Know How to Work the Price Code at Retailers
By Freebham editors
Updated June 8, 2016, Originally posted July 23, 2015
How do you know you’re getting the best price when you shop? It can be a little intimidating not knowing if you’re getting the lowest price on an item or if it will be going lower. Most major retailers have set markdown schedules and pricing systems that, if you know how to work, can save you some extra money.
At Target, there are three things you want to look for. If the last digit of the price tag ends in a 9, such as $19.99, the price will most likely go lower. If it ends in a 6 or 8, an intermediate markdown has been taken and the price may go lower. Price tags ending in a 4 won’t go any lower, these are final markdowns, so get it while you can. One other thing to look at on Target price tags is a two digit number on the upper right corner. If you see a 70, for example, the item has been marked down 75% off the original selling price. They typically do markdowns at 15%, 30%, 50%, 75% and 90% off , usually in 10-14 day cycles.
Knowing when to shop for bargains at Target is also important. Here is their usual mark down schedule:
- Sunday: Baby items, electronics and children’s clothing, gift wrap, office supplies and stationary.
- Tuesday: Home decor , domestics, and women’s clothing.
- Wednesday: Food, men’s clothing, health & beauty, garden items and toys.
- Thursday: Housewares, sporting goods, lingerie, luggage and shoes.
- Friday: Home Improvement / hardware, jewelry, cosmetics and automotive.
American Eagle Outfitters
Prices ending in .95 are full price, even at Factory stores, buy only if you really want it. Prices ending in .99 or .00 are clearance prices. Also, you may see a separate price sticker on the price tag. If you do, this is another indication that this is a clearance item.
Babies R Us
Babies R Us is a division of Toys R Us, and many of their stores are co-located within Toys R Us stores. Their mark downs are due to be completed by Thursday of each week, so this is the best day of the week to shop for discounted goods. For how to decode their coding, see Toys R Us mark down information listed below.
Belk operates as a regional department store across the Southern states. If you see prices with either a 0 ending or a full dollar amount, such as $25, these are the full price so use a coupon for maximum savings. Prices ending with a 5 are Super Buys, those with a 7 are EDLP prices, and neither will go down in price until clearanced. These are also excluded from coupons and other discounts. Sale prices are those ending with a 9, as are clearance prices. Items with a n 8 ending the price are final marks. True clearance items will have a clearance sign topper or Red Dot topper on them. Belk runs their mark downs on a rotating cycle with new usually taken on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. When they do, all clearance items in the store will be at 50% off original prices. Then 10-14 days later, these will go an extra 30% off clearance prices, then an extra 40% off 10-14 days later and then finally an extra 50% off for a total of 85% off original prices. This is only for clothing and home items, those in accessories such as handbags and jewelry follow a lower price point schedule beginning at 30% off original prices. Once Red Dot reaches an extra 50% off, the cycle repeats with new items being marked down. One important thing to remember is that Belk also runs a lot of coupons with a lot of exclusions, so read them so you know what they work on. They do sometimes run coupons that are for an extra percent off of clearance prices, so watch for these.
One important thing to know about Belk’s clearance strategy is that they have season ending clearance sales twice a year, usually in August and February. During these, the items previously marked to .98 endings will go to rock bottom price-points, sometimes as low as $1.98, for about 2 weeks before these items are removed from the sales floor permanently. These items will show as 1 cent, or .01, at price scanners and registers. If you’re lucky enough to find any of these items still on the floor after the final clear out sale, they will usually, but not always, honor that for you. Score!
Trying to figure out pricing at Best Buy is a little harder. There is a thread on Lifehacker that may shed some light on it, and if accurate it goes like this. Prices ending in .99 are either full price or a sale price item, but maybe not much off if on sale. These tags can also be identified by a red bar with “on sale” across the top. Prices ending in .96 are where they have met competitors prices. The one you really want to look for are prices ending in .92. These are usually “loss leaders” where the item is priced at or below their cost and are meant to bring traffic into the store, think of those super cheap computers on Black Friday. Clearance items usually have a 7 ending such as .97, but have an employee scan it to be sure.
This wholesale membership club operates primarily on the East Coast and in Ohio. Prices ending in a 9 are full price, so buy these items only if you need them. Those ending in .00 are a manager’s discount of at least 10% and will be marked down weekly to as much as 60% off until the item is discontinued. Prices ending in .90 are also manager’s discounts, but a bit more aggressive. Look for this on items that lose value after they’re opened, such as boxed electronics items or on last items that will not be restocked. Also look at the other numbers on the tags for more information. 1 indicated this is a full price item and will be restocked. 2 means the item is discontinued and will be marked down at the manager’s discretion, so start looking for those .90 and .00 price endings soon. 7 means it’s a seasonal item, such as Christmas, and won’t be restocked so get it while you can. And finally, those with a 9 mean that these will be returned to the vendor soon, so get it now.
