Clark Howard’s top 5 retailers to watch in 2018

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Clark Howard’s top 5 retailers to watch in 2018
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Major retailers are closing more than 1,000 stores so far in 2018, but it’s not all doom and gloom for the industry.

For the past week, money expert Clark Howard has been counting down the top five retailers he’s keeping an eye on in the year ahead — and why you should be paying attention to them, too!

“The retailers that are the ones to watch create a sense of value at whatever price point they serve,” Clark said.

RELATED: These major retailers are closing stores in 2018

Clark’s Top 5: The retailers you need to know about in 2018

#5: Five Below

Five Below

Number five on Clark’s list is Five Below, one of the fastest growing retailers in the country, with more than 600 stores in 32 states.

“Five Below is really a brilliant operation and they’re expanding quite rapidly because they’ve found an endless market at $1 to $5 for merchandise,” Clark said. “It gives them a much wider variety of price points that they can sell at versus Dollar Tree.”

What exactly can you find at Five Below? Cell phone accessories, remote control cars, graphic tees, nail polish, sporting goods, candy and seasonal items — just to name a few things.

The retailer caters to tweens and teens, so it poses a real threat to many mall-based stores.

Clark has purchased plenty of stuff at Five Below for his 12-year-old son Grant, but he still manages to find deals for himself like the $5 phone case he once bought.

“They call it Five Below, but really most everything seems to be five dollars,” Clark joked.

Five Below’s pricing isn’t the only thing that separates it from Dollar Tree. Five Below is more about “fun stuff” — not everyday items like cleaning and kitchen supplies.

Although it has a website, the retailer’s focus on expanding its physical stores makes it one to watch this year!

RELATED: Five Below vs. the dollar stores: Who’s better?

#4: Amazon

Amazon

After reporting a net sales increase of 38% to $60.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017, it should be no surprise that Clark is monitoring developments with Amazon closely.

The e-commerce giant comes in at #4 on Clark’s list of retailers to watch as it looks to enter the pharmacy space.

“If you look at the pharmacy business, the most expensive places to shop in terms of chains are CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid,” Clark said. “As Amazon is able to issue prescriptions in different states, they get into people’s heads that they’re the replacement corner pharmacy for prescriptions and non-prescription goods that pharmacies sell.”

CNBC reports that many in the health sector view Amazon’s entry into the pharmaceutical business as inevitable, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Right now, a few dozen members from Amazon’s “exploratory team” are just looking at available options.

Amazon is reportedly considering this new category to boost its Prime membership program that currently includes free two-day shipping, video streaming and other perks.

Prime still costs $99 a year, but its monthly payment option recently increased from $10.99 to $12.99.

New Amazon Prime pricing
New Amazon Prime pricing

“If you look at how they price Prime, it’s just a whisker below what Netflix costs. So as Netflix raises prices, Amazon has room to raise the cost of Prime,” Clark said.

For many, the convenience of free two-day shipping is enough to justify the Prime membership fee. But if you’re not so sure, take our quiz to determine if Prime is worth it.

And if you’re just trying to get the most from your membership, here are a few tips and tricks we discovered:

Clark often points out that Amazon’s prices aren’t always the lowest. Many times, you can get the exact same merchandise cheaper at Walmart or Target — so compare prices before you buy!

#3: Boxed

Boxed

Whether or not you’re already familiar with the #3 retailer on Clark’s list, you’re going to be hearing a lot more about the company very soon!

Boxed.com is a website where you can buy in bulk at warehouse prices without leaving your home.

“They’re the ones that seem to have figured out the price points and the sense of value and convenience that people in their 20s and 30s are really interested in,” Clark said.

It’s been described as “Costco for millennials,” but Boxed doesn’t have a membership fee. Shipping is free on orders over $49 and they arrive in about two business days.

Boxed also provides 1% cash rewards for every purchase and two free samples per order.

Boxed free samples
Boxed free samples

“There’s no annual fee, although I expect as Boxed matures they’re likely going to have to go to some form of annual fee or do like Amazon does where you can shop with them either with an annual fee and get extra privileges or without,” Clark said.

Boxed has a private brand called Prince & Spring. It features high-quality household products like paper towels, toilet paper, plastic cutlery, hand soap, batteries and a few pantry staples.

In fact, Prince & Spring non-slip hangers (35 for $7.99) are one of the company’s best-sellers.

Best-selling hangers
Best-selling hangers

Clark says he believes Costco’s recent improvements to its delivery service are a direct response to Boxed — not necessarily to Amazon, as many people assume.

Now, there are reports that Amazon and even Walmart are interested in buying Boxed. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you want to try Boxed, look for special first-time offers on their website or through apps like Ibotta and Swagbucks.

My American Express card is offering $20 cash back on orders of $75 or more through April 15.

#2: Costco

Costco

Costco Wholesale checks in at #2 on Clark’s list of the retailers to watch this year.

Although a lot of people felt like Costco’s best days were behind them, the company just reported net sales of $12.24 billion for the month of January — up 8.4% from last year.

Clark says Costco is thriving because it remains flexible and is always changing to meet the needs of its members.

“For the first time last year, you could see that Costco finally figured out how to serve their members at Costco.com. They only have roughly 4,500 different items in the stores, but they’re able to use Costco.com to expand the depth and breadth of merchandise they offer,” Clark said. “I think they’re really one to watch as they try to figure out how to serve the online shopper and continue to make themselves relevant for the in-store shopper.”

A Costco membership starts at $60 a year. When we asked Clark’s fans how they save money at Costco, these were a few of the top responses:

  • $100 eye exam and glasses
  • Fuel savings of at least $0.20 per gallon over competitors
  • $4.99 rotisserie chicken

RELATED: 11 ways to get the most out of your Costco membership

To avoid the crowds, never go on the Thursday that the coupon book starts and try shopping during the week when elementary school lets out in the afternoon…

And want to know Clark’s #1 Costco tip? He skips the cart and only buys what he can carry.

#1: Dollar Tree

Number one on Clark’s list of retailers to watch in 2018 is Dollar Tree, the place where everything costs just a buck — and sometimes even less.

Clark says that as long as the discount chain continues to execute its strategy, it’s the most interesting retailer in the country.

RELATED: 10 surprises you didn’t know about Dollar Tree

“Dollar Tree has proven to be a disruptor for so many different businesses. They’re hurting gas station convenience stores, pharmacies, supermarkets and party stores because in each of these categories they’re offering things at a simple price point,” Clark said.

At a time when many retailers are closing stores, Dollar Tree continues to grow. It operates nearly 15,000 stores across 48 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces under the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar brands.

Here are some of Team Clark’s favorite things to buy at the dollar store:

  • Greeting cards
  • Gift wrapping supplies
  • Party favors and supplies
  • Household cleaners
  • Storage containers
  • Kitchen supplies
  • Seasonal items

RELATED: 17 things you should always buy at the dollar store

Clark says the difference from one location to another is stark, so you may want to visit multiple Dollar Tree locations nearby to find the best one.

And if getting to a store isn’t convenient, items are available in larger quantities at DollarTree.com.

“Their business model is so flexible,” Clark said. “For the average American, particularly someone on a budget, they’re my absolute favorite store.”

More Clark.com retail coverage:

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Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.
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