By  on August 4, 2005

Everyone loves a good bargain, which begs the question: Where are the good bargains to be had? In July, BigResearch, a Columbus, Ohio-based consumer intelligence firm, surveyed just less than 900 women in the U.S. who were 18 and older — and who only buy clothing on sale or at a discount — on where they most often made their apparel purchases.

Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, dominated the competition, taking 27.8 percent of women's votes. A total of 55 percent of respondents chose the top 10 retailers as their favorite destinations for sale shopping. "For this survey, we usually see a nice combination of retailers who market their big sales, like J.C. Penney, and then we see the typical popular discounters, like Wal-Mart," said Pam Goodfellow, an analyst for BigResearch.

  1. Wal-Mart
    Percentage of Women Who Buy Clothing on Sale Here:
    Wal-Mart is on a mission to upgrade its apparel lines with new styles and brands. It also wants to enhance displays. But price is the name of the game here, with sales as well as discounts. Ubiquitous yellow smiley faces alert shoppers to its Rollback program, in which the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer cuts prices even further.

  2. Kohl's
    : 8.5
    Pam Goodfellow of BigResearch pointed out that Kohl's had a good showing when rankings were tallied in July. "Kohl's is ranked highly, mainly due to advertising efforts — they always advertise their big sales and discounts." The teens will be heading to its stores for apparel in coming months: Kohl's in July announced a partnership with the Candie's juniors' brand and teen queen Hilary Duff. Candie's apparel will be sold exclusively at Kohl's 670 department stores nationwide and on this fall, and multimedia advertisements will feature the star.

  3. J.C. Penney
    Percentage: 4.9
    This chain's exclusive apparel brands include Nicole Miller, Worthington and St. John's Bay. The company said its advertised sales are typically big events that draw customers for deals throughout the store. The Plano, Tex.-based retailer's strategy is to balance in-store sale promotions with marketing in television, radio and print advertisements that promote J.C. Penney as a brand that offers many benefits to customers, including sales.
  4. Kmart
    Percentage: 3
    Women come to Kmart for more than Martha Stewart's paints and bedspreads. Well-known apparel brands that have lured in the ladies include Jaclyn Smith's collection and Route 66. Latin singing sensation Thalía also has a collection exclusively with the retailer, part of a strategy to attract Hispanic shoppers, whose purchasing power in the U.S. could reach $926 billion in two years. In 2002, Kmart began expanding its marketing efforts to Hispanic customers via weekly advertisements printed in Spanish.

  5. Target
    Percentage: 2.2
    Earlier this year, Target's president, Gregg Steinhafel, said the Minneapolis-based retailer "had a particularly strong apparel year" in 2004. Last year, Target reshuffled its apparel priorities, moving away from brands such as Cherokee in favor of Linden Hill, a collection aimed at Baby Boomers, along with new a activewear collection, C9 by Champion. The company also is using its Web site,, to offer additional sizes in the Isaac Mizrahi collection. Other popular collections include Mossimo, Michael Graves and Liz Lange.

  6. Ross Stores
    Percentage: 2
    Two big catch phrases in bright, bold letters on Ross' Web site state: "What's New at Ross?…Sizzling Savings!" and "Shoe Week — Save 50-70%." That's enough to pique bargain hunters' interest. The company states that Ross sells "first-quality, in-season, name brand and designer apparel, accessories, footwear and home fashions for the entire family at everyday savings of 20 to 60 percent off department and specialty store regular prices."

