Sample Sale Savvy
Once upon a time, a sample sale occurred when a manufacturer sold off the sample inventory that their salespeople used to show buyers. The samples were produced and shown a season or more ahead, but not sold until the actual season arrived. Usually only people ‘in-the-know’ were privy to such sales. Typically, there was only one size to sell (the ‘sample’ size – usually size 8).
Fast forward to present day. When a designer or manufacturer ships their merchandise to stores, there is usually leftover inventory. This leaves them with two options: 1) to sell their leftovers to an off-price store or 2) to have a sample sale where they can sell directly to the public for their normal (sometimes below) wholesale prices. Today’s sample sales barely resemble the sample sales of yesteryear, but rather look like a warehouse or stock sale, with a wide variety of styles and sizes.
With that in mind, sample sales offer us a wonderful opportunity for buying current (or sometimes past) season clothing at a substantial discount. How can you best maximize these shopportunities? What follows are some helpful tips.
Call ahead to check hours of operation, sizes and method of payment (some only take cash; others only credit cards). Find out if new merchandise will arrive daily. Familiarize yourself with their return or exchange policy. (Usually there isn’t any, so that’s why these types of sales are best when shopping for yourself.)
Dress smart and leave your inhibitions at home. Most sample sales don’t have try-on rooms (or they are communal), so wear a body or bathing suit for modest try-on. Wear a cross-body bag for hands-free shopping and ease of movement. (Side note: keep a watchful eye on your bag and all valuables when changing.)
Strategize and do your homework. Check out the designer or manufacturer’s website to get a feel for what their current season looks like and what might be included in the sale. Shop the first day for the best selection; the last day for the best prices.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate, especially if it is the last hour on the last day or if you will be purchasing a substantial amount of merchandise.
Remember to bring the address with you (including the floor or suite), as there may not be signage on the outside of the building.
If you are wondering where you can find out about sample sales in NYC, check out racked.com, Sample Sale Avenue or Top Button. If you don’t live in NYC or another metropolitan area, no worries. A whole host of companies – like Gilt Group, Rue La La, etc. – offer fantastic sample sale shopping without ever leaving home.
Remember to shop with your head, not over it. And, of course…have fun!