17 July 2013

Bang for your Buck: Tips for Designer Shopping

Shirt: Acne
Pants: BCBG Max Azria (old)
Booties: Jeffrey Campbell - here and here
Shades: Forever21 (sold out) - but similar here

Today I want to share my Top 10 Tips for acquiring discounted designer duds. Almost every designer item I've purchased were through sales or second hand. I usually aim for discounts above 30%, but depending on the item any discount works. Without further ado...

1. Check, and double check the return policy. While you're at it check ALL of the policies! This is especially true when shopping online; which for me is 99.9% of the time. Nothing is worse than spending upwards of $100+ on something only to find out you cannot return the item because it's one: final sale, or two: passed the allotted time period for returns. OR you didn't follow the return directions correctly. For example, some online retailers require an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) before shipping an item back. So. Read. Everything. Carefully. Also, it helps if you are able to return in-store - such as purchases from big retailers like Nordstrom, Gap, Macy's, etc., instead of having to ship. Which brings me to number 2.

2. Shipping. More specifically free shipping. Aim for retailers that give you free shipping; nowadays shipping is free both ways. If an item of interest is unavailable in your size while shopping in-store, ask a sales associate to check other stores. If it needs to be shipped ask and INSIST that it be free. Don't be afraid to ask or negotiate; as the customer a lot of retailers value great customer service to keep you coming back. 

3. Look for coupons or coupon codes. Check online sites like RetailMeNot where discount codes or coupons for shipping are shared between users. Use Google to make sure you didn't miss other codes or coupons. 

4. Know and memorize your measurements (size). Another important necessity for shopping online. Most of the time online retailers provide item measurements. If you know your measurements you can easily have an idea of what size to get. Keep in mind that not all designers stick to the same sizing standard so familiarize yourself. If you want to be even more proactive, go and try on items made by your favorite designer (or designer of interest) in store. Get a feel of their sizing. What may be a size 2 with one designer can be a size 4 or even 6 in another. Same goes for shoes. Read the item description or product reviews to find out whether the shoe runs true-to-size or not. Again, try going to a store and trying on different shoe designers. 

5. Sign up for email notifications or newsletters. Check if the designer has their own website and sign up. Use Google to find boutiques that carry items from your designer (or designer of interest) and sign up there as well. This way you'll be notified on upcoming events or sales.    

6. Stalk the item of interest. My first weapon of choice is a wonderful website and app called ShopStyle. It's effectively a fashion search engine. With just a few clicks you can have all the stores that carry your item in front of your face. You can save items under 'favorites' and be notified once they go on sale. Be aware though, they only consolidate certain stores. My second weapon of choice would then be Google. A few times I've encountered a situation where an item I want is on sale, but no longer available in my size. Call and ask another retailer that carries the item in your size if they would price match. Almost always they oblige. I've also had instances where an item not on sale from one retailer price-match against another retailer that carries the item on sale.

7. Sale section. This is a no brainer. When you're shopping go straight to the sale section. I know it sucks that a lot most of the time your size is sold out. But that's why you follow numbers 5 and 6 to do everything possible to get first pick. If not, again, ask a sales associate to check other stores.  

8. Become friends with your Sales Associates. They will notify you of any upcoming sales or events. And I'm not talking about any sale...I'm talking about pre-sale!  Your local sales associate buddy will call you when a pre-sale is coming up so you can get dibs before the sale even goes live to the public. Outside of pre-sale perks, most associates can and will go out of their way to help you with your hunt.  Last year, my sales associate moved rivers and mountains to make sure I had a dress that I needed last minute. She over-nighted the item from a different store free of charge. And when I went to pick it up it was steamed and ready to go!  

9. Recycle and Reuse - Online consignment or consignment stores. Probably one of my most favorite ways of acquiring designer duds is through consignment. One woman's trash is another woman's treasure. With consignment stores I can bring my items I no longer want, sell or put them up for consignment, then use that money to purchase other used items. Don't limit yourself there. Online consignment ups the ante; now you have nationwide items up for consignment available at the touch of your hands. Check out Vaunte, Shop Hers, and my favorite The RealReal

10. Designer Outlet Stores. Many of the big name retailers have outlet stores that sell last season's collections or even current season items to make way for the upcoming season. Neiman Marcus has Neiman Marcus Last Call. Nordstrom has Nordstrom Rack. Saks Fifth Avenue has Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th and so on. If you're signed up for email notifications you can receive notifications of further reductions. Also, check out The Outnet which is an online outlet retailer of big sister Net-a-Porter

Phew! So there you have it. As you can tell, my currency print Acne top brought on the inspiration; scored on sale, of course. So happy hunting; I would love to read how you scored your designerwear on discount!

Photos by Henessey