Never underestimate TK Maxx – you come in looking for a new jumper, you walk out with a dining table, Himalayan salt, 12 candles and a silver lamp shaped like an owl.
The offers of huge bargains might lure us in, but canny marketing trips mean we can end up spending a fortune away.
This weekend, Channel 5 has a new documentary looking at the chain’s clever marketing tricks that help it rake in £3billion a year.
The show will reveal just how staff work hard to ensure we leave laden with bags – and what secret discount codes we should be looking out for.
If you’ve ever checked a label in TK Maxx, you may have noticed what the numbers on the huge tag mean.
It turns out some of them are rather important – with single-digit numbers forming ‘cheat codes’ that can indicate if you’ve found a top bargain.
In the C5 documentary, Former senior merchandiser Daniel Baker explains: “The number that is really exciting to a customer is number two.”
That means the item is “genuine excess stock” that was sold at a higher price somewhere else, so you’ve nabbed a good deal.
Daniel adds: “The main three codes are one, two and seven. One means produced for TK Maxx.
“Two is ‘close-out buy’ that is unsold from another brand. And seven is ‘pack away’, which means it’s been packed for a previous year, like Christmas crackers bought in January for the following December.”
Many of us will have noticed that the chain has an impressive amount of designer brands on sale – including Diesel, Calvin Klein and Clarks.
These brands actually produce lines specifically for TK Maxx, and also produce its own clothes under 500 trademarked names – so you may have purchased a TK original.
In the doc, an expert explains that customers often perceive things placed together as being of similar value, which can encourage puchasing.
Staff are trained in ‘hashing’ which sounds like some sort of Nordic spot, but actually refers to where items are located on rails in a bid to boost sales.
In the show, former team leader Jodie Evans, who worked for TK Maxx between 2010 to 2015, says: “We used to hash the products through the rails. If you have three sizes small, we might put one at the start … one in the middle and one at the end.”
Daniel adds: “We wanted to have only one of everything on the racks because it meant that when (shoppers) saw it, they were adamant they had to buy it there and then.”
Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell explains: “You feel like you have successfully completed your task. You’ve found a reward and the fact it’s isolated makes it even more positive.”
While trying to find the perfect party dress, it can be a slog to check the tightly-packed rails to find a suitable outfit.
But one trick staff do to make it easier is wax the rails – so the hangers seamlessly glide on, without an off-putting scratchy sound leaving you despairing.
Jodie added: “Waxing the rails is a wellknown secret among the teams at TK Maxx and it’s something the customer wouldn’t necessarily know about. It allows you to glide the products through the rails quite easily without that horrible squeaky, scratchy sound you often hear at many retailers.”
Location, location, location
It can feel like there’s no cunning system in how TK Maxx organises their stores, but of course, a lot of thought goes into it.
Ex-merchandiser Daniel explained in the show: “A lot of the things people really want they put at the back of the store,” meaning customers have to stroll past other items beforehand.
While on their way, it’s hoped they’ll spot something else they’re interested in – and buy it.
Consumer journalist Harry Wallop explained: “On the one hand, it’s like a department store.
“But it’s laid out like a jumble sale. You are looking for some pans and you end up with Himalayan pink salt.”
In a statement on the TV show, TK Maxx said: “Some of our merchandise is manufactured for us and some we design.
“A small percentage is from previous seasons or timeless classics.
“New deliveries arrive several times a week, containing thousands of items, and our associates display this fast-changing stock typically by size and category-creating the ‘treasure-hunt’ experience our shoppers love.”