The 20 Worst Things to Buy at Target
Whether they're low quality or bad deals, avoid buying these items at Target.
Target has long been such a beloved retailer that fans gave it the French-sounding nickname Tarzhay to elevate its status. But while the big box store does have an array of eye-catching and on-trend pieces across many categories, it doesn't necessarily always offer the best deals, selection, or quality on all of these items. We asked shopping and savings experts for their insider tips on the worst things to buy at Target, so you can know which merchandise to pick up elsewhere instead. And for more shopping don'ts, avoid The 20 Worst Things to Buy at Walmart.
It's front and center, colorful, and on trend. But "clothing at Target tends to be one of the worst purchases you can make there, since it is relatively expensive but not great quality or design," warns Stacy Caprio of Deals Scoop.
"You can find much better quality, better fit, and better-looking clothing for similar prices elsewhere," she adds, "so save your clothing shopping for a non-Target shopping trip."
Target's substantial shoe section for the whole family can be tempting eye candy. But buyer beware!
"Target has lots of trendy shoe options, but sometimes they are not that comfortable, and the prices aren't always comparable to the quality," says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae. "They do offer deep end-of-season discounts, though, so if you find a pair that fits well and is on sale, I say go for it!" And for more items to steer clear of when you're shopping, discover The 20 Worst Things to Buy at Costco.
You might be able to find a good summer read at Target, but the retailer is not known for its broad selection of books.
"You'll have much more to choose from at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or better yet, your local bookstore," Bodge says. (And if you shop at the latter, you'll be able to support local, small businesses at the same time.)
Target, like other big box and grocery stores, carries an inventory of gift cards near the register. But you're typically better off shopping at a warehouse club for these, as you'll usually pay less than list price.
"For instance, you can buy a $50 coffee shop gift card at Target for list price or you can take advantage of a warehouse club membership where you could find $100 worth of gift cards for $80, depending on the retailer," advises Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.
Ramhold also advises avoiding making electronic purchases at Target during most times of year if there's not an exceptional sale going on.
"Target's electronics deals aren't that strong throughout the year, but they make up for it around Black Friday," she says. "That's when you'll find name-brand TVs at great prices, special deals on the latest smartphones, and excellent savings on wearables and smart home gadgets." And to make the most of your Target trip, learn these 20 Target Shopping Secrets Only Die-Hard Regulars Know.
Bodge suggests shopping elsewhere for tech accessories, such as cables and chargers. She notes that these tech accessory items are generally priced better at Amazon. Plus, the ability to type in the exact specs for more specialized items can simplify the shopping experience and guarantee you buy the right item for your needs.
Our experts recommend purchasing craft supplies elsewhere to lock in the best deal—as well as the best variety.
"Target might be fine for general art supplies for kids—you'll be able to find Crayola markers easily, for instance—but if you're looking for specific supplies like paint brushes, acrylic paints, stitching supplies, and other craft goods, you're better off heading to a devoted store," Ramhold notes. "Shopping at Michaels or Jo-Ann in this case means you'll have a bigger selection, but you'll also have better luck finding coupons." And for more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Avoid buying bathroom accessories and rugs at Target, because "the quality is cheap and the prices aren't necessarily that great," says savings expert Andrea Woroch.
"I have found a much better selection at discount stores like Marshalls or HomeGoods, or an outlet store like Pottery Barn Outlet, where you can get high-quality materials with brand names for the same or lower price that will last longer—so even more bang for your buck," she continues.
Items From Bullseye's Playground
That tempting dollar section at the entrance to Target stores? Fun fact: It's called Bullseye's Playground. And while the $1 items there can be a score, the higher-priced items are usually better to skip.
"This section filled with fun trinkets has plenty of eye candy and can occupy your kids while you shop," says Bodge. "Many of the items are $1, but some of the items are as high as $5. I have found most things to be pretty low quality, so if an item is $1, go for it. If it's $5, move on." And for store-brand products you'll love, check out the 20 Best Generic Products From Target.
Sure, if you need a small bag of dried fruit, it's fine to buy it at Target. But if you need a greater volume, look elsewhere to save money.
"It's largely dependent on the amount you need, but if you're gearing up to bake a few batches of cranberry oatmeal cookies, you're better off buying dried cranberries at warehouse clubs like Costco rather than Target," Ramhold says. "You can expect to pay around 8 cents more per ounce shopping at Target over Costco, for instance. It might not sound like much, but it adds up quickly."
If you have an immediate need, go ahead and get your batteries at Target. But if you can plan ahead, you'll be better off buying them elsewhere.
"Buying batteries at Target is fine if you're in a pinch or if you're buying a battery that you don't use frequently, but the best deals on batteries can be found when you purchase them in bulk at a wholesale warehouse or on Amazon," Bodge notes.
If you're a devoted java addict, you might want to splurge a bit more for better-quality, better-tasting coffee than Target's Market Pantry brand. Its Classic Roast coffee scored poorly according to Consumer Reports, with tasters noting its bitter flavor and a certain "lack of complexity."
Carter's Baby Clothes
Target sells Carter's baby clothes, but the better bet is to buy this brand directly through the retailer and cut out the middleman.
"While Carter's baby clothing might seem like a steal at Target, buy it direct online at Carter's, or hold out for when Kohl's runs sales," says retail and shopping expert Kristen Gall from the cash-back service Rakuten.
Gall also warns against scooping up party supplies at Target, cute and kitschy though some of its offerings may be.
"You can find a wider selection and better prices at specialty craft stores like Michaels or Jo-Ann," she says. "Plus, they also regularly have major sales and online coupons."
Target's selection of gift wrap is both relatively pricey and somewhat limited compared to competitors offering discount versions, like Marshalls. That said, gift bags that appear at Bullseye's Playground for $1 do represent a good value.
Target can be a great place to buy furniture for college dorms or children's rooms. But it's not the best bet for a larger purchase you hope will endure.
"Unless you're shopping for kids or college students, don't be tempted by Target's cute and trendy furniture," Gall says. "The quality is often cheaper, so you're better off looking for higher-quality items at other furniture stores."
Target rarely has the best prices on picture frames and other home décor offerings.
"You can find similar options for half the price at a discount store like HomeGoods or TJ Maxx," Woroch says. "Also check sales at the craft store Michaels and Hobby Lobby, as you can find many storewide sales as well as coupons for money off."
Target's pricing is generally less competitive on most kitchen gadgets than other big box stores or Amazon, notes Reviewed.com. Consider its research into some sample products, such as a KitchenAid stand mixer, which was cheaper on Amazon, as were Cuisinart cookware sets.
Shoppers who prefer a higher-end product to pamper their pets will probably want to shop elsewhere.
"Because studies show pets need high qualify ingredients in their food for a healthy and thriving life, you don't want to go with any generic store options. And brand names are expensive [at Target]," Woroch says. "You will get a much better deal when you buy bulk packages of pet food from a warehouse store like Costco or Sam's Club, and you can even qualify for a discount when you set up auto shipments of your favorite pet foods from online pet retailers like Chewy."
Black Friday Doorbusters
Black Friday shoppers may assume those Target doorbusters are incredible deals—but make sure you look closely at what you're actually getting before making that purchase.
"Beware of these deals since many of them could be made specifically for Black Friday and made of inferior-quality materials, or electronics that are missing key components or features in order to offer a lower price," Woroch says.