(NEXSTAR) — Is it still a sale if prices were marked up before the markdowns?
Customers at Christmas Tree Shops are accusing the retailer of jacking up the prices of its remaining inventory amid the company’s current “going out of business sale,” and possibly deceiving shoppers who might otherwise think they’re getting a deal.
The allegations against the company came to light on social media, where one TikTok user claimed she found suspicious pricing at a location in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
In the video, the shopper said she and a friend were browsing the store’s inventory when they noticed many of the items had two price stickers — one placed on top of the other. She then said she discovered that the outer stickers showed significantly higher prices than the stickers underneath, seemingly indicating that some of the store’s products were previously sold at more affordable prices.
In one case, the shopper found a set of glassware priced at $38, though the sticker underneath indicated the same item may have cost just $14.99 at a previous time. A sign posted in front of the shelf, meanwhile, touted 10% savings on all housewares — meaning those glasses would cost a customer $34.20 after the 10% discount was applied.
The same video appeared to show similar sticker discrepancies on other housewares items, including oven mitts, a kitchen mat and more glassware.
“Shame on you, Christmas Tree Shop[s]. Shame on you. Marking things up like that and then taking only 10% off,” the TikTok user said, before claiming “everything” in the store — aside from Christmas-themed floor mats — had been marked up.
Commenters on TikTok claimed they noticed the same pricing discrepancies at Christmas Tree Shops in several other states. One Reddit user also noted that a cookie mix they recently bought from Christmas Tree Shops was more expensive than the same mix purchased from the same store last month.
“This has to be illegal,” the Reddit user wrote.
At least a few TikTok users who claimed to be employees further alleged that items at their stores were indeed marked up before the sale.
“For some items yes like household materials and hygiene products but it [differs] from store to store,” one self-identified employee said in response to a pricing question posed under a separate TikTok video.
Several viewers — including one of the self-identified employees — alleged that Christmas Tree Shops may not be responsible for the pricing issue, but rather a third-party liquidator. Another suggested the possibility that prices had been raised well before the company filed for bankruptcy in May 2023, and these higher-priced items simply hadn’t sold in “years.”
A representative for the Lynnfield location declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by Nexstar. A regional manager directed all communications to Marc Salkovitz, the executive chairman of Christmas Tree Shops. Salkovitz did not respond to a request for comment.
Christmas Tree Shops, also known as CTS, is currently liquidating all stores after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year. The company’s official website indicates discounts on the “entire” inventory.
A July press release issued by Hilco Merchant Resources, LLC — a liquidation company — also touted “big bargains” at the remaining 72 stores.
“At the Going Out of Business sales, shoppers can take advantage of discounts up to 50 percent off the lowest ticketed prices throughout the store, with all Christmas and other holiday items being 50% OFF the lowest ticketed prices,” reads the press release.
A representative for Hilco Merchant Resources or its parent company, Hilco Global, was not available to comment.
Christmas Tree Shops currently operates 72 locations in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.