Cybelesays Special Report: Sample Sale 101 – How to Navigate the Madness
Have you been to a sample sale before? They’re pretty common on both coasts and I’m sure in most cities around the country. Sample sales are usually comprised of overstock items, pieces that may have not sold as well as they hoped, or items that never even made it to the line. And you’ll find them in all categories: clothing, furniture, jewelry, shoes, makeup and beauty products; probably every category of product out there has had a sample sale at some point.
I’ve been to my fair share and have some tips on how to get the most out of one. The pictures I took in this feature were with my iPhone from one I went to back in December for the Steady Clothing line at their warehouse in Santa Ana, CA, which is about 1 hour from me. Yup, I will make the drive for a good one! It seems that there is a surge of the quantity in November or December but I know they do take place all year and they usually on a Friday and/or Saturday and/or Sunday. But of course they can vary.
I tend to shop best at sample sales by myself as I can maneuver around quickly and not waste time checking with someone or worse yet, looking for my partner in crime because we’ve become separated! Time is so important at these things, as even a few seconds can mean scoring or not scoring the bargain of the century! So if you go alone or with a friend, I recommend a few things before you even get there.
1. Check their website to see what they already have on sale on their site. Chances are you will see most of it at the sample sale. And some of the time a brand will only advertise their sample sales on their website and/or mailing list so make sure you are on the email list of your favorite brands so you don’t get left out.
2. Map out exactly where it’s located, the route you will take, and if you can, where to park.
3. Will they take credit cards or is it cash only?
4. See what the buzz is like on the social media platforms. Are people talking about it or is the company plastering ads everywhre? If so, expect a line. I’ve seen lines clear down one city block before! But sometimes a brand will anticipate the turnout to be big and make accommodations like having it in a large space, so more people can be inside at one time. This doesn’t happen enough and most just have them in their showrooms or stores and it can just get crazy.
So a coupla’ things you should leave at the door. One is your manners, or better yet, don’t even take them with you that day! There can be pushing and shoving and a little mayhem at some, especially if they are from a well-known designer that may only have a sample sale once a year.
Another thing to leave at the door if it’s a clothing sale? Your dignity. Since the dressing rooms are usually small and will have a line, if they offer them at all, most people, including myself, will just stop and drop trou right there to try something on. Waiting in any line inside a sample sale = wasted time = missed out on bargains someone else got. If you are squeamish about changing in front of other people, then make sure you have a clear understanding of your measurements and what works and doesn’t work for your body.
Now, what you should wear when you go to a sample sale. If it’s clothing and they allow trying on, plan to wear items you can take on and off quickly like flip flops, a mini skirt etc. Basically the less clothes you have to take off, the more you can try on.
My biggest recommendation? Bring your essentials in a cross-body bag. I can’t stress how important having both your hands free can be. And really, you don’t need to bring in your makeup, hairspray, day planner and anything else you carry around in that too big purse every day. You need to be light on your feet and light on your feet means a light purse.
Once inside, try and get a grip of your surroundings. I can’t tell you the elation of finally getting let in a sample sale you’re excited to go to, especially if you had to wait in a line. So be sure to scope out the whole room to see what the layout is. Where are the items you’re most interested in, located? Is everything on sale in one room or multi-rooms? I like to get a lay of the land and go see where everything is before I start looking closely through the racks.
Also, if you see boxes randomly on the floor with a sign that says “everything in here $5,” etc., give those a quick once through as you will probably find really good bargains in them.
One thing I learned in the past year is to ask someone who is working there if they are bringing out more stuff or if what is out is it. You should definitely ask this if the sample sale is going to take place over two days. I’m not really a fan of them bringing out new merch throughout the day or even the next day because then I get the what-ifs, as in, what if they bring out that one dress I wanted? So be sure to ask.
And one other thing I’ve started doing if I’m waiting in line to get in or to pay is to talk up the most in-the-know looking person near me. They usually know of other sample sales coming up or could be a great connection for you for future ones.
Do you have any tips for getting the best out of a sample sale? What’s the biggest bargain you scored?