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10 Tips For Surviving Sample Sale Season

Baking cookies, singing carols, decorating the tree and shopping sample sales obviously mean one thing: it’s the most wonderful time of the year! November brought over 75 sample sales, and December won’t leave us complaining either, especially with Lucky Shops popping up in New York City December 6-8. Just this week alone, the J.Crew, Botkier, Alexis Bittar and the highly coveted Rag & Bone sample sales will take place. But with major markdowns come downsides: miserable lines, crowded stores, limited merchandise and anxious customers. We can’t resist a good deal, so after years of firsthand experience we’ve compiled our 10 best tips for mastering the art of sample sale shopping.

1. Do your research.
All missions require thorough research. Sites like Racked often share exclusive sale details as the date nears, but to eliminate stress and surprises, read up on a brand’s past sample sales to get an idea of pricing. It’s always good to know what to expect. Lesson: a smart shopper is not a spontaneous one.

2. Go in with a game plan.
Now that you’ve conducted your research, it’s time to make your game plan. With seriously comprehensive sales—take J.Crew for example—you have to prioritize what you'd like to buy. (Obviously be realistic—this season's sold out pumps probably won't be there.) If you’ve made up your mind that your heart will not go on without last summer’s strappy wedges, stay focused and do not let that shiny strand of pearls distract you. This is a key mistake for inexperienced sample sale shoppers. By being distracted or overwhelmed by all the slashed prices, you may end up with three mediocre things instead of what you really wanted.

3. Scope the scene the day before.
Usually the day before the sample sale opens up to the public, the sale opens early for loyal customers and press. You’d be surprised that often, you can slyly stop by the store without being turned away. If you’re willing and unafraid to face rejection, it definitely doesn’t hurt to preview the merch and get that early bird special.

4. Dress wisely.
With such a high concentration of customers, stores usually cannot provide individual dressing rooms. You should always play it safe and dress for public fitting rooms, and a friendly reminder, ladies, please wear your bras (you’d be surprised what we’ve seen). You never know what you’re going to end up trying on, so leggings or tights with a tunic-length top is a fool-proof combo for even the shyest shoppers to slip on jeans without revealing a thing.

5. Arrive fashionably early.
We’ve all felt that sense of defeat when our favorite fashion blogs tweet and post pictures of the never-ending sample sale lines. But by being early, sometimes freakishly early, you can kindly chuckle at those sample sale amateurs. For sales like YSL or Alexander Wang—which are always built up by the media hype—it’s only realistic to beat the pack if you want to come away with your first choice of merchandise. By being first, you significantly minimize competition and ensure a much more pleasant shopping experience, at least for the first 15 minutes. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll be positioned where you can catch a glimpse of the store and can make an even stronger game plan by seeing where you should run to first.

6. Bring a snack (and a venti soy latte).
Like we said, if you want your sample sale mission to be successful, you have to be an early riser. Long lines are inevitable, so bring a protein bar and a large coffee because the last thing you want is a grumbling stomach to take your focus off of scoring a killer deal.

7. Do NOT be that girl.
Anyone who has been to a sample sale has seen her, but for goodness sake, do not, we repeat, do not be that hoarder! We know it’s hard to resist the temptation when there are 10 YSL Roady’s in front of you, but spread the love of affordable fashion and let a few go. (We firmly believe in fashion karma). No one likes a barterer either, so remember upon check in not to leave your etiquette with your purse.

8. Try it on.
Most, if not all, sample sales are final sale. After the adrenaline rush from snagging a great deal, the last thing you want is to discover your new bodycon dress makes you feel more body-conscious than body-confident. Believe us, we wish we could avoid that claustrophobic public fitting room too, but remember, these are often samples for a reason, so irregular fits, or even worse, snags and pulls, are expected.

9. Be a repeat customer.
Usually when shoppers leave a sample sale, their sigh of relief means chances are they will not be returning for round two. For the most dedicated customers however, a second visit can bring more sizes, new merchandise and even price drops.

10. Shop for a cause.
Come on, you know there’s no better way to justify your spending habits than by supporting a cause! At Lucky Shops, December 6-8 at 82 Mercer St, around 50 high-end and contemporary brands will be up to 70 percent off, and portions of the proceeds will go to the Julian D. King Gift Foundation, as well as Lucky Fund, which will benefit those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Too good to be true? Like we said, a true sample sale master plans ahead, so hurry up and buy those tickets!

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