The doors swing open and you rush through with the crowd, tear through a pile of shoes and find gold…gold designer pumps, that is. They’re your size and a whopping 90 percent off. Success!
Welcome to the world of sample sales—shopping events where retailers sell runway-worn items, excess inventory and slightly flawed products at a fraction of the retail price. Although most often associated with high fashion, sample sales are also popular with wedding-dress designers and the furniture industry. Digital sample sales have brought the trend online.
Of course, such dramatic savings tend to attract large numbers of people. “You have to look at sample sales as a competition,” says Roxanne Carne, a personal stylist based in Washington, D.C. “Get there early and move fast.”
Here are some other secrets on how to do sample sales the right way.
Most in-person sample sales aren’t widely advertised. So Los Angeles–based fashion-and-shopping expert Rachel Richardson keeps her eyes glued to her favorite brands’ social media accounts for news of upcoming sales.
Will you need an appointment? Should you register online? How early should you arrive, and where can you park your car? Also, what sizes will be available? Many sample sales offer limited women’s sizes, typically 2–6 for clothing and 7–8 for footwear. “Every sale is so different,” says Richardson. “But often they’re chaotic. It’s like the Wild West.” Check ahead for all the details.
Dress for Action
Sample sales generally don’t have dressing rooms; if they do, those lines can be very long. But you definitely should try on the clothes, as items can be mislabeled. Fortunately, trying things on in the middle of the hubbub is perfectly acceptable—just remember to wear appropriate clothing. Go with something simple—like a tank top and leggings for women, or shorts and a T-shirt for men—to make it as easy as possible to slip something new on top for size. “Check your modesty at the door,” says Carne.
Stick to Your Budget
Both Carne and Richardson recommend setting a budget. “Find out what the price ranges could be,” says Richardson, “and have an idea of how much you’re comfortable spending.” Of course, you may end up spending more, and that’s OK. But if you don’t find anything you love, advises Richardson, it’s also OK to just walk away.
Check the Return Policy
With most sample sales, all sales are final, so inspect the item carefully before heading to the cashier. At furniture sales, Richardson checks for dings, dents and scratches. Sometimes these defects will deter a buyer from a purchase; other times, they can be used to a buyer’s advantage. “Speak up,” she recommends, “and they may give you an additional discount.” But Carne warns that you shouldn’t purchase anything with significant damage. “You don’t want buyer’s remorse,” she says.
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Read More: Love to save? You’ll like this article about How To Pocket Savings While Bulk Shopping.