We shopped at TJ Maxx and Kohl's to see which store was better, and the winner was clear for one key reason.

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We shopped at TJ Maxx and Kohl's to see which store was better, and the winner was clear for one key reason.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

TJ Maxx and Kohl's both had a ton of cluttered sale racks.

  • TJ Maxx and Kohl's are the places to go to find everything from makeup, to clothes, home decor, and back to school gear.
  • Both stores are doing well right now, with TJ Maxx reporting comparable sales were up 6% in the most recent fiscal quarter, and Kohl's reporting a comparable sales increase of 3.1%.
  • There are a few obvious differences between the stores, most notably that TJ Maxx is an off-price retailer, while Kohl's is a traditional department store. After visiting both, we found that the two stores had a ton of similarities, but one had more to offer than the other.

TJ Maxx and Kohl's are the places to go to find everything from makeup, to clothes, home decor, and back to school gear.

The stores are well loved by shoppers for a number of reasons, including the low prices both stores have on a huge variety of products.

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Both stores are doing well right now, with TJ Maxx reporting comparable sales were up 6% in the most recent fiscal quarter, and Kohl's reporting a comparable sales increase of 3.1%. For both TJ Maxx and Kohl's, this was the second consecutive quarter of growth for the brands.

TJ Maxx and Kohl's are both able to avoid the troubles faced by stores in malls. In large part, this is because most TJ Maxx and Kohl's stores are in suburban strip malls rather than shopping malls. This makes them less likely to be affected by the declining foot traffic that has hurt malls and the retailers that depend on them.

There are a few obvious differences between the stores, most notably that TJ Maxx is an off-price retailer, while Kohl's is a traditional department store. However, after visiting both, we found that the stores were similar in many ways - the styles and quality of the products were nearly identical, and neither was laid out in a particularly great way.

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But one store was better than the other for a key reason:

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The first store we went to was TJ Maxx on Wall Street in Manhattan.

The first store we went to was TJ Maxx on Wall Street in Manhattan.

Right near the entrance were backpacks and back to school deals on t-shirts and jackets.

Right near the entrance were backpacks and back to school deals on t-shirts and jackets.
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The beauty department was a highlight of the store. It carried a ton of name brand products for under $10.

The beauty department was a highlight of the store. It carried a ton of name brand products for under $10.

Most of the clothes were under $30, but many of them were wrinkled.

Most of the clothes were under $30, but many of them were wrinkled.
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There were long aisles of business casual clothes for under $25. There was definitely a lot to choose from, but everything felt very cluttered.

There were long aisles of business casual clothes for under $25. There was definitely a lot to choose from, but everything felt very cluttered.

A lot of styles were mixed together, making it feel like it had a treasure hunt experience. Even though there was a lot crammed into a small space, you never knew what you were going to find.

A lot of styles were mixed together, making it feel like it had a treasure hunt experience. Even though there was a lot crammed into a small space, you never knew what you were going to find.
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Heavy coats sat across from pajamas and slippers, and the aisles were very narrow.

Heavy coats sat across from pajamas and slippers, and the aisles were very narrow.

Prices were low across the entire store. A pair of jeans cost $16.99...

Prices were low across the entire store. A pair of jeans cost $16.99...
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...and t-shirts were as low as $7.99.

...and t-shirts were as low as $7.99.

There was a huge variety of handbags and wallets, and everything was either on clearance or had a low starting price. But there were bags tangled up and tossed all over the floor.

There was a huge variety of handbags and wallets, and everything was either on clearance or had a low starting price. But there were bags tangled up and tossed all over the floor.
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There was an accessories department, but it was definitely underwhelming. There wasn't a huge variety to choose from, and it was too cluttered to comfortably walk through.

There was an accessories department, but it was definitely underwhelming. There wasn't a huge variety to choose from, and it was too cluttered to comfortably walk through.

The store also had a men's department, but there wasn't as much to choose from as in the women's department.

The store also had a men's department, but there wasn't as much to choose from as in the women's department.
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Downstairs were kitchen staples like spices, olive oils, pots, and pans.

Downstairs were kitchen staples like spices, olive oils, pots, and pans.

There were also inexpensive dish sets...

