Will selling online be the start of something big or bad for Marshalls?

Source: marshalls.com
Sep 26, 2019
George Anderson

Marshalls has done quite well in recent years without selling a single piece of merchandise online. That strategy, however, has changed with the launch this week of the off-price retailer’s very first e-commerce site. 

Regular customers of Marshalls will find the same categories of products sold in the chain’s stores on its site. The new site, just like Marshalls’ stores, will also have its own unique mix of merchandise, with new brand name and designer products added on a daily basis. In case an ordered product doesn’t fit, customers will be able to return items to their local Marshalls store as well as by mail.

“We are thrilled to introduce Marshalls.com, which allows customers to shop Marshalls anytime,” said Mark DeOliveira, executive vice president, TJX Digital US, in a statement. “This site will feature a unique assortment of the brands and values that Marshalls is known for, and also offer customers the ability to shop through fun, interactive features and curations. We are excited for customers to experience the brand in this new way.

Marshalls is touting a number of interactive features on the site, including: 

  • Curated shops: Frequently refreshed online shops such as Fall Style Shop, The Designer Shop and Made in Italy that feature the latest in-demand trends.
  • #MarshallsSurprise: Items other shoppers are finding serve as inspiration for purchase on Marshalls’ site as well as its stores.
  • Swipe to Shop: A gamified mobile shopping feature whereby shoppers can view and sort products by swiping left or right to identify items to buy or save for a later date.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will selling merchandise online be a benefit or a drawback for Marshalls? Could the chain’s late launch of an e-commerce site serve as an advantage as it competes for market share?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Their success selling online will be directly related to keeping their 'treasure hunt' store mentality alive and translating it to the online experience."
"There’s a lot to like here. While the website lacks the careful merchandising evident in the stores, it does have some surprises ($1,200 sneakers?) and some genuine buys."
"Don’t worry about market share. Worry about selling more. If you lose one sale in-store and gain two online, bravo!"

Join the Discussion!

19 Comments on "Will selling online be the start of something big or bad for Marshalls?"

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Jeff Sward

Marshalls enjoys a very high confidence level in the eyes of the customer for providing a “treasure hunt” shopping experience and great value. That confidence level will translate well to the e-commerce channel. The bullet points provide some great examples of how Marshalls will execute this strategy. “Gamified mobile shopping” could quickly become known as GMS. I both shudder and laugh at the prospect. It just might work. Did somebody say the customer wants “experiential shopping”?

Art Suriano

In the short-term, being able to sell merchandise online will be a benefit to Marshalls, and I doubt they will see a negative impact on their stores. Long-term, I’m not sure. Marshalls and HomeGoods have been hugely successful, and customers understand that merchandise changes regularly. Part of the fun of shopping those stores is seeing what they have today that perhaps they didn’t have yesterday, using the term, “the hunt.” Online could change that. So long-term depending on what merchandise and offers Marshalls provides online, it may have an impact to shoppers visiting stores. For a company like TJX that has been aggressively opening stores these last several years, they could find themselves reversing course with lower comp-store sales and eventually closing less profitable locations.

Bob Amster

This is a toss-up. Considering the negative things we have been hearing about the costs of operating an e-commerce site and the cost of acquisition of new customers, if the e-commerce site does not increase the foot traffic in stores and the overall market share, it will hurt. The highly competitive, non-differentiating e-commerce environment demands that e-commerce either increase traffic to stores or increase overall market share because, in and of itself, e-commerce appears to not increase profits.

Stephen Rector

E-commerce is all about efficiency and getting products that a customer wants and needs as quickly as possible. The “thrill of the hunt” is not easy to replicate online. Therefore I’m not sure if this will be a big part of TJXs business ever. One thing that will be interesting to see is which “best” brands that have no problem sending excess goods to TJX stores will allow their brands’ names to be posted on marshalls.com. It’s easier for luxury brands to selloff when they know a customer will see one or two of them in a store – it’s a different conversation when you see your product at a discount on an off-price website versus your own branded website.

Brandon Rael

Having worked in the off-price sector for a bit, the shopping experience fundamentally is all about the thrill of the hunt. The experience is all about going to the store several times a month and not knowing what amazing values you will get when you shop in the actual store. The off-price sector, which includes Marshalls, Ross Stores and TJ Maxx has survived and thrived without an online digital presence.

I don’t see a real net benefit to having an online presence. Especially as the assortments are so inconsistent, and are dependent on the supply and flow from the full price retail market, and overruns from major vendors.

Neil Saunders

The move online is sensible; it gives Marshalls another growth vector at a time when the opportunities to open new stores are dwindling. Off-price works very differently online to offline and I am pleased to see Marshalls has recognized this with various online features and functions designed to stimulate impulse shopping. My only concern is the longer term impact on footfall to stores; Marshalls must ensure that online is complementary and not a replacement channel.

