Help, I'm Addicted To Shopping At TK Maxx

I love labels but with kids at home I've got no chance of paying full whack. TK Maxx might be a grind, but there is a method in the madness to finding a steal...
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I love labels but with kids at home I've got no chance of paying full whack. TK Maxx might be a grind, but there is a method in the madness to finding a steal...

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Does anyone still buy clothes at full price any more?

The last article of clothing I bought at full whack was a shirt from the Armani shop when holidaying with the wife in Sorrento in 1996. Great quality shirt, I still have it and it was in cracking nick until our house fire of a month ago.

That was a year after TK Maxx opened in my city.

I’ll ask again: Does anyone reallystill buy clothes at full price any more?

If you answer in the affirmative, I’ll wager you either dress like Bear Grylls or a presenter off One man and his dog. Because that’s all I see when I visit the high street and independent retailer in 2012, and that’s exactly what I see at the football. Quilted coats at football? Lads dressed as if setting up base camp on the Eiger? And folk paying top dollar for the privilege too? Come on.

My addiction to TK Maxx started in 1995 when I used to visit my brother who resided close to their Hatfield store. Being from Stoke, rooting through racks of averagness came naturally, and I’ve become a bit of a dab hand at it over the years. But searching through racks of Henleys and Crosshatch to discover a hidden gem does involve some technique and tactical ability.

Tactics? The better stuff is often at the end of the rail as those of a similar persuasion have found it, tried it on and put it on said end of rail when it doesn’t fit. Another place to have a nose is under the racks as everyone knows hanging your stuff back is akin to social suicide like not having brown sauce on sausage sandwiches and not having ketchup on its cousin, the fishfinger sarnie - the perfect culinary accompaniment to Match of the Day, of course.

For those who spirit soars when they find a hidden gem, it’s still as good a reason to head up into your city centre as any other

Technique? Their clothes always face left as you look at them and so I stand near the right end of the rail and use my right hand at arm’s length to push the furthest one to the end of the rail. That way you get to see the labels if needs be and also the clobber. Christ, how anally, dreadfully sad am I? But it’s probably saved me the equivalent of a meerkat’s life expectancy in the last decade and there’s no better eye test.

Whilst my addiction to TK Maxx was a slow burner during the late 90’s, but it really kicked in once I discovered my wife was pregnant in 1999. As elated as I was with the birth of our baby girl in January 2000, my selfish side kicked in: Was this the end of away matches? Christ, was this the end of home matches? What about my social life and trying to look half-decent with my mates? Would my disposable income now go into baby bonds, booties, bottles and bonjela?

Starting a family saw a plethora of visits to the pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap high street phenomenon. Massive coincidence, eh? Perhaps I’m a natural tight-arse? Or perhaps I have my head screwed on and others need to give their heads a wobble for paying full whack?

I had visions of going the match in dreadful clobber with a plethora of baby sick on either shoulder after I’d hurriedly burped Grace on the rush out to my waiting lift. My mates would be there waiting in the pub, half-empty tins of Red Stripe on the table, looking at watches with heads wobbling, tutting like Skippy on heat, but with no responsibility in their lives.

So thank God for TK Maxx.

Swings and roundabouts didn’t just describe my Sunday mornings since we’ve had another two members of the family since. It often depicts  my trips up to Hanley to either spend hours of fruitless rummaging through the usual glut of dreadful, no-name tat, or the delight of stumbling on a wax Maharishi parka for £23, a Missoni shirt for £3, or an Abercrombie hoodie over a decade ago for a tenner. Before they were discovered and rinsed by the Cheshire, Abersoch and Surrey crowd of course.

Successful foraging at TK Maxx is more often than not cyclical. Months spent in a sartorial desert, followed by a shedload of CP Company knitwear, Rab coats, Seven jeans and Corneliani suits all at once. But you’ve always got staples like Ralph Lauren polos and Farhi tshirts to keep you going and ensuring your trip is not a barren and fruitless one.

Am I a clothes snob? Yes and no. But whatever the answer I still have the safety blanket of not wearing canvas pumps or skintight jeans with the backsides hanging out.

I like labels, but I won’t pay the full asking price for them. The tombola effect of shopping at TK Maxx and sticking your hand into a rail to see if you can pull out the bottle of whisky rather than the bottle of HP, appeals to my competitive side.

Like football, television and finding white dog faeces on pavements it’s not the same anymore, nowhere near as good. But like watching my football team it’s all about hope. Walking to the match or arriving at TK Maxx without hope is like going in a brothel and asking for a hug. So I’ve been told.

Wherever we go in the UK, I look out for a TK Maxx or most probably, will have done my internet homework beforehand. We went to the Lake District in the Easter holidays. Finding out that Kendal – where we were based - had a TK’s was almost as good as visiting the New Balance Factory Shop in Shap – and trainer fans, it is definitely worth a visit if you’re up there – ask to have a look in their upstairs stock room, too. A veritable treasure trove of great trainers.

Back to TK Maxx. If you’re a glass-half-full person it’s not for you. Endless rails of cheap American collegiate tat, surfboy bilge and various other fashion crimes that equal the three-quarter length tracksuit bottom abound. But for those who spirit soars when they find a hidden gem, it’s still as good a reason to head up into your city centre as any other.

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