Showing posts with label TJ Maxx/Marshalls event. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TJ Maxx/Marshalls event. Show all posts

AJ Wright Shopping Challenge: Bring It!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I first learned the term off price shopping when I went to Boston last year for the TJ Maxx/Marshalls event. A few weeks ago, I got an opportunity to learn a little more about it in the form of a shopping challenge. AJ Wright, another store under the TJX Group of stores, emailed and asked if I'd be willing to take a $100 shopping challenge at their new store in Norwalk. Me? Take a shopping challenge? Does the Pope wear Prada?! 

I decided to make a day of it and pulled Tyler out of school early. I dropped him off to spend the afternoon with my dad because we hadn't seen him since the holidays. The store didn't open to the public for another few days so we had it all to ourselves. We learned a bit about how AJ Wright is different from TJ Maxx and Marshalls, their commitment to the communities where they open stores and their model search contests, and then they let us loose.

Armed with $100 and 2 hours to spend it wisely, I went all over the store. AJ Wright has the same departments as TJ Maxx and Marshalls so I was able to look at bedding, bath items and kitchen stuff. I decided to be selfish and stick with clothes and shoes for me.

I did really well. I bought 4 tops, one skirt, one pair of shoes, 2 Star Wars guys for Tyler and a shirt for Phil (Happy Father's Day!) and only went slightly over budget.

I asked if the stores will have better seasonal selections. One thing many of us said at the TJ Maxx/Marshalls event was that those of us in warm climates get frustrated when the sweaters and jackets start showing up in August. AJ Wright has fewer stores to buy for and can tailor the selections a little better for the market the store is in. I should have asked if there will be A and B stores the same as TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

AJ Wright is compared to Old Navy in terms of where it fits in to the TJX group of stores. I can definitely see that as true. The prices at AJ Wright were lower than TJ Maxx/Marshalls (which is hard to do!) but I could tell the quality on some items isn't the same and there weren't as many designer labels as I can find at TJ Maxx or Marshalls (though there were designer names in many of the departments).

At the event with me:
Amanda of Mommy Mandy
Ashley of  Me and My 3 Kids
Caryn of Rockin' Mama

Thank you to AJ Wright and SBC Advertising for such a fun afternoon!

You can see the rest of my photos on Flickr.

*AJ Wright gave me $100 to spend in the store as well as transportation to and from my father's house.

Advice for Newbies: Attending Blog Conferences

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Even though I'm not a seasoned conference goer I did learn a few things (read: made a lot of mistakes) from going to BlogHer and the two trips right after wards that I hope will help other newbies:

Your carry-on
My dad works for the TSA so I asked what I could do to speed up the security check through process. I bought an airport approved laptop sleeve and everything went into ziptop bags: cords, chargers and flash drives in one, breath mints, tissues, a pen, compact, lip balm, travel size hand lotion, a few individually wrapped Wet Ones and a granola bar in another. All my makeup went into the checked bag (I saw someone fighting to keep her expensive foundation - she lost). After all that caution it was my banana that got me pulled me aside! I wore my lace-up tennis shoes for comfort's sake and it was a pain. This time I'm wearing slip-ons with Peds and carry a pair of fuzzy socks.

Carrying your stuff around at the conference
I was fortunate to have TJ Maxx and Marshalls as sponsors and bought a laptop shoulder bag on one of my shopping trips. It was stylish, fit my laptop and had many pockets. But holy pedometer! I wasn't thinking about the amount of walking I would be doing. 

Between the laptop, cords, camera, Flip, notebook, my wallet, water bottle, snacks and things I picked up along the way, my bag was HEAVY. My neck and shoulders were killing me by the end of day one. I ended up transferring everything to the backpack I got at the Mom Select suite and it worked out so much better. It didn't 'look' nice (in terms of fashion) but it was much more practical and saved my hide when I was 10 pounds over my luggage weight limit for the flight home.

Extra bags
My mom suggested I take an extra duffel bag with me and I'm so glad I listened to her. She had several small, foldable handle bags that zipped closed and she let me borrow one. 

Again, totally necessary when I was over my luggage weight limit. I moved my dirty laundry to the zippered duffel and made it my second piece of checked luggage. I prayed it wouldn't open and my undies would would be all over the conveyor belt. In addition to a small bag I'm also planning to bring one of my re-usable shopping bags.

Business cards
I had plenty to take with me, but what I didn't do the first day was carry enough on me. I borrowed a Gucci wallet from my mom because it's nice and slim. I thought it would be perfect for carrying my cards and storing the cards I received rather than just dropping them into my bag. It didn't quite work that way. I gave out all the cards I had on me and the skinny wallet was bulging after the morning speed dating session.

