A record number of stores have filed for bankruptcy or closed their doors this year, which means major bargains from the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Stein Mart, J.C. Penny, J. Crew and many more.

Sale blocks and mini shopping bags
Credit: Milles Studio/Stocksy

Retail bankruptcies hit a record high in the first half of 2020, and so far, the second half of the year is following a similar path. Retail Dive reports that 27 major retailers like J.C. Penney, J. Crew, Stein Mart, Modell’s Sporting Goods and Tuesday Morning have filed for bankruptcy, with many of their brick-and-mortar locations liquidating inventory and shutting their doors. Plenty of other retail chains are also closing many of their stores.

For consumers, this news means that there will be great bargains to find during the holiday shopping season as businesses are desperate to offload every last bit of merchandise in their stock before they shutdown, explains Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot. “As far as store closures go, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Express, H&M and Bath & Body Works, among others, have announced that they will be closing some stores, so I would look out for sales at those retailers,” Skirboll says. 

What’s the best way to make sure you get the most bang for your buck at these stores? If you hear that a store is closing in your area, call them to find out when they’re closing, says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae.com. “The closer the closing date, the deeper the discounts will be,” Bodge says, though she adds that “the selection will also be thinner the longer you wait.” 

And data backs up the fact that store closings lead to major deals, says CouponFollow founder Marc Mezzacca. Indeed, “after large retailers like Ann Taylor and other clothing retailers filed for Chapter 11 in July, CouponFollow noticed an increase of nearly double in online discounts for clothing, accessories and other items from those stores,” Mezzacca says. Plus, “as more retail bankruptcies are announced, businesses will need to get rid of inventory, and we anticipate this leading to an uptick in going-out-of-business sales at both brick-and-mortar shops and digitally,” he says.

That said, it’s important to remember that just because a store has announced it’s in bankruptcy, doesn’t mean it’s permanently closing, explains Steven Abrams, shopping expert at Offers.com. “Companies like Tailored Brands, the owner of Men’s Warehouse, may use bankruptcy protection to reorganize their debts and remain in business, while companies like Sur La Table may look for a buyer for their company, and companies like Pier 1 are closing permanently,” says Abrams. Basically, “bankruptcy protection is a way for retailers to lower costs by breaking some contracts, notably store leases, but many are still likely to operate online afterward,” he adds. 

Here are the best ways to approach store-closing sales:  

Sign Up For Google Alerts

“Sign up for alerts on liquidation sales and scour the internet to see which businesses are having to close certain locations and having sales,” Skirboll says. “Following these retailers on social media and signing up for their email newsletters will also be helpful as they sometimes post special sales and offers exclusively for their followers.” But, of course, you must “be savvy about determining if it’s a good sale,” Mezzacca says. 

Use Gift Cards Smartly

If you have a gift card to a retail chain that is shuttering, use it quickly, as shoppers are sometimes given a deadline to use remaining gift card balances. If you don’t have any gift cards but want to get even more out of store closing sales, check out a gift card site like Gift Card Granny, a gift card aggregator that sells gift cards at a discount. “If you purchase a gift card to The Children’s Place that offers 8% off and shop with it, you save 8% on everything you purchase there,” Bodge says. And that’s on top of existing discounts.

Be Patient

The absolute best deals will happen in the last few days the business or store location is open. “There will be some deals in the beginning, but shoppers can typically expect the offers to deepen as they want to clear out more inventory,” Skirboll says.

Don’t Forget About the Return Policy

“If the company is going out of business and having a liquidation sale, all sales may be final,” Abrams says. “Shoppers should try on clothes before making a purchase because the deal may not be so great if the clothes don’t fit.” And, for electronics, kitchen items and appliances, Abrams says: “Check if they’re still covered by manufacturer warranties before you buy.”