There were also inexpensive dish sets...
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...and products like Tupperware and plastic water bottles. There was a little bit of everything, and definitely enough to stock a kitchen.

...and products like Tupperware and plastic water bottles. There was a little bit of everything, and definitely enough to stock a kitchen.

TJ Maxx was already setting up for Halloween, and had two large display with decor that cost under $20.

 TJ Maxx was already setting up for Halloween, and had two large display with decor that cost under $20.
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It also sold home products like bedding, bath mats, and towels.

It also sold home products like bedding, bath mats, and towels.

The back of the lower level carried pet products...

The back of the lower level carried pet products...
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...and toys. It was a mess, and was just shoved into the back of the store. It didn't look thought out at all.

...and toys. It was a mess, and was just shoved into the back of the store. It didn't look thought out at all.

Overall I found the store to be very messy and cluttered, but it carried a huge variety of products and had very low prices. Plus, the treasure hunt experience made it enjoyable to shop at.

Overall I found the store to be very messy and cluttered, but it carried a huge variety of products and had very low prices. Plus, the treasure hunt experience made it enjoyable to shop at.
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I went to Kohl's next, in Jersey City, NJ.

I went to Kohl's next, in Jersey City, NJ.

Right away, the store was much bigger, brighter, and cleaner than TJ Maxx.

Right away, the store was much bigger, brighter, and cleaner than TJ Maxx.
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The store was a lot bigger and brighter, but most of the styles were pretty similar.

The store was a lot bigger and brighter, but most of the styles were pretty similar.

Even though the store felt less cluttered, the layout wasn't any better than the TJMaxx store.

Even though the store felt less cluttered, the layout wasn't any better than the TJMaxx store.
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The starting prices were higher, but nearly everything in the store was on sale.

The starting prices were higher, but nearly everything in the store was on sale.

The back to school products were a bit harder to find. Neither store was laid out particularly well.

The back to school products were a bit harder to find. Neither store was laid out particularly well.
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The jewelry and accessories were about the same price and quality as TJMaxx, but the layout was much much better. Everything was easy to see, and there was a huge variety to choose from.

The jewelry and accessories were about the same price and quality as TJMaxx, but the layout was much much better. Everything was easy to see, and there was a huge variety to choose from.

The men's department at Kohl's was equal in size to the women's department and children's department, which wasn't the case at TJ Maxx.

The men's department at Kohl's was equal in size to the women's department and children's department, which wasn't the case at TJ Maxx.
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The prices were much higher for the same quality, but everything was on sale.

The prices were much higher for the same quality, but everything was on sale.

The clearance racks pretty closely resembled TJ Maxx...

The clearance racks pretty closely resembled TJ Maxx...
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...and they were all over the store.

...and they were all over the store.

The handbag selection was almost identical to TJ Maxx.

The handbag selection was almost identical to TJ Maxx.
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And although the beauty department was laid out to more closely resemble a traditional department store like Macy's, it carried similar products at similar prices to TJ Maxx.

And although the beauty department was laid out to more closely resemble a traditional department store like Macy's, it carried similar products at similar prices to TJ Maxx.

Upstairs I found the back to school section, that had less of a variety for a higher price.

Upstairs I found the back to school section, that had less of a variety for a higher price.
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There was also bedding, towels, and home decor...

There was also bedding, towels, and home decor...

...and seasonal decor.

...and seasonal decor.
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There was a similar selection of kitchen staples as TJ Maxx, though everything was a bit pricier.

There was a similar selection of kitchen staples as TJ Maxx, though everything was a bit pricier.

Kohl's did have the advantage of an electronics department, but the product selection was small.

Kohl's did have the advantage of an electronics department, but the product selection was small.
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Even though Kohl's was much less cluttered and a nicer environment to shop in, the prices were higher than TJ Maxx for products of the same quality, and even though the store was bigger, it didn't seem to have any more of a variety to offer than TJ Maxx did. TJ Maxx was cluttered, but it was less expensive and had a greater variety of products, making it the winner.

Even though Kohl's was much less cluttered and a nicer environment to shop in, the prices were higher than TJ Maxx for products of the same quality, and even though the store was bigger, it didn't seem to have any more of a variety to offer than TJ Maxx did. TJ Maxx was cluttered, but it was less expensive and had a greater variety of products, making it the winner.