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Priced to sell

Name bar Some stores make a big deal out of their low prices. Others tout their clean stores (This is a given for me. If you have to sell me on the cleanliness, I'm already wary.). Others keep a low profile, but apparently are the ones with truly the best deals.

A survey of more than 30,000 Consumer Reports subscribers found that Costco came out ranked best for value, while stores you'd think would rank high on the cheap scale -- Walmart and Kmart -- came out much lower. In addition to citing the warehouse club’s prices, people who answered the survey praised Costco's bang for the buck: It was the only store judged "much better than average" for value. 

“In our surveys over the years, Costco has earned high marks as a source of a surprisingly large selection of goods, including mattresses, electronics, small appliances, groceries, and books. In recent years, the chain’s Kirkland Signature products have often performed well in our tests,” said Tod Marks, senior project editor for Consumer Reports.

Part of the reason Walmart didn't get any shopping love: while prices are low, so is quality, according to survey answers. Walmart was the only chain to receive below-average quality scores in more than half of the product categories. You can read more details about the survey's findings for yourself.

My sister swears by Costco, but she has two kiddies, including one still in dMiapers. She buys in bulk to save time and money. (It's no fun shopping when you have to deal with taking two kids in and out of car seats at every stop.)

As I find my me time dwindling, I am more likely to go to one store where I think I'm getting the best deals, or shop at a store that requires the least amount of driving. I know that means I'm not getting the best price on everything, but I don't get a rush off saving 50 cents on a bottle of shampoo if I had to go to three stores to save it. I use coupons, but I'm not obsessed with them -- I can lose half a day trying to get a good deal, only to discover the fine print killed my savings, or the darn thing is expired. (But if I do think I've scored a deal, I'll brag about it for days, mind you.)

An offshoot of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart, did some undercover shopping recently that compares prices at outlet stores, regular retail stores and designer stores, too. Sometimes, shopping a designer store or department store was actually the better deal.

I loathe outlet shopping, partially because outlet malls seem to be so sprawling I find them overwhelming -- and because some of the prices don't seem like steals at all, nevermind that the merchandise is often obviously lower quality. I admit to living in South Florida for 10 years now -- and never having been to Sawgrass Mills!

But I'm game to give them a second try if you think it's worth it, so share with me your shopping secrets.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 03:17 PM on June 10, 2010 in Clothing , Coupons , Shopping | Permalink | Facebook | Digg | del.icio.us | AIM



Some years ago, a college classmate of mine found work at what used to be Jordan Marsh, and tipped me off on some of the merchandise offered at "blitz" or one-day clearance sales(Macy's, which bought out Burdine's, which bought out Jordan Marsh, still has them). Many items, especially those tattooed with the brand name, i.e. Christian Dior men's shirts, are called "promotional" items and are made a little cheaper than the normal high-priced merchandise, thus, the resulting wholesale/retail price is lower...that doesn't always mean it's better made than the rest of the line. Always examine the quality of manufacture before you invest.

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