I'm an ex-TK Maxx worker and there are tricks used to get you to buy more – plus the hidden secrets we DON'T tell you

IT is the “treasure hunt” of shopping.

Promising big savings on designer gear, TK Maxx is a hit with ordinary folk and celebrities, including The OC actress Rachel Bilson.

This weekend Channel 5 will be screening a documentary that lifts the lid on the clever marketing tricks that help the chain to rake in annual sales of £3billion.

Becky Pemberton explains what they are

HASHING ITEMS

STAFF are trained in “hashing” — calculating where items are placed on rails to boost sales.

In the C5 documentary, former team leader Jodie Evans, an employee from 2010 to 2015, says: “We used to hash the products through the rails. If you have three size small, we might put one at the start . . . one in the middle and one at the end.”

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Former senior merchandiser Daniel Baker adds: “We wanted to have only one of everything on the racks because it meant that when (shoppers) saw it, they were adamant they had to buy it there and then.”

This tactic helps send positive messages to the brain.

Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell says: “You feel like you have successfully completed your task. You’ve found a reward and the fact it’s isolated makes it even more positive.”

WAXING RAILS

IF you have ever been in a TK Maxx, you know it takes patience scanning rail after rail before finding items you like.

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To make it more bearable and remove any distractions, the rails are polished, or “waxed”.

Ex-staffer Jodie says: “Waxing the rails is a well-known secret among the teams at TK Maxx and it’s something the customer wouldn’t necessarily know about.

“It allows you to glide the products through the rails quite easily without that horrible squeaky, scratchy sound you often hear at many retailers.”

CHEAT CODES

EVER wondered what the numbers on tags at TK Maxx mean? Look for single-digit numbers. They are “cheat codes” to indicate if you really are getting a bargain.

Daniel says: “The number that is really exciting to a customer is number two.”

That means an item is “genuine excess stock” that was sold at a higher price somewhere else and it’s a good deal.

Daniel adds: “The main three codes are one, two and seven. One means produced for TK Maxx.

“Two is ‘close-out buy’ — that is unsold from another brand.

And seven is ‘packaway’, which means it’s been packed for a previous year, like Christmas crackers bought in January for the following December.”

Waxing the rails is a well-known secret among the teams at TK Maxx and it’s something the customer wouldn’t necessarily know about. It allows you to glide the products through the rails quite easily without that horrible squeaky, scratchy sound you often hear at many retailers.

FAUX ‘BRANDS’

MOST customers will not know that the retailer has brands including Calvin Klein, Diesel and Clarks producing lines specifically for TK Maxx.

It also produces its own clothes under 500 trademarked names. Shoppers would never know an item was produced by TK Maxx directly.

This takes advantage of the “proximity effect” — making own-label items seem more attractive by placing them next to big brands.

An expert reveals that customers perceive things placed together as being of similar value.

TILL TEMPTATION

IT is nigh on impossible to resist temptation queuing for the tills in TK Maxx, with a random assortment of goods piled high, from Lindt chocolate balls to Australian liquorice and earbuds to pet treats.

Fashion psychologist Shakaila reckons the effect of this is that our “neuro systems are overloaded”.

She says: “We are exhausted and this puts so much stress on us that we don’t really have the energy to weigh up pros and cons.

“It makes us even more susceptible to make those last-minute impulse decisions.”

RED ALERTS

CUSTOMERS are further influenced to make quick buys by the chain’s signs.

Psychologist Shakaila says: “You are confronted with those big red signs that say, ‘Big brands, small prices’ — signs that say, ‘Get it while it’s here’.

We are exhausted and this puts so much stress on us that we don’t really have the energy to weigh up pros and cons. It makes us even more susceptible to make those last-minute impulse decisions.

Long-wavelength colours like red can induce higher levels of arousal.

“When we nab that bargain, we feel like we’ve avoided a loss. And consequently we feel really good about ourselves.”

The red colour and dramatic language on the signs excite consumers at the possibility of finding a gem.

But they also instil the fear of missing out if people do not make a purchase.

BEST AT THE BACK

WHILE store interiors might look like a market, haphazardly arranged, insiders insist that store layouts are in fact planned methodically.

Ex-merchandiser Daniel says: “A lot of the things people really want they put at the back of the store.”

This forces customers to walk past racks of other items before they find what they arrived for.

The longer the hunt, the more they are likely to spend.

Consumer journalist Harry Wallop adds: “On the one hand, it’s like a department store.

“But it’s laid out like a jumble sale.

“You are looking for some pans and you end up with Himalayan pink salt.”

Tony Morgan, a former head of visual merchandising at Selfridges, adds: “It’s all about the journey to find something, to search for it, to get it, to get it in the bag and get it home.”

In a statement on the TV show, TK Maxx said: “Some of our merchandise is manufactured for us and some we design.

“A small percentage is from previous seasons or timeless classics.

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“New deliveries arrive several times a week, containing thousands of items, and our associates display this fast-changing stock typically by size and category — creating the ‘treasure-hunt’ experience our shoppers love.”

  • TK Maxx: How Do They Do It? is on Channel 5, Sunday at 7pm.


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