You will recognize the sale sign no matter where you are in the world – the white and red combo has almost a hypnotizing effect on most women, regardless of what language it is written in. After seeing countless wardrobes over the last decade, I can tell you one thing for sure – sales are single-handedly responsible for more than half of useless bulk you have sitting in your wardrobe. The 4 magic letters have an incredible power to put our sensibility to sleep and before you know it, you are heading home with something you don’t need and don’t love, but hey, it was a bargain. The whole bargain mentality changes our shopping habits twice a year and before we know it, we are the not-so-proud owners of things we probably would have never bought at full price.
However, when you shop in sales the right way, it is a complete game changer. For me sales always spell opportunity. It’s that perfect chance to acquire something great without having to pay the full price. The key words here are ‘something great’. I don’t go hunting for bargains; I go looking for perfect additions to the wardrobe at bargain prices. Feel the difference?
If you approach sales strategically, you can update your wardrobe at just a fraction of the price but with quality that won’t disappoint you.
Below I have put together my top tips on how to shop in sales and not have any regrets!
Have a List
Don’t go near the shops unless you know clearly what your wardrobe requires and have a specific shopping list. While wardrobe reviews are great at the start of the season, they are a must-do before sale shopping. Look for current gaps in your wardrobe as well as coming-soon gaps (for example,you know your good jeans are on their way out or your white t-shirt is not white any more and will need a replacement soon).
Set the Budget
Decide how much you are going to spend in sales and stick to it. If you are not sure how to go about setting the budget aside, read this post and this one about planning your budget and allocating the finances.
I usually start putting money aside for sales about 2-3 months in advance, especially when it comes to winter sales. That way you get to update your wardrobe without taking any money out of your current budget.
Raise the Price Range
While sales shopping might sound like a great opportunity to buy dirt cheap stuff, strategic sales shopping is not about spending little but rather about finding great quality at a much lower price point. So start your search in the shops that are normally out of your price range. I usually visit them during the first wave of sales as well as during the final reductions. I bought an incredible amount of pieces at just a fraction of their rather high full price and paid only 20-30 euro more than I would have if I bought a similar item on high street at full price. This might sound like you are not saving any money since you are spending more or less the same amount as you would spend normally any way, but what you are actually doing is a long-term investment into your wardrobe at a much lower price point. So yes, you are saving massively!
Start with the Basics
Sales are a perfect opportunity to replenish and upgrade your staples that are starting to look tired. So make sure you pay particular attention to those during the wardrobe review and put them at the top of your shopping list. These are things that might not be very exciting to shop for but you need them on a regular basis. If you don’t replace them during sales, you will end up paying full price for them during the high season.
Also, if you feel there are staples missing from your wardrobe that could be a great addition, pop them on the list as well.
Be Careful with the Trends
It might seem like a great idea to buy something that was bang on trend all season at just a fraction of its price. But here is what you have to consider – the season is almost over and your window of opportunity to wear your trendy item is very limited. Come next season, the trend can be long gone and forgotten. If you think you’ll get some wear before this happens – go for it. But if you ask yourself how much longevity this item has and can’t give a reasonable answer, it’s best to go home empty handed that with something that will see the daylight only once or twice.
Look for Inspiration
Don’t wait for inspiration to hit you in the stores as you are browsing through the rails. What will hit you there is overwhelm and poor judgement. Take some time before the shopping trip to look through Pinterest,Instagram, magazines, lookbooks, etc. for ideas on how to style things that you already have in the wardrobe. You might discover colour combinations, silhouettes and accessories you haven’t thought of before. Among these looks you might come across a great piece that will bring a lot of variety into your current wardrobe. What do you with it? That’s right, pop it on the list!
Don’t shop at Weekends
If you want to be productive, stay away from the shops during the weekend. Crowds everywhere and mess on the rails will wear you out before you know it. If you have no choice, start as early as you can and give yourself about 1.5 – 2 hrs max. After that your judgement will get clouded and you’ll settle for things that you shouldn’t settle for. Ideally, try to get your shopping done during the week days.
Sales shopping is not retail therapy. You need to be focused as you are shopping with a mission. That means kids, friends, momma bear, sisters, and whoever else you might usually be tempted to bring along – everyone stays at home! I would actually recommend doing that for any kind of shopping, sale or no sale. Unless that particular person is coming to cater purely for your needs and knows what works for you, everyone is going to be a distraction that you could do without.
Check the Return Policy
While returns are pretty straight forward in the majority of the shops, this is not always the case for sale shopping. You don’t want to be bringing something home to have a proper look at it just to realize that you can’t get a refund and are only tied into a credit note or exchange. So always double check before buying!
