One Year Later: Is T.J. Maxx Hurting Mom-And-Pop Businesses?

Beverly Boutique is one of the many mom-and-pops competing with the new T.J. Maxx

It’s been just over a year since nationwide retailer T.J. Maxx opened it’s doors on Kings Highway, offering reduced prices on designer products. But locally-owned competitors and smaller, long-established chain stores say they’re not feeling the heat, despite the department store giant’s larger purchasing power and marketing budgets.

T.J. Maxx (1630 East 15th Street) has not been able to overtake small businesses, local owners told Sheepshead Bites. Though some mom-and-pops say they’ve lost customers, they remain confident that their contemporary products, better service and neighborhood roots will keep them around for years to come. Their successes may provide important lessons for retailers around Sheepshead Bay Road, who will soon fend off competition from a Marshall’s, currently under construction at 1611 Avenue Y.

The New Shoebox, located at 1413 Kings Highway, just steps from T.J. Maxx, reports that they have lost some customers to the cheaper prices at T.J. Maxx. Although the women’s shoestore’s selection of heels, flats, and boots is large, sales associate Valerie Vetrova explained that their business has suffered slightly. But the advantage still goes to the Shoebox, Vetrova said.

“The only problem is that T.J. Maxx gets shoes at closeout for cheaper. We get shoes right when they come out,” Vetrova stated. The New Shoebox receives shipments of shoes while they are in season, compared to T.J. Maxx, which typically has to wait months for similar shoes to reach its shelves. Women who want the latest trends in fashion at the height of its style are willing to spend more for the look at The New Shoebox, while others may wait a long time for cheaper prices at the retail chain.

For another Kings Highway mom-and-pop, it’s all about neighborhood roots. Women’s apparel store Beverly Boutique (1325 Kings Highway) – a neighborhood staple for more than 10 years – does not consider T.J. Maxx a competitor because their customers are familiar with the clothes at Beverly Boutique and constantly return. To attract new customers and to welcome back loyal ones, the managers at Beverly Boutique change the mannequins often to display current styles.

Men’s clothing and shoe store Trends (1314 Kings Highway) keeps its advantage by sticking to niche… and sales. An employee said the two stores sell different products. Trends caters to a young and modern look, which helps set them apart from other stores.

“We always have items on sale,” stated Irina, a sales associate at Trends. Signs were easily visible throughout the store. Like many stores along Kings Highway, Trends boasts of local customers who remain loyal to their businesses even with a larger retail chain in the area.

What happens when two chain retail stores go head-to-head for women’s shopping attention? Nationally-famous shoe store Steve Madden (1402 Kings Highway) has had to do so for the past year in competition with T.J. Maxx’s shoe options. To keep up with new and stylish trends, the window displays are changing constantly, showcasing new shoes. Having a well-known brand name to back up their products has helped keep customers shopping in the Steve Madden store.

Sales associate Liliana Maldonado said that while T.J. Maxx is bigger, it’s also more hectic; the Steve Madden store is a more relaxed shopping experience.

“We try to keep a calm atmosphere,” Maldonado said.

Conway (1613 East 16th Street), a New York discount apparel chain that has been in the neighborhood for decades – and is located just one block away from T.J. Maxx – does not seem negatively impacted by the new addition to the neighborhood. The store was packed in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon with bargain hunters shopping through racks of clothes and seasonal Christmas displays. While T.J. Maxx offers reduced prices on women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, Conway’s prices are even cheaper.

“We are a neighborhood store. People in the area are loyal customers. They go to T.J. Maxx, but they come here for the prices,” said store manager Mohammed Nasim.

Nasim added that it’s not just about prices, or loyalty, but about service. He pointed out that people were purchasing shopping baskets full of clothes and the workers kept the lines moving rather quickly.

“You wait half-an-hour [on line] in T.J. Maxx,” Nasim said.

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