What is Winners?
Winners is a family apparel and home fashions retailer that operates a chain of 293 no-frills, off-price department stores across Canada that sell an ever-changing and eclectic assortment of brand name products.
Winners buys last season’s fashions, over-produced/overstock products and factory seconds in bulk at a discount directly from name-brand manufacturers and other retailers and sells them at discounted prices generally 20% to 60% below other retailers’ regular prices.
Unlike other retailers, they generally don’t do promotions, sales or coupons, and simply price their items to sell at a discount.
It was founded in Canada in 1982 and was acquired by TJX Companies in 1990, which also owns HomeSense, which sells home furnishings and Marshalls, which is the same as Winners, but US-based and expanded into Canada in 2011.
- Everyday discounts of 20% to 60%
- Name, luxury or designer brands
- Inventory turns over regularly
- Stores are not stocked equally
- Organised by department, but not within each department
- Takes time and a discerning eye to find the best deals
Does Winners offer online shopping in Canada?
No, Winners does not offer online shopping. Products are only available in-store. You can find the store nearest you using their Store Locator.
The shift to buying online and pressure from the likes of Amazon and Walmart has brought about the demise of department stores such as Sears and many other brick-and-mortar retailers, but business has never been better for TJX, which made $48.5 billion in sales in 2021, likely due to their low prices and “treasure hunt” experience.
What does Winners sell?
Winners sells brand name kid’s, men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, fashion accessories as well as some furniture, jewelry, beauty, personal care and houseware products.
Note: The products shown below were available at the time of publication at my local Winners and are not representative of the merchandise available at other stores or at other times. The purpose of this list is to serve as a reference showing the types of products that are available at Winners.
Pants, jeans and tops
Ponchos shawls and hats
- Bathing suits
- Maternity clothes
- Newborn and infant clothes
Shoes and boots
Belts and ties
Beauty and personal care
- Skincare products
- Shampoo and conditioner
Bath towels and mats
Tools and utensils
Coffee, tea and accessories
Headphones and earbuds
Water bottles and foam rollers
Selection changes over time
Inventory can vary significantly based on time of year, location, store size and proximity to other stores. The products sell quickly, so selection isn’t the same for an entire season, so if you are shopping for something specific, it may be worth visiting multiple HomeSense, Winners or Marshalls locations.
Selection varies between stores
Stores are not stocked equally. Some locations are stocked with higher end products and bloggers and Redditors trade notes online about which locations have the best deals and most luxury brands. In general, it seems as though Winners in larger cities have more designer and quality branded items, such as Unbranded, Naked & Famous, Scotch & Soda, etc.
The quality of overstock products is generally good, but the seconds/irregulars can have poor stitching or other significant defects, so you have to shop carefully.
Some products are manufactured specifically for them
Some larger brands make products specifically for Winners, outlet stores and discount retailers. These made-for-Winners items are often slightly lower quality versions of their clothing. Examples of these brands may be Polo Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger.
Winners shopping tips (and things to be aware of)
Winners is similar to a thrift store, except the products are brand new instead of used.
- Best prices are in January and February when they have their giant Final Clearance sales.
- Look for the bright red stickers, it means the price has been reduced.
- Markdowns happen first thing every day, so if you want to find the treasures, be there when the store opens.
- Ask an employee which day of the week new inventory arrives so you can be one of the first to check the new products out.
- You need to know what to look for, a discerning eye for deals and the time and patience to locate them.
- The date of the product is a 4 digit number on the tag. For example, 1221 would be December 2021. If it is an older item, it might should be on sale or is a newer item.
The assortment of products changes regularly and stock is spread out between stores to make it seem like there are only a few of the item, which creates a feeling of uniqueness, scarcity and urgency, encouraging customers to visit regularly and buy more.
Each department is deliberately barely organised to create a “treasure hunt” shopping experience. You have to be willing to take the time to rifle through the racks in order to find the best deals.
If someone finds a good deal they like that produces the “thrill of the find”, and they’re more likely to keep rifling through the rails to see what other deals they might find, and thus end up purchasing more.
If an item you love is missing a button or has a tiny tear you don’t mind fixing, you can ask for a discount. The store clerk may be able to give you a slight price reduction unless the product is already marked down.
Where does Winners get their products?
Their opportunistic buying from 21,000 vendors across 100 countries capitalises on:
- Closeouts: vendor wants to clear merchandise at the end of a season
- Co-purchases: vendor wants to buy a product but the minimum order is too large, they make a deal with Winners to complete the order and the extra goes to Winners.
- Order cancellations: vendor has excess inventory and must cancel an order, or have Winners take it at a discount.
- Overruns: manufacturer makes too much product
- In-house: some product is developed and sold under in-house or licensed brands in order to supplement the depth of or fill gaps in their expected merchandise assortment.
How does Winners keep prices low?
- Buying in bulk and taking advantage of other retailers’ missteps.
- No-frills stores with pipe-racks, wood tables, linoleum flooring and austere decor.
- No typical retail concessions (such as advertising, promotional and markdown allowances), delivery concessions (such as drop shipments to stores or delayed deliveries) or return privileges
- Floor space has no walls or permanent fixtures, so departments are flexible and can be easily adjusted to accommodate incoming products.
- Operate with low inventory levels thanks to fast inventory turnover
Off-price retailers: independent vs factory outlet vs discount stores
Off-price retailers buy large volumes and sell at low prices
- Independent (eg. Winners)
- Factory outlets (eg. Adidas) are typically owned and operated by manufacturers and carry their own line of products that are discontinued, irregulars or closeouts
- Discount stores (eg. Dollarama) offer standardised selection of merchandise at low prices
What brands does Winners sell?
Winners sells a lot of recognizable name-brand items, but not always in the product categories you’d expect. Here are a few examples:
- Tommy Hilfiger bed sheets, bath mat
- GUESS watch
- Fossil watch
- Calvin Klein belt
- Hugo Boss watch
- DKNY towel, bed sheet
- Nautica tie, bed sheet
- Kenneth Cole bed sheet
- Columbia belt, shoe
- Timberland belt
- Buffalo belt, backpack
- Sand + Fog candle
- Ralph Lauren pillow
- Stearns & Foster pillow
- Beautyrest pillow
- Eddie Bauer throw pillow
- Michael Kors t-shirt, belt
- Umbra jewelry stand
- Levi’s socks
What is Winners’ return policy?
Items can be fully refunded to the original payment method within 10 days of purchase if you have the original receipt, the tickets are still attached to products and the item is in sellable condition. After 10 days, the refund will be in the form of a gift card.
If you don’t have a receipt, returns are at the discretion of the store and can be declined. If a return is approved, you must provide photo ID and the refund will be given in the form of a gift card.
- Don’t Discount Off-Price Retailers – HBR
- Bargains at Winners not always what they appear – CBC Marketplace
- TJX Companies Inc. 2021 Annual Report
Over to you
We’re interested to know – what’s the best deal you’ve ever found at Winners? Let us know by leaving a comment below!