30 Most Underrated Department Stores in America
The big-box retailer isn't dead yet, folks.
According to YCharts, in the month of August 2018, U.S. consumers spent almost $12.5 billion at department stores. For some perspective, that’s about one-tenth of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ personal fortune. Which begs the question: what was all that money spent on? After all, we’ve been told for years that department stores are either dead, dying, or zombified.
A quick look, however, will tell you that predictions of the department store’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, in many ways, the internet era has helped department stores to expand their offerings and decrease their prices by helping them know their prospective consumers better. So instead of treating these massive retailers as relics of the past, it’s time to re-engage—or remain engaged—with these temples to consumerism. Because when it comes to deals, steals, and good design at reasonable prices, some things just never change.
$34.99; buy now at Belk
Robotics might be the future, but that’s no reason why they can’t also be your child’s present. For a fraction of the cost of a monthly iPhone bill, turn your home into a miniature Jurassic Park with this Sharper Image Trainable Robotic Robotosaur. While it’s highly unlikely that the device will turn on you and yours—rampaging through the house in an attempt to get free—it’s recommended that you treat it with respect nonetheless, as you never really know.
$125.99; buy now at Kohl’s
Have your french fries and not feel guilty about it, too, with this Digital Air Fryer on sale from Kohl’s. Long known for back-to-school shopping, this American department store can in fact help stock much more than just your closets.
$28; buy now at Dillardp0
Scroll through your social media and it’s almost impossible not to see at least one celeb endorsing some charcoal-based product, referring to it alternately as a “life-saver,” “black gold,” or even “pure magic.” However, just because it’s a hit with the A-listers doesn’t mean you need to pay like you’re in the highest tax bracket to get your hands on some. This Origins Active Charcoal Mask, for example, comes in at under the cost of most facials and promises to clear out your pores as quickly as yelling “fire” clears out a crowded movie theatre.
$27.60; buy now at JCPenney
You don’t always need to search for kitten videos on Youtube to get your daily dose of cuteness. Instead, just look at this bag. Reminiscent of Fendi’s iconic monster line, the T-Shirt & Jeans Monster Backpack, found in JCPenney’s diverse accessories collection, is perfect for just about any age, and straddles the line between irreverent quirk and serious fashionability.
$79.99; buy now at Macy’s
A good sport coat can make someone instantly look like a million bucks. Fortunately at Macy’s, you can end up looking that good without having that cool million going in. Thanks to a huge selection of discounted designer formal wear, along with frequent sales and a keen eye to current trends, Macy’s is a perfect one-stop way to stay on style without emptying your back pockets in the process.
$114.99; buy now at Sears
Contrary to popular belief, Sears is home to much more than just appliances. Case in point: this Disney Geo Winnie the Pooh All-in-One Play Yard—a three-tiered portable play yard, bassinet, diaper-changing table, and organizer, a perfect space-saving all-in-station for your baby, which just so happens to currently be on sale at Sears nationwide.
BJ’s Wholesale Club
$109.99; buy now at BJ’s
Department stores are good for more than just getting those staples you already know you need—sometimes, they’re home to the kind of products you wish you’d thought of yourself . For example: the Ogrow Deluxe Portable Greenhouse at BJ’s. While you may have never considered the possibility of setting up a greenhouse in your modest backyard—or rooftop—given the low price of getting starting, it may just be the time to do so.
Burlington Coat Factory
$109.99; buy now at Burlington Coat Factory
Two things that may be a surprise to the uninitiated: the Burlington Coat Factory is neither located in Burlington, Vermont, nor does it exclusively manufacture and sell coats. With over 600 stores spread among the fifty states and Puerto Rico, the department store lists offerings from perfumes to wristwatches. And besides your body, they can help decorate your home, too—like with this imported Nina Table Lamp from a designer who, because of the low price of the deal being offered on the piece, they can’t reveal.
