These are stores that buy stock from places that are going out of business, have had fire or water damage, have been overstocked, have products that no longer fits their image, have products that have been incorrectly packaged or labeled, that are seasonal products that they don't want to warehouse, are unsuitable to their selling area or the company just has not been able to sell.
There are a few chains of liquidators but most of them are family owned businesses. The quality of the stores can vary from trying to mimic a department store with shelving, displays, feature items, or they might be a bare basic store with items piled in large cardboard boxes or set on the skids they were delivered on.
These liquidators are willing to sell almost anything that they feel they can make money on so you might find high end sports equipment next to scented candles. The selection can include school supplies, towels and bedding, cleaning products, clothes, kitchen ware, garden ornaments, seasonal decorations, games, books, tools, etc, etc. and some of the larger stores sell furniture.
There will be no consistency of what they sell, there might be an aisle of fantastic photo frames one week but once they're sold that's it. These can be really fabulous places to pick up special occasion gifts for weddings, christenings, etc. You never know what you might find in these places and the prices are regularly 30 to 50 percent off retail and it is not unusual to see 90% off but the problem is that you might walk out with a amazing deal on a golf club when you had walked in there looking to buy a mop.
ARMY AND NAVY SURPLUS STORES
The original idea of these stores was that they would buy at auction left over or used equipment from the military such as camping equipment,parachutes, office furniture and army jackets (but no weapons). While some of these stores still do follow this concept many of them are just liquidators who get there stock from a variety of sources and others have just become camping stores that sell military type clothing.
OFFICE FURNITURE SURPLUS STORES
With businesses starting up and shutting down on a pretty regular basis there is a lot of office furniture out there and some of it is very suitable for your home or home office or even for organizing storage in your garage. Though this furniture is not new it is often in excellent condition.
The older stuff was made to last and sometimes furniture is there because it doesn't suit the taste of a new boss. Items like storage locker can be painted a vibrant colour and put in your mud room to keep all your kids stuff in place. Store display walls are often sold here and can be used to organize your hobby or exercise equipment. If you keep your mind open for the possibilities you can find some real treasures.
RESTERAUNT SUPPLY STORES
While sometimes these are open only to those in the trade others are open to the public and are a great place to get quality kitchen supplies at a good price. You are not going to get things super cheap here but what you will get is cheaper than a department store and of better quality because they made to last in the rough and tumble world of a profesional kitchen.
Check out if they have a discontinued section, as restaurants want the same 300 wine glasses or 200 plates, if an item is discountinued the supplier marks it down considerably to get rid of it. If you entertain a great deal it is a great place to buy glassware by the dozen. The real deals come with the second hand equipment. As restaurants have a high rate of failure you might be able to score an almost new item for a fraction of it's original cost.
Originally most outlet stores where attached to the head office or manufacturing building where the items were made. It was then easy to sell off any over runs, cancelled orders or slightly flawed product in their own store. As people began to realize what great deals could be got in these outlet stores some of the larger brands were approached to join together in small outlet malls.
Unfortunately once business realized how many people were willing to drive out to these outlet malls they started building outlet malls all over the place and producing product strictly for the outlet stores at a reduced quality. (High end product in their stores, low end product for their outlet malls) While some outlet malls still sell last season's stock and overruns the real deals are for the most part gone.
The real outlet stores don't tend to be in malls but in stand alone buildings usually in smaller towns or on the edge of big cities. They don't necessarily advertise and have such great deals that they survive on word of mouth.
For clothing outlet stores their end of season sales can be amazing- 90% off. A recent buy at one local outlet store was sunglasses 3 for $1. One problem is that often there is no change rooms in these stores so be prepared to guess at sizes and fit or pull on clothes over top your shopping clothes. Other outlet stores might have sales only two or three times a year rather than have a store open year round.
Even though a lot of manufacturing has moved overseas find out if anything is still being manufactured in your area and go on line to see if they have sales. If there is a warehouse near by find out if they have warehouse sales, this would be the time that they would sell off slightly damaged items or older items.
Ask your favourite stores if they ever have warehouse sales. Check your local newspaper to see if anything is being advertised. Large giftware stores often have warehouse sales just before or just after Christmas. You will probably have to drive out to some industrial park in the middle of no where but the savings can be substantial.
Though I am not a fan of the Sprawl Mart type stores as I have often found that the prices there are not particularly low compared to the quality of goods that you get, the small chain discount stores and the family owned discount stores can have some delightful surprises.
These discount stores don't try to pretend that they are selling high end merchandise so expect the quality of the goods to be a bit lower, but if you have a fast growing child then t-shirts at $3 a pop and sleepwear for under $4 is ideal. Browse through their card and giftwrap section and pick up some Birthday cards for under $1 (or 2 for $1) and you might luck out and find 150 sheets of coloured tissue paper for under $5.
Like all good bargain shopping the trick here is to get deals on items that are staples in your home, such as brand name toothbrushes, plastic storage bags or printer paper.
Some times the stuff from a dollar store is exactly what you need. But make sure that your not paying a dollar for something that would cost you 66 cents if you bought it somewhere else.
Gift bags, small stuff toys, mugs, melamine trays and seasonal decorations can all be bought there. For the most part you get what you pay for in quality but when the items you buy at the department store are also made in China and about the same quality why not buy from the dollar store.
Don't turn your nose up at thrift stores thinking that they are only selling off grandma's old fur coats and tatty furniture. All those fashionistas who buy things that they never wear need someplace to donate those clothes so they don't feel that guilty about buying them in the first place.
