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Cheap Kids Clothes Buying Guide
Between rips, growth spurts, and claims that clothes are too "babyish," frugal families are constantly prowling for cheap kids clothes, especially during the back-to-school shopping season. To help harried parents strike that delicate balance between cost and quality, we hit the stores to look for cheap school clothes for children 7 to 10 years old.
We visited Kohl's, Target, Kmart, Walmart, Old Navy, JC Penney, and Sears to look for a whole list of items including low-cost kids tops and pants, school uniforms, underwear, shoes, boys and girls pajamas, and outerwear.
That said, Walmart, like many other stores we compared, didn't carry everything on our list in store; we had to look for some cheap kids clothes online. A few items on our list (coats, boots, and boys dress shoes) weren't available from every retailer in store or online -- at least at the time of our test, toward the end of July -- so we didn't include them in our totals. The only store that did carry everything you might need is Sears, which totaled $546.40 in our initial shopping cart test. The most expensive store was Kohl's, totaling $705.13. However, the test did not include sale prices or coupons, and many parents favor Kohl's for its storewide sales and exceptional coupons. We were hard-pressed to find anyone shopping at Kohl's who doesn't buy on sale or use a coupon.
The cost of clothing hasn't changed much recently and CNN Money reported in April that clothing prices actually dropped by roughly two percent in March of this year. JC Penney, on the other hand, has gone through a series of price gyrations. In 2012 the retailer hired a new CEO to help revitalize the business. As Bloomberg explains it, the chain instituted drastic price reductions and eliminated most sale events, cutting down to just 12 a year from close to 600. But by spring of 2013, the new CEO was gone and JC Penney had reverted to its earlier pricing ways. According to Time, sales, promotions, and discounts are back, accompanied by rising prices. In our kids clothes price comparison research this year, JC Penney prices fell below those posted in 2011, but not enough to bring the company down from its perch near the top of the pricing order. While Walmart is the clear winner on overall price, no store is truly a one-stop shop for the cheapest kids clothes. Different stores excel in different clothing categories based on a combination of price, selection, and quality. Walmart takes the cake in underwear, pajamas, and pants, while Kohl's wins the dress clothes categories. We found that Kohl's is most often cited by shoppers for generally offering high-quality clothes that rarely fall apart prematurely. Old Navy is a clear winner in both boys and girls tops as well as in discount kids outerwear -- what there was of it, anyway. Old Navy impressed our researcher with the quality of its cheap kids clothes, which also proved durable in a test by Good Housekeeping. JC Penney is the place to shop for discount school uniforms, but Target also offers a wide selection.
Read on for more details of our findings, but keep in mind that each store's offerings, prices, sales, and coupons may differ from location to location and may differ slightly from our original findings.
Back To School Clothing Stores
One word -- uniforms. JC Penney stocks every imaginable uniform item your child would need at low prices that happen to be compatible with high quality. In fact, selection is good in most categories at this venerable department store. Prices, however, are another story. The retailer has whished through several pricing strategies in recent years, with prices moving up and down, and now seeming to be creeping up again, all of which makes consumers wary of a company with a history of high "fake" prices just to makes sale items more enticing (although the discount may not seem so impressive when stacked against other retailers). As for quality, the Arizona brand ranks up there with the best when comparing T-shirts, hoodies, and polo shirts. Customers say JC Penney is a convenient place to shop, especially when buying uniforms.
Everything you need for your child's back-to-school wardrobe can be found in-store at Sears. That's right -- from underwear to uniforms and everything in between, it's all there. But you may pay slightly higher prices for the one-stop-shopping convenience. Still, consumers don't have any complaints about shopping at Sears.
Frugal shoppers say Kohl's offers a wide range of high-quality brands for low prices. While the store placed as the most expensive in our shopping cart test, the coupons and in-store discounts are impressive and help lower prices drastically. In our review of cheap kids clothes, we found that Kohl's kids dress clothes, including dresses and pants, surpass the rest with a large selection of items that should last a while. Plus, the return policy is unbeatable -- completely hassle-free, meaning you can return just about anything at any time with or without a receipt.
Excellent quality jeans and polo shirts at affordable prices make Old Navy a top store brand. This retailer also boasts the greatest assortment of styles in outerwear that we saw while shopping toward the end of July. Consumers seem to like Old Navy; they say the budget kids clothes are well-priced and right up there with the latest fashion trends. One arena where Old Navy flags is its return policy. In certain situations you can only get a store credit mailed to you rather than receiving it on the spot. We also found a very limited selection of budget kids shoes, and pajamas are available only online.
Target outshines the competition in budget kids shoes. It boasts an outstanding selection at very low prices and several shoppers laud the quality. Cheap kids tops also seem to be a good value at Target; fabric used in the Cherokee brand seems quite durable. Most customers seem satisfied with Target's back-to-school options and consider the return policy easy to work with. On the downside, we found a limited selection in certain categories, such as uniforms, pajamas, and dress clothes.
In our shopping cart test of cheap kids clothes, Walmart was the clear winner with the lowest total: $218.36. The store also came out on top in the jeans and underwear match-ups. In jeans, Walmart offers the lowest prices for relatively high quality; the durable fabric is unlikely to rip or fray easily. Many retailers carry the same brands of panties and briefs, training bras, socks, undershirts, and tights, but Walmart sells them at the lowest prices. Customers seem to like Walmart as a place to stock up on these basic items.
Kmart offers shoppers something of a mixed bag. Although jeans are well-priced and sturdy, most tops seem a bit flimsy. Customers seem split in their opinions of Kmart. One mom told us the quality of the cheap kids clothes seems to have improved over the past few years, while others say they don't shop at Kmart because of the flimsy materials used to make the clothing. In addition, the return policy is quite strict.
JC Penney Review
Old Navy Review
Anyone can pull off looking like a hipster without spending big bucks if they know where to shop, what to buy, and how to flaunt the attitude.
Shipping fees for online orders are high but free shipping usually is offered for certain order sizes and through membership programs.