I’ll be doing a separate post on all do’s and dont’s of online shopping, but in the sales scenario a lot of stock can be quite tired looking and often damaged after being on the rails and tried on for the whole season. I can’t stand clothes stained with foundation and fake tan, so the best thing to do in that case is look for the item online. Try the size on to be sure about the fit and simply look for it online. You’ll get the fresh item delivered to your door! This approach works very well during the first wave of sales when selection of stock is still pretty good. Order as quick as possible. I usually don’t even wait till I get home and order right there on the spot. I’v been disappointed a few times when I came home and tried to order something I got my eye on just to discover my size sold out.
I know what works well in my wardrobes and what my perfect staples are, so am always on the lookout for those during sales. This is your opportunity to bring new colours and fresh silhouettes into your wardrobe even if that means you won’t be able to wear them now. For seekers of instant gratification looking for items they can’t wear now might be a very difficult thing to do, but next summer or autumn are going to come sooner than you think and you’ll be delighted to have fresh pieces that are there to rely on.
In summer sales stock up on holiday must-haves even if your holiday is not till autumn/winter. You’ll need these items anyway but they will be way harder to find and you are guaranteed to pay way more.
In winter it’s your perfect chance to get a new coat or superb quality boots. I always stock up on cashmere as I live in it during cold monthes so can never have too many.
Shopping can often feel like a workout session at the gym with all the running around and trying things on. To keep your energy up, bring a bottle of water and some healthy snacks to keep your energy up. I usually don’t take a break as my energy levels are not the same after sitting down and relaxing so prefer to get everything done in one go. However, if you are shopping for more than 3 hours at a time, make sure you take a break for a quick bite to keep you going.
To make the trying on process as effortless as possible, wear something that is quick to take off and put back on. I wouldn’t recommend wearing a dress as it is hard to judge the fit of tops when you are standing there in a pair of knickers. Wear a pair of comfy jeans/trousers and a top that doesn’t require much work to take off/put back on.
Wear your good underwear and by good I don’t mean fancy lingerie. Wear something that gives you good support and will serve as the perfect foundation under anything. Nude is the best colour to go for and preferably with no lace detail.
Stay Away from Sales Assistants
At the risk of being crucified by anyone working in fashion retail, I will urge you – don’t get sales assistants involved in your shopping process (the only exception is asking for sizes/colour alternatives). They are there for one reason – to sell. While hardly any of them study to get better understanding in personal styling, most possess admirable skills of bulldozing. I spend a lot of time in the fitting rooms and on the shop floor and observe sales staff in their ‘natural habitat’ on a daily basis. Everything always looks wonderful for them and you are guaranteed to go home with something you’ll later regret. I am not saying that all sales assistants are like that, but you don’t have time to be finding out who has a great eye and who doesn’t so trust your own judgement!
How to Navigate Your Way in the Shops
Merchandising during sale is pretty basic – all sale stock gets thrown onto the rails either by the type of item or by size. If you don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by crowded rails, you’ll find your way around quickly enough.
Start filtering things out by the type of item and colour.
Let’s say you are looking for a grey t-shirt. Dresses, coats and jeans are no good for you for very obvious reasons. Colour is the easiest way to spot something so combining the type of item with colour will help you get through the bulk of stuff very quickly.
Can you see now that without the shopping list searching by the type of item becomes impossible? If you were not convinced by having the list before, hopefully you are now.
Once you found an item that ticks your box on the type and colour, check the fabric. If you are looking for cotton, everything else becomes useless. You don’t even have to take the item off the rail to figure that out! Only when the colour and fabric come together, should you look properly at the cut and proportions of the piece. If it ticks the boxes of what you are looking for, only then will you take it to the fitting room.
To save yourself time and effort, always bring two sizes to try on. Getting assistance when shops are busy can be quote a challenge so come into the fitting rooms well prepared!
Don’t be Afraid to Go Home Empty-Handed
You might have come to the shops beaming with enthusiasm, your list in hand, your phone full of saved looks from Pinterest, your bag full of snacks, in your good knickers and comfy shoes.
Does that guarantee you’ll go home with all the right pieces? Of course it doesn’t.
You just have to accept that sometimes the items you are looking for are not there at this particular time. All you have to do is keep an eye out on them on your future trips. Sometimes no result is a good result if that means you are not spending your budget for the sake of it and are not bringing home useless items that will only be cluttering up your wardrobe.
I hope you’ll find these suggestions helpful and sales shopping will no longer be a stressful pursuit. Keep your sensible hat on and remember that a bargain is only a bargain when you need it!