Thrift stores run the gauntlet from being highly organized, bright, clean and cheerful to the ones that have the slightly sad feeling about them as disorganized staff wade through piles of donations.
If you are a person that loves the hunt then thrift stores are for you. You might have to drop by half a dozen times before you find anything but then it might be on sale for 50 cents! It is not uncommon at all to find clothes on the rack with the original price tags on them. If your kids live in t-shirts check out what they have as many people have bought or been given t-shirts from vacations that they have never worn so they donate them.
There are companies that don't want to go the time and bother of selling off merchandise to liquidators or have a warehouse sale and would rather donate it and receive a tax donation. Antique items like crystal glasses still turn up regularly.
You also might find wedding gifts still in the box that were never used, fabric that was bought but never made into anything or even unopened craft supplies.
RESALE STORE (HABITAT FOR HUMANITY)
This is a chain of charity stores that specialize in building supplies. They accept and resell new and used building material. Windows, doors, kitchen cabinets, sinks, bathtubs, paint, wallpaper and door handles are a few of the items you will find there.
Local building supply stores often donate their returned or damaged items to this store and it is not unusual to see slightly flawed new items like bathroom vanities sell for 70% of their original cost. Leftover new building material is plentiful but not in large quantities so they are ideal for smaller rooms or for creating crafts.
If you live in an older home and are looking to replace damaged light fixtures or door handles to match the rest of your home this is a great resource. Though they don't consider furniture to be building material you might find desks, kitchen tables, servers and kitchen chairs for sale here. There was a new dresser with a slightly scuffed top selling for $55 at our local Resale Store. This is a place where people who don't mind putting a bit of elbow grease into their projects love.
The quality of flea markets can run from the sublime (Paris fleamarket) to the disgusting (roadside markets in derelict building). It is an opportunity for people to buy a space to sell their goods (new or used) whether those goods be worth selling or not.
While some flea markets try to check each vendor to make sure they are selling something of quality a lot of flea markets just sell the space and really don't care. Unfortunetely you don't know if the vendor will be there week to week so if you buy 20 tube socks for $4 and they all disintegrate the first time that you wash them there might be no way to get your money back. The range of items for sale at the larger flea markets can be extensive, covering everything from gold jewelry to beauty products to ethnic clothing, to food, you just don't know what you might find the first time you visit.
Sometimes people who are trying to start new companies begin at flea markets as it is less expensive than renting store space. They start building a clientel for their product while keeping their operating costs down. You might find some real treasures such as one vendor who made garden benches from vintage metal beds. They were beautiful and reasonably priced.
This is a place were buyer beware is very important. In 2008 puppies sold at a flea market in Toronto turned out to have rabies and dozens of people who bought them or came in contact with them had to go through rabies shots.
GARAGE SALES, YARD SALES, RUMMAGE SALES, CHURCH BAZAARS
The general idea of all these types of sales is a person or a group of people sell items from their homes that they no longer want. Some people live in amazing homes and have great stuff to sell, others do not.
Generally people are willing to pay about 30% of the original cost of an item at these sales. Just as you never know what is in a house when looking at it from the outside, you never know what will show up at garage/rummage/bazaars.
It might be all new in the box stuff that they recieved as gifts and hated, it might be fine antiques from an elderly person downsizing, it might be tools from someone trying to organize, it might be children's toys and clothing or it might be dirty broken junk that should have been thrown out.
Often the best deals at these sales are paper back books selling for as little as 10 cents but more often 25 cents. Buying a dozen paperbacks at 25 cents each will cost you only $3. You might even run across old favourites that you read as a child and start a collection for one of your own children.
If you arrive as soon as the sale starts be prepared to pay the full asking price of anything that you are interested in, you can always ask politely if that's the best they can do, especially if you are buying a large number of things but be gracious if they insist on the asking price. If you arrive latter in the day you will find that they are more willing to accept a low offer on anything that is left because they don't really want to deal with putting it away.
CLASSIFIED ADS- NEWSPAPERS AND ON-LINE
Newspaper classified sale ads seem to be disappearing as more people advertise their goods on-line on such places as Craigslist. If you are looking for larger items such as washer dryers, car roof top carriers, bicycles and don't mind second hand classifieds are a good idea.
Research your item first to see how much you would be buying it new and then if you find something on line that you are interested in check on the internet if it has any re-calls on it or if it has a bad reputation.
There are all different types of auctions and auctions houses. Some places only deal with specific items, such as cars, or antiques while others are much more general.
Auctions can be entertaining on their own but be careful of auction fever where you are determined to win the bid no matter how much it might cost you. An auction house will set a date and a location for their auctions and list the items that will be auctioned off. This list can be quite specific or very vague. Be sure to note that you will be paying taxes on top of what you bid and what the buyer's premium might be. (The buyer's premium is like a service fee and it can be up to 15% or more or the bid).
All items will be sold AS IS so never, ever, ever bid on something that you have not examined first. Most places ask for proof of identification, as in a driver's license before they issue you a bidding number and ask you to sign a form stating you will pay in full anything that you win a bid on at the auction.
Auctions are often listed in the classified ads or look in the yellow pages to see if there is an auction house in your neighbourhood. There are auction sites on-line listing when and where the auctions are through out the year. Larger cities have police auctions where the spoils of crime are auctioned off.
Remeber to have fun when your out on the bargain hunt. These are all great places to start looking for real deals but be prepared to walk away with nothing if what you are looking for just isn't there.
Be patient, buying something on sale just to make you feel like you have not wasted your time is no bargain. Sometimes you just have to walk away, even if it's been marked down 90% .