The Art of Competitive Shopping

When you hear the phrase “competitive shopping” you probably envision two extremely wealthy ladies with credit cards in tow pushing each other and throwing elbows in order to get the best deal all while so called “experts” analyze each play they make. Although this would make excellent television it isn’t what buyers and merchandisers do for their companies.

The best thing that a buyer or merchandiser can do is see the retail they’re supposed to be buying for and also see what the competitors are doing so they can maintain a competitive price and similar merchandise while also staying true to their brand. This exercise is very important to off-brand stores such as TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Nordstrom Rack because the mix of merchandise is greater and they are competing with high end stores, and also lower end stores that sell similar merchandise but without the name brands.

First thing you do when you go competitive shopping is pick a section of the store and pick a certain rack, for example the shirts in the juniors department. Narrowing down the merchandise you are analyzing is also helpful because an important thing to remember is that you can’t have all the same merchandise at the same price because each store needs to stay true to their own brand and what their marketing strategy is.

Your next step is to pick 10 hangers in the section to see the true mix. Then hanger by hanger you analyze the garment. Is it on trend? Is it a basic? Are there more than one size? Is it appropriate for the weather? These questions that you ask should be varying to ensure that this store has a strong mix of merchandise within a certain department. Take notes on the different pieces taking into consideration the fabrics, colors, and styles of each garment.

Then after each piece you try to guess the price before looking at the price tag. Guessing the price should take into consideration everything you’ve done in the last step and use your analysis of the material and make to come with a reasonable guess to how much the particular garment should cost. My mentor told me when we were doing this exercise that “a good buyer would be within a dollar of the actual price” and then proceeded to knock my socks off by guessing the price right on each time.

The final step would be to repeat this entire process at another store that has similar merchandise and set up as the previous store and try to compare them. This will truly let you know which trends stores are trying to push to the customer and what price they think that they can get it for. The stores may have very different prices and merchandise which may lead the buyer into rethinking their strategy or stick with it if it is working.


The stores shouldn’t be exactly the same and have the same clothes but should have comparable merchandise and prices in order to be competitive. Going competitive shopping whenever you can will help you understand what the stores are going for in their merchandising and marketing plans and  help you be more educated when buying clothes as you’ve done your research about the price and the merchandise available.


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