When shopping in Costco, you already know that if you see something you want you should usually get it since their inventory rotates on a fairly quick basis. What you see today might not be there next week. But they also have hidden sales that you can take advantage of for even lower prices. Shelf tags ending in a 9, such as $19.99, are regular prices, get it only if you need to. Prices ending in $.00 or $.88 are manager’s markdowns and are usually used to indicate these are the last of an item. If you see a shelf tag ending in a 7, such as $19.97, that’s as low as it’s going to go, so go ahead and buy it. If you see an asterisk, it looks like this: *, that means that the item is discontinued and will not be coming back in to the store, so stock up now if you want it. The price may fall more on these items as well. Shelf tags ending in other numbers may be a manufacturer’s special or one time deal.
CVS/Pharmacy uses a straight forward mark down strategy. What you see on the price tags and signs is what you get, nothing hidden here. The best day to get your newly reduced goods is on Sundays when they start their new mark downs and on hand quantities are at their peak.
Sale prices at Dick’s usually end in .99. If the manufacturer requests a price drop it end in .98. Clearance items are identified with a red sticker ending in .97 or .93.
Dillard’s usually takes their new price reductions the first Monday and Tuesday of the month. If you’re a Dillard’s card holder, you get first crack at new markdowns on Wednesday. The rest of us are best off looking Thursday-Saturday. All markdowns, both in store and on-line, are called “price reduction”, so they’re easy to spot. Aside from their full-line stores, Dillard’s also operates 23 clearance centers across the country where you can find goods at up to 90% off original retail.
At Gap Inc. owned stores (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic), price tags that end in .47, .49, .97 and .99 are all clearance prices. They mark their prices a straight 30% or 40% off, and usually at the end of the season. They have also recently changed their ticket colors with sale items being white and clearance on orange tags. Be aware that the colors they use have changed in the past, so watch them going forward. At Banana Republic, however, they do not use stickers and clearance items are instead placed in a seprate area of the store.
At Home Depot, shelf tags that end in a 6 are clearance items and may go lower again in 6 weeks. These are usually printed on yellow or green tags as well. If you see a shelf tag that ends in a 3, this is the final price of the item and will not go any lower. The other thing you need to know about these tag, which is the date on the bottom right corner. This is the date the tag was printed. Three weeks from that date the item is removed from the store’s shelves permanently. Home Depot also has a date-phased clearance strategy where usually at 3 weeks after going on clearance the item goes 25% off, then 50% at 6 weeks out with a .00 or .04 ending. At 7 weeks it goes down a bit more with the price ending in .06. At 10 weeks out the price drops to 75% off with a .02 or .03 ending. A few weeks later the item will ring up at a penny, or .01. Like Belk, this is an identifier for Home Depot associates to remove this item from the floor and they usually will not sell it to you. If you’re lucky enough to find these items, head to the self checkout where you don’t have to deal with a live cashier.
At. J. C. Penney, prices that end in .00 are full price. These are items that you either want to wait for to go on sale or at the least use a coupon on. Prices ending in .99 are their first price reductions, which means that the price will go lower but is not yet “clearance”. This is important to know because on some of their coupons clearance is excluded while sale priced items are not. Prices ending in .98 are “deal”, or EDLP, prices. These may be for something like a special multi-pack of socks where the prices will not go any lower. Pink tags ending in .96 or .97 are clearance prices. These will be marked down to 1/2 their current ticked price every 2 weeks until the item gets down to $2.97. Once it reaches this point, it is removed from the store for good.
JoAnn Fabric and Craft Stores
JoAnn is another retailer with a straight forward mark down and signing strategy. New mark downs are taken on Sunday, but that actually is not the best time to shop. Instead, go on Mondays when store traffic is lighter, and don’t forget to use that 40% off coupon that is almost always in the Sunday newspaper.
Understanding the pricing schedule at Kohl’s is somewhat harder than at other retailers. Look at the upper right corner of their shelf tags for a clue. If you see a “NM”, this is a new mark down and the price will be going down within the next few days. If you see a dollar sign, “$”, this is a sale price. Tags with a “GV” are great values, which are limited time promotions and usually only last a day or two. What is harder to understand is their clearance pricing. Kohl’s marks down items on how well they are selling, what is called a rate of sale, and how many are sold by a certain date determines what gets marked down and by how much as well as the seasonality of the item. So let’s say that they have a shirt that comes in three colors, white, red and blue and it’s just after Christmas. They can still sell the white and blue after Christmas, but probably not the red, so this will go clearance and the others won’t. Or if all three have gone clearance but the red is selling the slowest, it could be at 80% off and the others only at 60% off. When they have their Gold Star events, this is when prices will be their lowest on clearance and most will go bye-bye after this. As for the best times to shop mark downs, plan on the second and fourth Sunday of each month for the deepest marks.
