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

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

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TJ Maxx and Kohl’s both had a ton of cluttered sale racks.
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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

  • 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.

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.

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


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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…and t-shirts were as low as $7.99.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There were also inexpensive dish sets…

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The back of the lower level carried pet products…

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The clearance racks pretty closely resembled TJ Maxx…

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…and they were all over the store.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The handbag selection was almost identical to TJ Maxx.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was also bedding, towels, and home decor…

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…and seasonal decor.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler