Love Fashion? Hate the Prices? 7 tips for Sample Sale Success:
The problem: Every stylish New Yorker knows that this city is the center of Fashion. Every day, walking up Madison Avenue in the East 60’s or down 5th Avenue, wherever, one gets inundated with so many clothing options, it’s hard to know where to start!
Not just in the windows, but on people on the street too. New York is one good-looking city.
So, when you see something in the window or on that ‘It Girl’ you admire, you know you just simply have to have it.
You go on a mission to find it, try it on and fall in love with it…
But, one look at the tag, you’re crushed, because this one gorgeous little number is equivalent to your entire “fun money” budget for the month….
What’s a girl to do?!
A solution: Sample Sales! Or, as I like to affectionately call it, “going sample sailing.”
My philosophy is, “you shouldn’t have to break the bank to drop a few jaws”.
As my passion for Fashion continued to grow and I learned more about being stylish, a dear friend turned me on to this little known gem of the New York shopping experience. It’s a great way to build your closet, but, be warned there is a little effort required.
7 things to know for Sample Sale Success:
1. What is a Sample Sale?
a. It is not just samples or sample sizes, usually it’s neither of those. Most often, NYC sample sales are how designers sell off their first quality merchandise from the prior season.
b. For example, a sale in November is selling the prior Spring/Summer collection and one in May is selling the Fall/Winter collection.
c. The sales are often held in warehouse spaces or hotel conference centers.
d. Discounts at sample sales can range from 20% to 90% off retail price and the quality and quantity of merchandise varies as well.
a. Often, they are held the same times every year, so make note of when your favorite brands will be offering huge discounts and mark your calendar (and budget) appropriately.
b. Many sample sales start earlier than advertised— it doesn’t hurt to stop by a couple of hours beforehand to get in line.
c. Usually once you’re in the sale, you can usually stay as long as you need to, but many sales only let new people in when someone leaves.
d. There is often more than one sale going on at a time, so if you want to hit more than one, plan to make a day of it.
e. Shop early for the best selection - Early in the morning on the first day, you are most likely to have the best items to choose from and the best organization in the store.
f. Avoid lunch hour whenever possible - From about 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. sample sales tend to be at their most crowded.
g. Shop late for the best prices - Discounts increase as the last day of the sale approaches -- manufacturers don't want merchandise left over when the sale is over.
h. Some samples sales are ‘private’ and require that you make an appointment, but if you know about the sale and call ahead to get added to the list you should have no trouble.
3. What to expect
a. Successful Sample Sailing requires lots of energy and time on your feet. This is no luxurious shopping experience, you have to find your own sizes, dig through racks, and fight for space in the dressing room (if there is one). Not to mention, you have to carry your finds home.
b. Choose sales that meet your goals. Be open-minded about discovering new designers, but don’t forget about your budget. It’s easy to fall in love with a lot of low priced items, but the numbers add up if you’re not careful, and expensive designers still have expensive sales.
c. Closely check items before purchasing - As the days goes on, items will be picked over. Watch out for a red stamp marked “SAMPLE”, any garment mutilation, faulty construction, general damage, mislabeled sizing, etc.
d. Know when it’s worth it - If it needs repairs but you really love it, good news is that it’s easy enough to replace buttons, fix hems and take in the sides.
e. They WILL check your bags at the door so bring a carry-able wallet and keep your valuables at home.
f. All sales are (usually) final. Make sure you’ve tried everything on and examined your items before you make your purchase.
4. How to Prepare
a. Know thyself - You can’t hit all the sales; you must be strategic. Know what designers cut for your body type. Know your size. Know how to separate the junk find from the treasure find. And, most of all, know your budget.
b. Know where you are going - They are frequently held in raw spaces where there aren't always signs outside to indicate the sale is going on. Know the exact address and floor/suite where the sale is being held.
c. Dress for Success
i. It’s safe to assume that there will not be a private dressing room area, so you must be comfortable changing in front of others
ii. Wear undergarments (or a leotard) that you won't mind other people seeing. I highly recommend nude thong underwear and a simple nude bra with or w/o straps to wear for fittings.
iii. Definitely wear comfortable, slip-on style shoes. You’re going to be wrangling for space and making a lot of clothing and shoe changes.
iv. Leave your accessories and any excess belongings at home. Space and time will be limited, and you don’t want to be ‘that girl’ who’s hogging up the room because she has too many belongings to manage and things to put back on.
d. Bring Cash - While some designers and warehouses accept credit cards and checks, some will only take cash. Not to mention, if you bring a set amount, it will limit over-spending.
e. Make a game plan - In order to not feel overwhelmed by all the choices, I start in the near left corner and make my clockwise around the sales floor.
5. Bonuses =
a. If you know what you’re looking for i.e.: business wardrobe, casual, evening wear, shoes, you can really target your shopping to the items you need and the designers whose styles match.
b. You might discover a new designer or unique piece that becomes the anchor of many new outfits.
c. Its ‘fresh fashion’ - I love quality 2nd hand shopping as well (see my next article), but there’s something to be said about being the first owner.
d. They may only have a few pieces of the item you want, so if you see it, grab it!
e. Don’t be afraid to ask your dressing room neighbor for an honest opinion about what you’re trying on.
6. Downsides =
a. Popular designers make for popular sample sales, be ready to wait on line, fight for space and snatch your favorites ASAP because otherwise it might be gone when you turn around.
b. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s very easy to get sucked in by ‘good deal’ only to get it home, and realize that you have no purpose for it.
c. Sometimes, there's a good reason that an item didn't sell in the stores - it’s ugly. Just because it’s a designer label doesn't mean you should buy it.
d. By the last day, things can end up a little “worked over” and are not even worth the discount.
e. No returns or exchanges, so be sure you love your selections (and would have bought them full price if you could). A discount is only a deal if you actually want the thing!
7. The Big Reward =
a. Style knows no season.
b. “You don’t need to spend a fortune to look like a million dollars”
Next article: What to do when you love a piece but have to let it go (because you’ve been photographed in it). 2nd hand shopping.
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