$5; buy now at Five Below
Five Below is so named because everything in it is sold for five dollars or less. Every browse through, then, is more than just a shopping experience but also a lesson in how far five dollars can get you (hint: very) and why you should start saving your small change. The Gradient Wireless Speaker, for example, makes for a great gift, and has all the bells and whistles you could want in a portable speaker: rechargeable battery, reliable Bluetooth, and, most importantly, fun, multi-colored lights. Did we mention it’s only five bucks?
$97.50; buy now at Fred Meyer
Given the deals they’re able to secure for their customers, it’s safe to say someone at Fred Meyer has an in with the designer brands. Just take this Ladies’ Gucci U-Play Interchangeable Watch Kit: with an expandable band and a bezel left open for customization, it’s kind of like buying an infinite amount of Gucci watches, all for less than a c-note.
$103.89; buy now at Kmart
Just because you’re shopping at a department store doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with it. Check out this Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, for example, and try not to imagine the endless summer nights spent pumping out ice cream almost as fast as you and your family can wolf it down.
$107.99; buy now at Shopko
If fully stocking a kitchen with a tasteful collection of bowls and plates for around a hundred dollars sounds to you like a mission for Tom Cruise, think again. The Baum Dalton 16-piece dinnerware set at Shopko, for example, is likely to have your dinner guests thinking they’ve just been seated at the hottest vegan spot in L.A. Little do they know, however, you purchased the set during the exact same shopping trip in which you fulfilled the much less-glamorous task of loading up on tube socks.
$149.99; buy now at Stein Mart
Standing out amongst a crowd can often be a difficult thing to achieve—just ask Waldo. With the Dejuno Parisian Nights Luggage Set, however, being spotted from the tarmac has never been so easy. A set containing three standalone wheeled cases, altogether going for about the price of one suitcase elsewhere, it’s just one of the offerings at Stein Mart sure to catch the eye.
$223.99; buy now at Target
Let’s be honest: when lounging in the backyard, or on the patio, you often don’t want more than one other person—if that—around you to disturb the calm. That’s exactly why the Ft. Walton Steel Patio Motion Club Chairs from Project 62 at Target are the perfect, colorful addition to any outdoor tableau. In handsome, designer colors, and with big, comfy cushions, the chairs—like much else on offer at Target—make sure you get the comfort you deserve, without putting undue stress on your bottom line.
$39.99; buy now at T.J. Maxx
Cross-body bags are hot right now, though perhaps none hotter than the Margot Mini Square at T.J. Maxx. Made with real leather—for the cost of the fake stuff—and in a cute, frill-free design that will go with everything from sundresses to your work attire, it’ll make you wonder why you ever shopped elsewhere.
$38.88; buy now at Walmart
Here’s a sentence you don’t hear every day: let Walmart put a little light in your life. With just a little investigating, however, it’s quite clear that Walmart’s immense variety of lighting options—at mind-bogglingly low prices—are meant to do just that. None, perhaps, more literally than the Sylvania SMART+ Color Smart Light Bulb, a bulb that connects over Bluetooth to allow users to change its color, from among any in the rainbow, remotely or over Siri. You can even manipulate it—if you have the urge to freak out any unwanted guests—while away from home.
$240.42; buy now at Sam’s Club
Everyone knows Sam’s Club is great for small basics, from groceries to toothpaste, but did you know that it can also satisfy the occasional splurge? Just take a look at their Hives & Honey Cabby Jewelry Armoire—with an antique outside, a highly-organized inside, and a gorgeous turquoise finish, the piece looks more like it belongs at a West Elm than a local department store. It’s price, on the other hand, most definitely does not.
$5.09; buy now at Meijer
Department stores aren’t exactly the most relaxing spots on earth. Luckily, this Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom Salt Soaking Solution for the bath, on offer at Meijer for only five bucks, can help you de-stress post shopping trip. And remember: if you don’t treat yourself, no one else will.
$4.50; buy now at Dollar General
Two kinds of people exist in this world: those who wear shoes indoors, and those who will stop at nothing to stop the first group from doing so. Luckily, the comfy Moccasin Slippers sold at Dollar General for less than a fiver can help heal this rift. So do your part—world peace has never been cheaper.
