As states begin to loosen restrictions and retail stores start to reopen their doors, TJ Maxx and Marshalls are among the footwear and apparel sellers drawing in large crowds.
Since May 2, parent firm TJX Companies has started reopening TJ Maxx and Marshalls doors in states and localities where stay-at-home orders have been lifted. Like many of their off-price peers whose “thrill of the hunt” services have been tough to replicate online, the discount shops were hugely missed among avid shoppers during the height of the pandemic, and their reopenings have, as a result, caused quite a frenzy. In photos posted on twitter, a TJ Maxx store in Arkansas appeared to be packed with shoppers last month, and at a Wilkes-Barre, Penn. store this month, more than 100 people lined up for its reopening.
In May, Connecticut (where I’m currently residing because of the COVID-19 outbreak) took its first step toward reopening its economy with customers returning to restaurants, stores and malls. So for the first time in more than two months, I decided to see for myself what shopping was like again inside Marshalls and TJ Maxx.
Like most retailers, TJ Maxx and Marshalls unveiled stepped-up safety measures, noting protocols for employees such as required use of face masks while working and implementing social distancing work practices. Protective shields have been installed at cash registers and social distancing markers are being used to space out lines. There are also new rules for handling merchandise returns and enhanced cleaning through the stores. In an email to FN last month, TJ Maxx said it has also implemented occupancy limits in its stores.
And, when I took to the local outposts last weekend, it appeared TJ Maxx and Marshalls are staying true to their word.
I geared up with my mask and visited both locations off of the Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield, Conn. At TJ Maxx, a sign outside greeted customers explaining it would be limiting its occupancy to 105 shoppers in the store. Meanwhile, across the street at Marshalls, about 20 people lined up outside as an employee controlled the foot traffic into the store so customers were not passing each other while exiting and entering. The goal was to keep the occupancy at about 130 people, she said.
Inside, both stores had another set of retail workers waiting with disinfectant wipes to clean carts between shoppers. The Marshalls, which also is a Homegoods shop, is larger than TJ Maxx so there was more of a selection. However, its footwear assortment was noticeably lacking for spring. Mostly athletic sneakers were on display while some women’s flat sandals were sprinkled in. Similarly, TJ Maxx had a heavy sneaker section with wares from Converse, Skechers, New Balance, Under Armor and Fila.
After speaking with a Marshalls sales associate, I learned the warehouse had been backed up so the location had just received its first shipment this week. She said spring and summer product will gradually begin to fill the store.
Many items seemed to be leftover from February and March, with sweaters and jeans on display. A “Wear to Work” section was still on the floor, for example. Nevertheless, summer maxi dresses filled some racks, with picks from usual suspects like Tommy Hilfiger, Tahari and Max Studio. But other summer items, such as swimwear and denim shorts were lacking at both TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
In addition, each location toted big clearance sales across all categories. TJ Maxx also had large empty tables with signs, saying, “Pardon our appearance. Fresh new product coming soon!”
Despite personal disappointment in the stores’ offerings, safety felt up to par; I did not feel uncomfortable shopping at either location.
Inside both Marshalls and TJ Maxx were one-way shopping aisles labeled with arrows, signs filled the floors promoting six-feet social distancing, dressing rooms are temporarily closed and dividers were installed at the checkout. After making my purchase at Marshalls, the cashier wiped her station immediately as I walked away.
Most have new hours to coincide with safety measures, too, with the majority operating from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday — presumably allowing extra time for sanitization efforts.