How To Shop The Sales Successfully

July 17, 2015

Ginger BurrWe are smack dab in the middle of the summer shopping season and everywhere you look are racks and racks of markdowns and special clearance items. You are either excited to jump in and explore the offerings or you run screaming in the opposite direction and would rather do anything than shop.

If you love the idea of scooping up a great deal during sale season or like the idea of finding a way to navigate it without feeling completely drained, then keep reading.

Below are some tips for making your shopping experience efficient, worthwhile and fun!

Timing is Everything. The #1 rule is to know when to shop. While July and late January into February tend to be predictable sale seasons, in this day and age sales can happen any time of the year. There are two things you want to do to make the most of it:

  • Get on store emailing lists. Do not sign up with every store on the planet. That will be unbearably overwhelming (even I think so!). Find three to four stores you enjoy and keep an eye on when they have their big (or small) sales.
  • Shop early. Go when the pickings are good and that is always early in the sale. If you wait weeks or even days (depending on the store) into the sale you will have only the leftovers from which to choose. Sure, you can still find something (maybe), but your options dwindle considerably.

Loyalty Pays Off. If you have a very favorite store, get to know it and the sales people well. When you are a good customer they will, in many cases, be happy to let you know in advance when a special offer is happening or even set things aside for you to come in and try on.

Don’t See Your Size? Ask! It is so easy to skim through the sales racks and think, “Oh, darn. I really like this top, but it is two sizes too big and I don’t see any others.” Especially in department stores, it is worth asking to find out if there is one in your size. Sometimes someone else tried it on and it is sitting on the overflow rack outside a dressing room or they can locate it for you at another one of their store locations.

Do not be tempted to buy the wrong size (especially not too small!) unless you are willing to have it tailored to fit properly.

Check Online. If you see something you love and you cannot locate it in the store, write down all the details, take a picture and see if you can find it online. You just never know where it could pop up — even eBay.

Be Prepared. I talk to a lot of women who say they run into a store, grab a few things that interest them and wait until they get home to try them on. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you can (and will!) return the items if they do not fit or you don’t like them. Some stores, however, have a ‘final sale’ policy with sale items so best to check before you do that. To make it more inviting to try things on, wear something easy to get in and out of so you don’t mind heading to the dressing room. It will save you a trip back to the store if you find out then and there that something is not a good fit for you.

Try Something New. Sale season can be a fun time to try a new style or trend that has intrigued you. When you get it at a lower than usual price you don’t feel badly trying something new in case it turns out to be a dud.

Go With a Plan. It can easily feel overwhelming to have to search through rack after rack of clothes to find something interesting to buy. Instead, if you go with a plan you will narrow down the options considerably. In fact, wear something you want to complete. Maybe you have a new skirt and you want to find a top to go with it. Or, maybe you need a cardigan to go over a pretty sleeveless dress. While it is very possible you will not find what you are looking for, at least you can be in and out quickly and you just might happen upon the perfect item!

It Is Not the Time to… I know it is tempting to wait until July and the sale season to do all of your summer shopping—especially because the weather doesn’t really get to be summer until all the summer clothes go on sale. But, unless you absolutely love shopping this is not a good idea. First of all, the choices and sizes are greatly reduced and it is a very messy time to shop so it can easily feel overwhelming.

Anything white, for instance becomes harder and harder to find as the season goes along and can be all but impossible as the sale season progresses. I find that the people who wait to do their shopping are generally those who dislike shopping and trying to do it all during the sales just magnifies their discomfort and frustration. Sale season is a time to pick up a piece here or there not to do your full season’s shopping.

The Cure for Overwhelm. If the idea of walking into a department store anytime, let alone during sale season, is terrifying, don’t do it. Yes, you heard me right. There are plenty of specialty retailers like White House Black Market, Banana Republic and the Gap that are much less intimidating or boutiques like The Studio in Brookline or Infinity in Swampscott (two of my favorites) that have wonderful sales. You do not have to feel left out!

Never Buy Based on Price Alone. This one is huge! I cannot tell you how many times I have been in a woman’s closet and she has clothing with tags still on it that she found during a ‘great’ sale. It is not a bargain if you do not wear it. Before you buy (anytime, including during a sale), ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. Is the color great on me?

  2. Does it fit or am I willing to tailor it (yes, even if you only paid $10 for it!)?

  3. What do I have to wear with it (if you cannot complete the outfit, do not buy it!)?

  4. If it were full price would I have given it a second look?

  5. Do I love it and am I excited to wear it?

Have Fun. Shopping during a sale should be like going on a treasure hunt. It should feel fun and not like drudgery. Follow the tips above to increase your chances of success and the fun will follow!

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