$49.99; buy now at Big Lots!
Going to sleep in a gorgeous comforter set is a great feeling. Waking up the next day and still having enough money in your pocket to get a reading lamp to put beside it is even better. The selection at Big Lots!, fortunately—like this quaint floral and medallion set—offers both.
$79.95; buy now at Loeb’s
You don’t need to be a member of the leisure class to enjoy a little leisure here and there. Like the DoubleNest Prints Hammock at Loeb’s, sometimes it’s actually quite affordable to be treated like the royalty you are.
$22.50; buy now at Stage Stores
In today’s fashion climate, futuristic workout pants—whether you actually work out or not—are basically a must-have. However, all too often, they’re priced as if they’re actually made out of the rare alien-material they’re made to look like. Fortunately, Stage Stores tames some of this madness, offering items like the Nike Printed Mesh Training Capris for less than a SoulCycle session.
$45.00; buy now at Bloomingdale’s
It’s getting colder, which can only mean one thing: beanie season. Luckily for everyone with a head, Bloomingdale’s offers knit caps and other winter gear—like this cute-yet-serious Ralph Lauren Ski Bear Cuff Hat—for a reasonable price. As for how to wear the beanie so it is simultaneously very cool looking as well as effective at keeping you warm, well, that’s on you.
$49.99; buy now at Boscov’s
Ready to get into smartwatches but not quite there to make the monetary commitment required by the Apple Watch? Try the iTouch Smart Watch at Boscov’s—able to connect with both Apple and Android phones, the device is a perfect introduction to the smartwatch lifestyle, without setting you back a few paychecks. It’s also only one of the many designs offered by the retailer, each suited to its owner’s distinct personality.
$16; buy now at Nordstrom
Just because department stores are big and imposing doesn’t mean everything they sell needs to be, too. Take, for example, this cute Good Morning Tiled Soap Dish from Nordstrom—just one of many tchotchkes and accessories offered by the retail chain. While it may not be what your bathroom decorations need to get started, it just might be the final piece that holds it all together.
$7.08/case; buy now at Dollar Tree
Who knew department stores could also satisfy your longing for nostalgia with a drinking glass? One of the many pop-culture-infused offerings at Dollar Tree, this set of green-hued Coca Cola glasses brings you back to the time when sodas were a nickel. Just don’t go around asking for a malt, unless you’re also thirsty for some confused stares.
$79.89; buy now at Home Depot
The Home Depot is primarily associated with large-scale building project, but did you know that they’re also a great place to find all of your storage needs? Take for example, this ShelfTrack White Wire Steel Closet System Organizer Kit. With easy assembly instructions, a reasonable price, and fully adjustable dimensions, it makes you wonder what difficulties in your home can’t be remedied by a trip to this home improvement wonderland.
$119.99; buy now at Century 21
Who says you can’t be fashionable and comfy? Surely no one that’s ever shopped at Century 21 and seen their collection of bargain-priced cashmere, like this Ply Cashmere zip hoodie. Next time someone speaks that kind of blasphemy, just whip this out of your closet and put them in their place.
Sierra Trading Post
$10; buy now at Sierra Trading Post
You never really stop to think about what a department store smells like (hint: somehow, absolutely nothing) but have you considered what a department store could make your house smell like? For example, this Magpie Primitives Root Chakra Candle from Sierra Trading Post. Sure, it comes at a department store price, but don’t be fooled—this candle is far from ordinary. With two wicks and a corresponding crystal to keep you calm once the candle runs out, this ball of wax—with its funky design and outstanding value—could really only rightfully exist at a place like Sierra.
Lord & Taylor
$169.99; buy now at Lord & Taylor
There was once time when, if you wanted some 14-karat gold, you had to start digging underground. Now, thankfully, you can go to your local Lord & Taylor and pick up some reasonably-priced bling, like these 14K Yellow Gold Stud Earrings. While you can’t call yourself a prospector for doing so, you’ll at least end up with a lot more to show for your efforts than most of them did.