The store closing sales have begun at 180 Toys 'R' Us stores closing this Spring.
And with the company just announcing it will be closing all 800 stores in the coming months, many parents are already thinking about grabbing some great deals on Legos, Barbies, video games and other kid favorites.
What about Babies 'R' Us and gift cards?
The chain has not yet announced the fate of freestanding Babies 'R' Us stores, though it appears they will be closing as well.
And if you have a gift card, you may want to use it as soon as possible, ideally this week. Gift cards often become worthless in liquidation sales.
But before you rush over to grab some toy bargains at closing stores, we have a caution about what you may find.
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Signs promise great deals
The sales are underway at 180 closing Toys 'R' Us stores, including the Glenway Avenue store on Cincinnati's West Side. Sales at the remaining stores are expected to start in the next few weeks.
Sarah Fisher said she came looking for deals. The signs that said "Up to 40 percent off" seemed pretty promising.
"We came in just for the sale," Fisher said. "I have two babies 13 months apart, and we are just trying to get some stuff for them."
But once inside, Fisher did not find markdowns on diapers. A sign states that Pampers and Huggies are not part of the closing sale.
And she discovered no discounts on Lego sets with a yellow dot on the price sticker, which included most larger sets, like Star Wars.
And "up to 40 percent" does not mean 40 percent off, as Laurie Anderson learned.
"I don't know that I saw anything for 40 percent off," she said. "Most of it was 20 percent, and there was a lot of 10 percent. A lot of the infant stuff was 10 percent off."
Check prices first
So if you plan to shop your local Toys 'R' Us, the best way to check out a store closing sale is not with a big, empty shopping cart, but your smartphone.
Before you grab that item at 20 percent off, check prices at Amazon and Walmart, just to make sure you are really getting a deal. Or use a price comparison app like RedLaser.
Stores eliminate all sale prices before a liquidation sale starts, so you are getting just 20 percent off the full list price, which often is not much of a deal.
We compared prices, and found a few decent deals, but a few real duds.
- A Graco Nautilus 65LX car seat was $169, on sale for $152 .But we found it for $144 on Amazon with free shipping for Prime members.
- Call of Duty Infinite Warfare video game was marked 20 percent off $59, which brought it down to $48. But Walmart.com had it for just $24.62, more than $20 less.
We found a few good sales:
- Disney Beauty and the Beast Grand Romance figures, marked down to $31.98, were $3 cheaper than Walmart.com or Target.com.
- And Peg Perego motorized cars, in the $150 - $400 range, were cheaper than we found anywhere else.
Shopper Lanice Williams says while the sale wasn't quite what she hoped, her little boy is happy. "I got my son a whole lot of toys for his birthday," she said. "And we spent less than we thought we were going to spend."
This is standard for liquidation sales, and Toys 'R' Us is doing nothing wrong. You usually have to wait several weeks for real discounts in the 50 percent or 75 percent variety (though selection will be minimal).
Store closing sales -- no matter what the store -- are always best shopped with skepticism.
Make sure its really a deal, and remember that whatever you buy cannot be returned, so you don't waste your money.
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