Marshalls, my second-favorite discount retailer chain, is following in the footsteps of T.J. Maxx, and launching an e-commerce site, perhaps in an attempt to survive the forthcoming, oft-predicted retail apocalypse. While anything that allows for the survival of my favorite retail experience is a plus in my book, I’d like to disabuse anyone of the notion that online shopping at Marshalls is or could be good? Giving Marshalls a website defeats the point of Marshalls. This is my battle cry. Hear me out.
The perverse delight of stepping into a Marshalls is not the fluorescent lighting or the abandoned Starbucks Frappuccino you’ll find near the luggage, but the thrill of the hunt. It’s not for everyone; those possessed of a weak disposition and an aversion to disorganization will likely set foot in a Marshalls and feel the immediate urge to leave. For the rest, undeterred by piles of sweaters sitting atop jeans and Fit-Flops, Marshalls is a flea market, but slightly improved: Indoors and climate-controlled. Drifting through a Marshalls on a rainy day when you have to kill 35 minutes before meeting your stepmother for lunch that neither one of you really wants to have is a pleasure I would take from no one—more importantly, it is a pleasure that cannot be replicated online.
Browsing the internet is similar to a flea market, if said flea market was full of garbage and screaming and abandoned online shopping carts. Marshalls, you might say, is similar. Sure, but also, no. The thrill of the hunt in person at a Marshalls is that you truly never know what you might find and you definitely have to be there in person to find out. There’s something very soothing about wandering the aisles of a Marshalls clutching a two-pack of tea towels and a set of kitchen knives that you probably don’t need, and besides, the store itself is part of the experience? Online shopping is nice and all, for when it’s snowing or too hot, or otherwise disgusting out. Going to a Marshalls and looking for a Dutch oven on steep discount and leaving said Marshalls with a new pair of workout tights and a 12 pack of socks is a feeling that cannot be replicated on the internet.
Do whatever is required to keep the company afloat, but do not be fooled: Marshalls must be experienced in real life.