Wednesday, April 01, 2009

closeout

I've used my tried-and-tested 'click randomly in the email inbox' method to choose today's topic. Australian Bec moved to the US temporarily (she may well have moved back in the time it's taken me to respond) and found:
I am seeing the word closeout in shops everywhere, online and 'real'. I understand from context that it means something like clearance, but can you tell me if it is an American term, or just a new word or if it is common everywhere and I have just missed seeing it before? It sounds really odd to me.
The OED informs us that Bec is not unobservant--it is an American term and it means clearance (i.e. the selling of a line of stock or a shop's contents until there is no stock left). The OED covers the verb form to close out or , but they note that it's also used as a noun (or an absol. in the OED's vocabulary):
b. To clear out (a stock of goods); to wind up (a business); to sell or finish off. Also absol. U.S.
The examples in the OED mostly have pronouns as the object of close out, and the pronoun goes between the verb (close) and the particle (out), as in close it out. If the object is a full noun phrase, my spider senses tell me that you could put it either before or after the out--but the longer the object noun phrase, the more likely it would be to go after the out. In my experience, though, the noun closeout is currently more common than the verb to close out. That is, I'd be more likely to say They're having a closeout on Acme widgets, rather than They're closing Acme widgets out.

On the noun front, one might say that it's a closeout or a closeout sale. Wikipedia tells me that in the US there are things called closeout stores, which are dedicated to selling off ends of product lines. I've never heard that term (perhaps it is industry jargon), but the same phenomenon exists in the UK--except instead of (US) TJ Maxx, the UK has TK Maxx.

And on that note, I can close out this entry. Or close this entry out.

20 comments:

Zhoen said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that it is related to "closing out the books" as in winding up the accounting for the year in preparation for taxes.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, the cash register must be "closed out" by extracting the permanent record of the day's activity from it somehow, and comparing the register's idea of how much cash it's supposed to have in it with the actual contents of the cash drawer. (Or, at busier stores, each cashier will have to do this at the end of her or his shift.)

Anonymous said...

There's also the other sporting use of the phrase, 'to close out the game' 'close out the set', etc.

Picky said...

Unless I am totally out of touch ( which is probable) the "closing out" of the cash register is known in the UK as "cashing up" to those who actually do it, and "till reconciliation" to those mighty folk who are aware of it only in the abstract.

lynneguist said...

When I worked in retail in the northeastern US, one 'cashed out' at the end of the day, rather than 'closing out'.

Jonathan Bogart said...

Both "close out" and "cash out" for the same action are familiar to me, on the periphery of retailing.

One thing I'd mention that might be misunderstood by UK readers is that "clearance" is just as common (if not more so) in the US as "closeout." It's not an exclusively BrE term.

EB said...

Is "reduced to clear" used in the US as a synonym for "on clearance", or is that UK-only?

I would refer to "cashing up" the till.

Jim said...

I am not familiar with "reduced to clear" in the US. Somehow, too, there is a sublte, perhaps regional, difference in clearance and close out and in my region of the Southern US "clearance" is more commonly used. When I think of the two terms, "clearance" is more of a temporary term whereas "close out" has more finality. The sports-related use of the words "close out" is very common in baseball or in sports where individual play is emphasized.

Sili said...

Aren't those stores called "outlet shops" in Britain?

lekkermeisje said...

Here (Austin, Texas), one can also 'close out' a bar or restaurant tab at the end of the evening when you want to pay. I say this quite often, as I usually leave my card behind the bar since I rarely have cash.

Elizabeth said...

Well speaking of bars, for me "closing out" a bar would be staying until closing time.

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Picky said...

And talking of closings and bars, I'm reminded of the infamous custom of the "lock-in" (UK) when legal opening hours have passed, but the pub landlord locks his doors with some customers still inside and still drinking. Does this still happen after the loosening of the licensing regulations?

Anonymous said...

Another US term that we've been hearing a lot of in the UK now due to the recession which I find totally alien is 'foreclosure'. I still don't know what it means! I'm guessing it means 'repossessed'?

Doug Sundseth said...

As a former (long ago now) chain retail store manager, we would close out the registers and cash out the drawers.

Closing out the register wrote a record of the day's sales from that register to memory and sent it to corporate. Cashing out a drawer required a printout of the sales on that drawer and reconciling the amount in the drawer with the expected amount.

fauxklore said...

A closeout store is pretty much what used to be called a job lot. Most dollar stores are like that - they buy closed out merchandise and sell it inexpensively.

Foreclosure is repossession, but is used only to refer to real estate in my experience.

Roger Owen Green said...

(US Albany, NY) I agree w Jim. Closeout is a store going out of business - KB Toys, Circuit City, e.g. a/k/a liquidation sale. Clearance sale is reducing the price of some products to make room for more stuff.

BUT I have seen people use the term closeout more loosely, as a synonym for clearance.

BTW, a story on a closeout gone awry: Customers Burned In Circuit City Closeout Sale

JW said...

A closeout store would be called an outlet store in the Midwestern US. I've even been to outlet malls, where the stores are outlets for major department store chains and expensive brands.

lynneguist said...

Outlet stores aren't really the same as closeout stores. They often offer goods at a reduced price because they come direct from the manufacturer, not because they're closing anything out. The outlet malls that dot America often sell goods that are made expressly for sale in outlet malls (there was an exposé on this on one of the news magazines some years ago...)

Roger Owen Green said...

Word Verification is furin, which refers to the difference between, e.g. British English and American English; one is furin.