Thrifty living: The lurking danger of 'find your size and flick through'

"Still overdrawn?" laugh my friends Sara and Andy as we prepare to barge forth on the Regent's Park 10K yomp in gale-force winds and driving rain. It's handy for me that running is one of those sports that is VERY CHEAP that is, if you can ignore the Stella McCartney gear, iPod carriers, Nike wind-proof socks and fashionable Adidas trainers. If you are happy to run in an old long-sleeved T-shirt and some shorts, as I am doing, the whole thing becomes laughably affordable. And hopefully rather chic, in a counter-revolutionary manner.

Yet avoiding brands is tough. They are an ever-present temptation. Just look at the number that pop up every week beside me on this double spread. And yes, I would rather be running in padded Nike running pants and a chic little yellow-and-black Nike jacket. Pathetic, I know. And pointless. During the race, the only outfit in the 300-strong field I actually notice is the one belonging to an older white-haired gentleman. Keep those red trousers in sight, I tell myself. It will get you round.

The day after the race I limp into discount merchandiser TK Maxx, whose entire raison d'être is the power of the brand. With up to 60 per cent off, that is. "Look, an Edina Ronay jacket," says my guide, Helen Gunter, from TK Maxx head office. "Was 40, now reduced to 20. And here, a Ronit Zilkha coat, or Sass and Bide jeans, or look at this! Levi 570 jeans, down from 80 to 24.99."

We wander around the vast Hammersmith store, a shed of clothes organised only by size and hung on endless metal rails. Lift music plays. So, how different is TK Maxx from, say, Primark? "Ugh!" recoils Gunter. "We are absolutely not the same as Primark. We are all about brands!"

Oh, sorry. The TK Maxx model, lifted from its giant US-based parents TJX and Marshalls, is to flog branded clothes at bargain-basement prices. Legions of buyers visit thousands of vendors across Europe that are anxious to off-load stuff: companies in liquidation, such as Ronit Zilkha, or shops hoping to do deals. "We buy opportunistically," Gunter says.

The clothes come in daily to the 220 TK Maxx stores in the UK. "Go to your size, and then flick through," Gunter says. There is no guarantee that you will find what you want, but you might find a bargain. "Some people come in here on a daily basis," says Gunter. Frankly, if I found I was popping into TK Maxx on a daily basis I would seriously begin to worry about my health.

"Look, a Ben Sherman shirt, only 19.99, down from 50," says Gunter. "Men love us because we don't hassle them. They just find their size and then flick through. Look. Yves Saint Laurent. It's all about using brands as a signpost to quality."

We head to the watches and jewellery section. "Givenchy watches," sighs Gunter. She looks about to tell me to "find my size, and flick through". Instead, she gazes ecstatically around the neon-lit environment. "This is not a pound shop. It's about the buzz of getting a great deal."

In the home section, Denby china jostles against Portmerion, and the shelves bulge with towels from poor old Ronit Zilkha and dozens of velvet cushions, all at knock-down prices. "People just come in with an open mind, and pick up what they want," Gunter says.

This free-wheeling notion would be utterly disastrous for a shopper anything like myself. All that keeps me on the straight and narrow is to have a list and to stick to it. However, there are presumably thousands of open-minded shoppers out there: TK Maxx's yearly turnover is 1bn.

Now that we are all riding the credit crunch, TK Maxx probably senses that the time is right for expansion, and has big plans to further invade the high street. "Our main rival is probably a shop like Debenhams," Gunter says. "We are moving away from being apologetically down a side road. In Cardiff, we have taken over a former department store and are right there on the high street." Kids Maxx and Caf Maxx are on the way, as is a departure into golf gear for the likes of Mr Millard, and er, running gear, for the likes of moi.

It may be bargain-basement, but I still advise anyone wanting to keep a hold on their money to come into TK Maxx with a list. "Finding my size, and flicking through", for me, would signal financial disaster.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

    £50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own