Another thing to look for at Kohl’s is their LCD price tags. The Krazy Coupon Lady reports that if you see a square in the upper right-hand corner, this is most likely the lowest price this item will be before it goes markdown. Also, Rather Be Shopping reports that if there id a “NM” in the corner of the screen, a price drop is imminent within the next day or so, so hold off on buying for now.
Land’s End retail stores show regular prices on tags with .00 and .50 endings. Those ending in .97 or .99 are either sale or clearance prices.
When new merchandise arrives at Macy’s store, it ALWAYS will be at the full retail amount for the first few weeks in the store. This is a legal requirement to establish “regular” price because once they do go on sale, items rarely go back to full retail, they mostly just change “sale” prices. These items will usually have prices that then in .00 or just a full dollar amount such as $50. Items with a price ending in 5 are Super Buys and will not go down until they go clearance. Items with a price ending in 7 are EDLP prices, and like Super Buys, will not go down. Items ending in a 9 are either sale or clearance priced, with clearance being the second price reduction after a sale price and will have a “Clearance” sig topper on the items. Clearance items with a .98 ending are final mark downs. Macy’s usually begins their mark downs on Sunday mornings, but there is no set schedule as to where in the store as it depends on how many they are doing in total. Due to this, the best time to shop clearance is usually Wednesday when they are required to be completed, according to a longtime store employee responsible for this function.
Office Depot Office Max
Office Depot / Office Max is relatively easy to figure out, but the timing of their mark downs are not. Prices ending in a 1 are first clearance reductions, a 2 the second mark down, a 3 the third mark down and a 4 the final reduction where they won’t go any lower. If you see a price ending in any other number, its full price.
Old Navy is yet another retailer using simple mark down pricing and signing in its stores. Reductions there are taken either on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, so the best time to shop the racks is on Wednesdays.
Pet parents looking for deals should avoid any item where the price ends in a 9, these are full price. Those ending in a 7 are clearance and the shelf tags will usually say “Reduced to Clear” and the stickers are red and white.
Pier 1 Imports
At Pier 1 it is pretty straight forward on their pricing. Those that end in .95 or .00 are full price. Be aware that you may not see .00, though, the price may just be shown as $9, for example. Prices ending in an 8 are clearance and price tags will either be red or red and white.
At REO Outfitters, items ending with 0 are regular price and those with a 9 ending are sale prices. Items with a .73 ending are outlet items and have a 30 day return window. Those with .83 or .93 endings are clearance priced.
Like Costco, Sam’s Club has a unique coding system for their shelf tags that you want to know how to read. Prices that end in a 1, such as $446.91, is a clearance price. Look in the upper right corner of the shelf tag for a letter. If you see an “A” the item is active and you’ll see it again. Items with a “N” are Never Out items, which means this is something they never want to be out ou such as milk or bananas. Finally, Items with a “C” are Cancelled, which means that the item will be discontinued. If these items don’t end in a price with a 1 ending, they will soon. Stock up on these items now if you want them as they won’t be there much longer. One other thing to note is that on display items with a “C” code, you might be able to get an extra amount off on these if you ask the manager.
Prices ending with a .99 at Sears are full price, either wait until it goes on sale or use a coupon. Prices ending with .97 are either store markdowns, customer returns,sale or clearance and could go even lower. Those ending in .93 usually indicate floor models, look for these in furniture, mattresses and major appliances as you may may able to negotiate an even lower price on these items. Prices ending with .88 are final clearance and won’t go any lower. Since Sears is best known for their hardlines items such as tools and appliances, wait until these items are listed with a .97 or .88 ending to maximize your savings.
Toys R Us
At Toys R Us, regular prices are on yellow shelf tags with a blue border and have a 9 ending on the price. Sale prices end in either a 7 or 8 and are usually on white shelf tags with a red border. If you see a price that ends in 0, these are manager’s specials on slow-moving items and will vary from store to store.
Walgreens pricing is pretty straight forward. Sale prices usually end in a 9, although you may see specials such as 2 for $10 or the like, and sale items often have yellow price stickers. Clearance prices are on a percentage basis such as 50% off, then 75% off and usually have an orange sticker.
Pricing at Walmart is pretty straight forward. Items with a price ending in 7 are regular price. Those ending in a 5 are marked down for the first time. Anything with an 1 ending is on final mark down at least half price and won’t be reduced again. Timing your scores at Walmart is a little more difficult as they do theirs not only on a daily basis for items such as perishable grocery items, but also on an irregular schedule for other items they sell based on their rate of sale as determined by their buyers. Most stores will move their clearance items up front and use yellow and black signage, or cluster non-apparel merchandise together on secondary aisles on the far side of the store. Look for discounted meat and baked goods with yellow stickers after 5 PM. I have gotten a whole roasted chicken at 5:30 PM for just $2.50 and a dozen donuts for just 99 cents.
Armed with just a little bit of knowledge as to how and when retailers do their mark down you can save a substantial amount of money on your shopping trips. Happy shopping!