01/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How To Buy All Your Holiday Gifts At Going-Out-Of-Business Sales

Many people greeted the recent news that several major retailers are going out of business by pondering what this means for the broader U.S. economy. Those people make more money than I do. Big bankruptcies mean big sales, and for me, the timing couldn't have been better. Armed with a few clippings from the Wall Street Journal and a sense of dignity as slender as my checking account, I set out to see whether I could find suitable presents for everyone on my list at liquidation sales--the cheaper, the better.

Steve and Barry's
The first stop on my bankruptcy bonanza tour was Steve and Barry's, known primarily for selling college T-shirts and downscale clothing lines by celebrities like Venus Williams, Amanda Bynes, and Stephon Marbury. Earlier this year, word that Sarah Jessica Parker would be creating a line for Steve and Barry's occasioned admiring coverage from the New York Times, which praised the company's ambitious but bare-bones business plan. By late November, the company had announced it was liquidating all of its stores.

The first sight that greeted me at a forlorn S&B's in midtown Manhattan was a shelf full of battered wooden hangers. Previously used proudly to display Michigan Wolverines sweatshirts and FDNY tees, these little pieces of retail history were now on sale, five for $1. They seemed positively overpriced, however, compared with some of the other stuff on offer. T-shirts were on sale at the cut rate of two for $13. The selection, however, wasn't fabulous. Determined to take advantage of the twofer deal with an Ohio State (I'm from Cleveland) and a Georgetown (my sister's a Hoya), I was left swimming in a sea of XXXL disappointment. Why couldn't anyone on my list have gone to Fordham?

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