Ken Morris

I believe their success selling online will be directly related to keeping their “treasure hunt” store mentality alive and translating it to the online experience. They have been extraordinarily successful with their brick-and-mortar approach but the time has come to pivot to a new time-starved younger demographic that would like to shop anytime and anywhere.

The challenge will be to offer merchandise online when you don’t look at products at the UPC/SKU level. They are not alone in this challenge and stand to gain first-in advantage nationally in the off-price clothing market. This is a great move for TJX and a long time coming.

Rich Kizer

How can this hurt? This is a place that everyone goes to in order to find items of interest and surprises. I agree that Marshalls is a “surprise store” with new items found in-store all the time. This same presence on the internet is nothing more that meeting and competing with the competition. I think the Marshalls’ faithful customers will continue to visit the stores and explore the online offerings. This all makes the store look bigger and better. Finally, like it or not, customers expect their choices of stores to be current, aggressive and present — even if they want to shop at 3 a.m.

David Weinand

It appears that they are offering some unique experiences on the e-commerce site that will be appealing to their “treasure hunt” loving customers. Inventory management will be a challenge I’m sure so they have to get that right but I think they will add value to the business with this addition.

Shep Hyken

What took so long? Offering an online option allows Marshalls to be open 24/7 for their customers. They just made shopping at Marshalls more convenient. It looks like they are promising an online “experience” versus just a static website with pictures and product descriptions. That’s part of the Marshalls experience that customers have come to know and love.

Cathy Hotka

There’s a lot to like here. While the website lacks the careful merchandising evident in the stores, it does have some surprises ($1,200 sneakers?) and some genuine buys. I love it already.

Ryan Mathews

The devil is — as always — in the execution. Marshalls’ real appeal is based on browsing physical stores. Online they are just another retailer selling discounted goods. Beyond the obvious “treasure hunt” appeal, Marshalls’ real draw is offering shoppers immediate gratification. Browse this afternoon, wear this evening. So going online works against the chain’s two strongest consumer value propositions and puts them in head-on competition with any number of established online discounters. Color me skeptical.

Mohamed Amer

Even those seeking a “treasure hunt” experience can do so in a physical store and online. Marshalls’ decision to go online is a natural evolution of the shopping dynamics and represents table stakes, not a differentiating move. Supply chain and operational execution will determine its likelihood of success.

Gene Detroyer

It is all about execution.

Marshalls is a great brand that engenders a specific profile for shoppers. If they can execute online, it will be a boon. And I am just thinking about their current customers. Will online help new customers find them?

Don’t worry about market share. Worry about selling more. If you lose one sale in-store and gain two online, bravo!

Trinity Wiles

I don’t see how this could have a negative impact. I think this strategic move aligns well with their mission and consumers’ current shopping preferences. Marshalls’ mission is to “deliver great value on ever-changing selections of brand name and designer fashions at prices generally 20%-60% below department and specialty store regular retail prices on comparable merchandise.” By providing quality products for significantly lower price points, Marshalls has been able to appeal to a diverse demographic of consumers. They have developed a cult-like following on social media in recent years with their “#MarshallsSuprise” consumer-generated content campaign. With a strong online presence already, they have the audience already who is ready to buy! Marshall’s is just making their “treasure hunting” more accessible to consumers.

Anne Howe

I’m skeptical of the online treasure hunt concept. While the theory is great, there are many items that have to pass the “feel test” and/or the “ingredient check” before I buy. And that’s way more effectively done in-store. Way too often, the fast-fashion items don’t stand up to more than a few washes, unless it’s a known brand such as Michael Kors.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Marshalls is coming to online sales. If the time has been used to understand the demands of online sales, examine the pitfalls other retailers have faced, and put technology and processes in place to perform well, then I expect this effort to be a success. If, however, these three areas of inquiry have not been pursued and addressed, then there will be problems. Consumers expect online sales, delivery, and returns to work seamlessly alone and with physical stores. Delivery on expectations will determine the results.

David Naumann

Adding online shopping option for customers will help Marshalls drive incremental revenues without investing in more real estate. Focusing on new arrivals on a daily basis will be imperative, as the treasure hunt mentality is what has made Marshalls and other off-price retailers successful. It will be interesting to see if Ross Stores expands to e-commerce to compete with Marshalls’ online store.

Craig Sundstrom

Let’s cut to the chase here: one of the main attractions of Marshalls, et al. is that they sell things cheaply; so what are the costs of online going to be? Offer free shipping — and it’s hard to imagine not doing so — and you’re in the bottomless pit of subsidization (but without the benefit of high product prices to offset it). DON’T offer it and … well, will that “great bargain” @ $5.99 still seem like it when an $8 shipping and handling charge is added? Good luck, guys.

"Their success selling online will be directly related to keeping their 'treasure hunt' store mentality alive and translating it to the online experience."
"There’s a lot to like here. While the website lacks the careful merchandising evident in the stores, it does have some surprises ($1,200 sneakers?) and some genuine buys."
"Don’t worry about market share. Worry about selling more. If you lose one sale in-store and gain two online, bravo!"

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