  7. Sears
    : 1.9
    Sears' apparel lines that attract women shoppers include Covington, casual apparel, footwear and accessories; Apostrophe, stylish apparel, footwear and accessories, and Lands' End, one of the largest online sellers of apparel. WWD reported in June that, in addition to its brick-and-mortar outlet stores, Sears also has announced the opening of three internet stores through the eBay Web site in order to dispose of excess inventory and gain new customers for its overstock. The three eBay stores are called Sears, Sears Appliance Outlets and Sears Liquidation Centers.
  8. Bealls
    Percentage: 1.6
    Bradenton, Florida-based Bealls, whose stores include Bealls Florida Department Stores and Bealls Outlet Stores, has a navigation tool on its Web site that lets viewers shop current sales from flyers. Parent company Bealls Inc. was founded in 1915 and operates 540 stores from Florida to California. The firm teamed up in May with ViVA Partnership — a 100 percent woman/minority-owned advertising and integrated marketing communications company — to begin stepping up its marketing efforts to Hispanics.

  9. Dillard's*
    : 1.4
    More than just apparel draws women shoppers into Dillard's department stores: Many locations have salon and spa services, and the popular wedding and gift registry is also an attraction. With regard to apparel sales, advertisements are frequently run in newspapers, offering discounts on everything throughout the stores. Just by opening a credit card, shoppers can get 10 percent off their first purchase. Women can take advantage of deals on upscale lines such as Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein and Michael Michael Kors.

  10. Fashion Bug*
    : 1.4
    The perks of using a Fashion Bug credit card include: advance notice of sales, 10 percent off first purchase, no annual fee and 5 percent rebates on charges. Liz Williams, president of the apparel chain, said the summer 2005 collection is stylish, "without breaking the bank." Fashion Bug features trends at affordable prices for plus, misses' and juniors'-sized women as well as maternity and girls'. Bensalem, Penn.-based Charming Shoppes owns the 1,100 store chain, along with plus-size retailers Lane Bryant and Catherines.

  11. Lane Bryant
    Percentage: 1.2
    Plus-size specialty retailer Lane Bryant, owned by Charming Shoppes, recently announced it had signed a deal with "American Idol" finalist Kimberley Locke to be its spokesmodel for Seven7 jeans. Plus-sized women have shopped at this store since 1900, when Lena Bryant founded the company and labeled it as the first women's apparel retailer in America devoted exclusively to larger sizes. The retailer, whose fashions are moderately priced, has more than 700 stores in 46 states.

  12. Old Navy*
    Percentage: 1.1
    The words "sale" and Old Navy are often used in the same sentence. The Gap Inc.-owned specialty retailer targets its apparel toward teens, soon-to-be moms, plus-sized shoppers and more — many of whom undoubtedly see the television ads, and go online to find good deals at the Web site. The latest perk to is exclusively for cardholders: All online orders from cardholders receive 20 percent off. Other general perks on the site include a flat $5 shipping fee on every order, an impressive sale section and the latest advertisement from Sunday circulars.
  13. Macy's*
    : 1.1
    Sunday circulars are also big for Macy's, whose advertising efforts can be found on weekdays and weekends on television and radio, and in print during storewide sales. There soon will be even more stores to find those sales: Corporate parent Federated Stores announced in July that Macy's will balloon to 730 units that will occupy almost every major U.S. market.

  14. Mervyn's
    Percentage: 0.9
    Founded in 1949 and operating more than 250 stores in 13 states, Mervyn's credits itself as the first chain to advertise sales in newspapers. Mervyn's also bills itself as having invented the notion of a "midrange" department store, offering a mix of top national brands, along with a number of exclusive lines, as well — all at reasonable prices. The retailer also offers plenty of perks with its store credit card, including 15 percent off first purchases after opening an account, and 10 percent off additional purchases after accumulating more than $250 on the card.

  15. Catherines
    Percentage: 0.6
    Charming Shoppes acquired this plus-size chain of 450 stores in 2000. Its apparel is more classic than trendy, catering to women ages 40 to 65, whose sizes range from 14 to 28 and higher. On its Web site, the home page features "Super Savings" and several other discounts in various apparel sections. The "Clearance" section currently boasts a total of 19 pages of discounts in apparel and accessories, where shoppers can sort and view sale items by price.
Source: BigResearch, a consumer intelligence firm. July 2005 results.

*Indicates a tie.

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