Sunday, January 8, 2012

Strategizing Sale Season

Winter sale season is upon us. In no time we will be seeing those oh-so-wonderful 75% OFF! signs popping up in every window. While you can certainly let temptation and spontaneity be your guide, this is actually a great opportunity to build your wardrobe thoughtfully. There are three keys to tackling these sales like a professional shopper, and I'm going to share them with you! As with any topic in life, knowledge is power. It takes a little preparation to make these sales truly beneficial.
  1. Know your closet.
  2. Know your budget.
  3. Know your stores.
Know your closet.
Taking the time to analyze your closet before shopping each season is really important. First off, you often discover pieces you've completely forgotten about. More importantly, if you know what you have, you can choose items that will mix and match with your current wardrobe, getting you more mileage out of both the old and the new.  But the most vital information you get by taking inventory is knowing what you don't have.

You're going to make a list. Start with your basic staples. Examine them. Do they look old? Are they worn out? If so, put them at the top. This is where you invest your funds first. Then you can start thinking about trends or items you've been wanting and put them in order of importance to you.

Know your budget.
This is, of course, different for everyone, but the same principles always apply. First and foremost, buy the best quality you can afford. A few well made pieces go much farther than a closet full of cheap crap. Keep in mind, that the best quality doesn't mean the most expensive. Just because a garment label has an upscale name brand, does not mean it is better quality than a lesser known but well made line. The second principle was just mentioned above: invest in your staples first. There are 3 things I always am willing to spend money on. Good shoes, a good coat, and good jeans. Your shoes should be comfortable and versatile. Can you wear them with jeans and a button down or your suit? If you can only afford one winter coat, make it a black or charcoal wool coat that buttons, and hits at your mid thigh. This will look great with jeans, but is long enough to cover your suit or sport coat jacket if you need to dress it up. Everyone should own one pair of plain, classic straight leg jeans in a dark denim. They can easily be dressed up if needed but work with your tee and sneaks. Men should also own one staple suit and ladies should have a go-to black dress.  Once you've invested in those items you can spend the rest of your budget on the more trendy pieces.

Know your stores.
This is not obvious to everyone, but you should find two or three stores that work for you and be loyal to them. This has several benefits and is a good rule of thumb whether or not you are sale shopping. Shopping at the same store offers some automatic consistency to your closet. This is how you can get items to mix and match (unless you just have an eye for it). If your store is also a brand, such as Brooks Brothers, most of their merchandise will likely pair well together--even if one piece is new and one is a few years old. But private boutiques offer this too, as they will concentrate their buying on a specific look and consistent brands. The other benefit is that you get to know the staff. This is one thing that online shopping will never replace. A knowledgeable person in the industry, who knows your best style, fit, taste, and budget is one of your best tools in a good wardrobe. You can let them know what you have your eye on and they'll let you know when it comes in or goes on sale. They'll put you in pieces that you wouldn't have thought of yourself, but will surprise you by working into your style. And a really good sales associate will know to be honest with you and tell you when something doesn't look right. (If you are working with someone and everything you put on looks "amazing," they might not be a great person to work with.) This is extra helpful at sale time, because with sale shopping there is always a bit of a gamble involved. You have your eye on that incredible sweater but there are only two left in your size. How far down do you let it discount before snatching it up? If you wait too long, someone else might get it. If you have a relationship with a sales associate, they'll let you know when there is only one left. And finally, as far as sales go, the very best advantage to store loyalty, is that you already know your options. Chances are you've been popping once in a while throughout the season to take a gander at the offerings. So when you are in Step 1 (know your closet) you already know where you will get the items on your list and you won't waste time store hopping. Its a major time saver.

**Extra Tip** One of your regular stores should be out of your price range! You can get a high end item at 75% off for what you would pay full price at a store like Banana Republic. And then you've invested in the best quality you can afford.

There are your steps. If it still seems overwhelming, call your personal shopper (ahem). Are you loyal to any stores? We have readers around the world! Please comment below with where you live and where you shop. Maybe you will give each other some great new resources!

Happy Sale Shopping!


  1. Great tips. We all know that I am a bit biased, but in Portland, Michael Allen's really has the best 75% off sale around. Most of my wardrobe that is actually presentable is from there. The staff is amazing, and you can't go wrong on quality. Great write up lady.

  2. Banana has been a life saver when it comes to overhauling a wardrobe on a limited budget (i.e. being an almost former drummer but needing to look professional asap). I've kept my receipts to gloat - have paid an average of over 60% off full price for every purchase made. My keys have been identifying things I would like to get (a new pair of slacks, a sport coat or a winter coat) and then waiting... and waiting... checking in at the store frequently for one day sales and markdowns. It's possible to get that $225 coat for under $100 if you're patient and combine coupons. I do my winter clothes shopping in the spring and so on. I also refuse to by cheap clothes. They will never last. I've had stuff from Banana that lasts over ten years (including a winter vest I bought on YOUR recommendation back in 2001. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Rhett, that's great! That vest must have been a good omen about my future business!