For Blissdom I'm going to carry a lot more cards on me (your conference badge has a pocket, keep some cards in there, too) and probably be tacky and keep a ziptop bag to store all the ones I receive. At least they'll all be in the same place and I won't be gathering cards from all my pockets at the end of the day. If you don't have cards yet, get to ordering! Plenty of sites offer free cards. I had those last year and was kind of ashamed not to have professionally designed ones, but I definitely wasn't the only one. Don't be embarrassed, it's not a big deal.

A lightweight wrap
I am ALWAYS cold (case in point, I have a room heater going at full blast at my feet as I type). BlogHer, the General Mills tour and MarMaxx event were in July and August and though the weather was nice, it was freezing in the conference rooms! 

(Katrina from Fickle Feline and Alli from Mrs. Fussypants. 
Sorry to Tricia and JoLynne, PicNik cut you off! )

I purposely stashed a wrap in my bag at all the events and I'm so glad I did. The wrap I have only covers my shoulders. I wish I'd chosen a slightly wider one, but I still plan to take it with me to Blissdom and Disney since it travels really well.

Contact information -keep it handy
I am pretty anal when it comes to details. I had every itinerary, contact sheet, flight schedule and parking reservation printed out. Those things were in my email too but several airports had really bad free WiFi that I couldn't access at all. If I'd relied on having access with my laptop or iPod Touch when I missed my flight to Boston, I'd have been screwed. I also sent the info to my mom, dad and Phil, just in case (See? Anal).

Don't forget to update all your Apps (especially the flight tracker if you have it) and download all your books and movies. I finished my book on the flight in to BlogHer and refused to pay airport prices for a new one.

If you're new to blogging as well as the conference scene, Melanie has a great post with links to other articles that will get you started.

If you have a tip for attending conferences or trips please share it!

TJ Maxx Marshalls Back to School Event

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The MarMaxx event (TJ Maxx/Marshalls to you) was really fun. I didn't go in expecting to learn a lot but I did. The off-price shopping concept takes a lot more planning than I imagined. It was nice to hear from the buyers and find out how they do their jobs and how they are able to bring items into the stores so frequently to keep the inventory fresh.

We got to tour the purse closet (I could have died from all the pretty-ness), the shoe racks, see some of the items in store for kids' back to school, see a few of this year's Halloween costumes (so cute!) and there was a fashion show with looks put together by celebrity stylist Art Conn (currently working on American Idol). I did not know that TJ Maxx is celebrating a 25 year partnership with Save the Children, which provides basic necessities for impoverished children (read more about the initiative and how your .99 can help here).

I enjoyed listening to Michael Macmillan, the company President speak. It was obvious he was not in it just for the paycheck. He, and all the other company employees, really seemed to have a passion for what they do. He was very down to earth and approachable. Which is why I felt a little guilty putting him on the spot with a question about diversity.

I don't remember how the conversation with Alli Worthington started, but I told her the Women of Color session at BlogHer was my favorite. She asked if being the only black woman there was uncomfortable for me. I said no, that I'm used to it. I also said that some people are not OK with taking on the role of "the token" but I don't mind. If it takes me being there to get a dialogue started I'm happy to take on that responsibility, as long as it's not the ONLY reason I'm there. So, I asked the CEO about the male to female ratio at the executive level and how diverse the company is. I commend him for his honesty ("we're not as diverse as we'd like to be") and appreciate that the company has programs in place to help them achieve a more diverse work environment.

(One of the buyers had these on, I covet them!)

I had no qualms about asking a similar question of the people representing the advertising agency. Around the room were posters of their back to school campaign. I think I may be getting cynical in my old age, but often it feels to me as though ads are very calculated, as though someone on the set was saying, "No, this won't work. All these children are white. Someone bring me a few brown children, right away!"

Of course, that's my own bias and it could very well be completely false, but it's how I feel. Anyway, I approached Stacey (who is SO nice!) and said, "same question about diversity for you." I told her that, as a parent of a bi-racial child, it's important to me that my son see himself in the places I choose to spend our money. He's too young to pick up on it now, but he will. Looking at the posters, I saw only one child he'd be able to identify with.

I also played Devil's Advocate and asked about children with special needs. Stacey said they have a whole campaign centered around the charitable programs the TJX companies are involved in. To that, I said putting children with special needs in "their own" ad campaign sends out the wrong message. They are kids first, kids with special needs second and there's no reason why the only time they should be acknowledged in ads is when the message focuses on how they are "different" from other children. 

Then I stepped off my soapbox.

Even though I didn't win the Gucci bag or Coach shoes (sob!) I still had a fabulous time. Thanks so much to Laura McDowell, Michael Macmillan, Denise Vitola, Naomi Borno and Stacey DeFino from Ogilvy, Victoria Taylor and Brian Brunskill from Rocket XL and anyone else who made our trip possible!

View the rest of my photos on Flickr.

*TJX paid for my airfare, lodging and meals as well as provided gift cards and a gift bag. All opinions are my own.
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