Discount stores lure shoppers with sales as consumers crave a return to normalcy

Since the state’s gradual reopening began, people have been flocking to discount department stores in South Florida, leaving the shelves empty of inventory.

At Marshalls in Miramar, there is nearly always a line of at least a dozen people waiting to get in. An employee stationed outside limits entry, holding a tally counter and telling customers to wear their masks and follow floor markings and directions as they shop. 

While the stores are following physical-distancing guidelines, customers may be out of luck when it comes to finding what they came for. 

Sara Tovar went to several stores during a recent weekend. She visited Ross, Marshalls and TJ Maxx in her area in an attempt to take advantage of good deals ahead of the summer.

“My friends told me that there were extremely low prices at Ross,” she said. “I went to many stores in my area and nearly all of them were half empty.”

One of the empty stores she visited was a Ross in Miramar. Over the weekend, shoppers came there to take advantage of sales and clearance clothes, accessories and other items, leaving some sections completely empty.

Customers hovered around the clearance sections, skimming through heavily discounted prices. Other sections remained practically untouched.

Signs were placed across the store to remind customers to remain patient as the store handles its return to business as usual. 

Emily Forero was also shopping at Ross over the weekend. She went to take advantage of the discounted clothing.

“There were a lot of dress shirts and polos from famous brands that were on the clearance section,” she said. 

However, she also noticed that the store was partially empty. The home goods section was almost entirely out of stock.

Empty aisles fill a Ross on Miramar Parkway. (Angelo Gomez/SFMN)

This trend is common beyond South Florida. Nationwide, people have been shopping at department and discount stores for their affordability as they have been reopening.

People are taking a frugal approach to shopping as the economy begins to recover from the pandemic. Macy’s has experienced higher sales and performance in their discount and off-price sections since the pandemic, according to Business Insider. Also, shoppers are preferring discount department stores such as Marshalls and TJ Maxx due to economic uncertainty.

Odelaysis Saco, a therapist, believes people are going shopping again to feel a sense of normalcy after months of quarantine and isolation.

She questioned whether people shop because of sales and discount prices, or if there is a psychological explanation behind the behavior.

“People are glad to be able to leave the house, go to the park, beach, shopping and more,” she said.

She believes the pandemic has caused a lot of fear and anxiety, and some have turned to shopping as an emotional catharsis after a life-changing span of months. 

“As people seek normalcy, they let their guard down, increasing the risk of infection and disregarding safety procedures,” Saco said.

Angelo Gomez is a journalism and political science double major at Florida International University. He enjoys writing stories about politics and national issues that affect South Florida. He is currently a Hamilton Scholar for the Honors College advocating for immigration reform in Washington DC. He hopes to have a future in immigration and making a change in the country. He is a huge Marvel and Star Wars nerd, lover of all sports and a politics geek.