powerhouse: the TJX company, owner of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods.

On how the gigantic company (2011 revenue of $21.9 billion, more than Nike or Halliburton) is run:
"It's a shame that TJX is such a secret company, because they are brilliantly run. Why don't they want to tell anyone that? No one would talk to me on the record, but I have lots of sources, former employees. It is a brilliantly run buying service; they squeeze so much to get the cheapest possible merchandise. They really do get everything, except Louis Vuitton, no one gets Vuitton. About 85% of its current inventory is current season. TJ Maxx is full of this season's stuff. It's the number one place to start for a bargain."

On how they manage inventory:
"If you want really high end merchandise, don't go to a suburban store. You need to go to the really urban. The stores are set up to be modular, so they can be moved around quickly. They deliberately merchandise them low grade; they want them to feel slightly rummage-like. They watch each store like a hawk and really tailor it."

With the exception of a certain Metro West store...
"I was told by several people that there's a store near the headquarters in Framingham. And it's one of the test stores. They don't rush into things. That store in particular is crammed with designer inventory, because everyone knows CEO Carol Meyrowitz wants the stores to feel high end."

Thoughts on why TJX might have both TJ Maxx and Marshalls:
"There is very little difference between them. From what I understand, Marshalls has children's shoes. They differ on certain categories. I think TJ Maxx has better housewares. From my research it seems like TJ Maxx is Banana Republic and Marshalls is the Gap. I think one of the other reasons is that they can have two stores and double the shoppers. It makes the shopper visit twice."

And finally, why TJX truly is a New England company:
"People didn't have bad things to say. It's fascinating that it's so secretive. Some of the really high end brands you find in there really don't want TJ to be too high profile and point it out. New England isn't about showing off. Maybe it's that discreet New England attitude: 'Don't talk about it, just do a great job.' It's might be a very Boston company in that way."
· Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World [Amazon]
· Mark Ellwood [Official Site]