One thing I’ve learned since beginning Flattering50: There’s always a women’s apparel sale going on somewhere. Most often, the markdowns are in the 10-50% range. Twice a year, around January and July, the savings go mega—50-80%--when merchants want to unload end-of-season apparel and accessories to make room for the next season's collections. (You'll find a sample of the current sales in my last post 17 End of Season Cyber Sales.) While 50-80% off is very appealing, shopping right after making all those holiday gift purchases might be a little taxing on your patience and your wallet. Needless to say, if you're going to shop, you want to shop smart. So…I did a little research online and talked with my smart shopper girlfriends over 50 and came up with a list of tips. Most of the tips are basic common sense, but a few I hadn't heard before. What's your favorite shopping strategy? Click "Read More" to view my Favorites Over 50 shopping tips and leave a comment with yours. Thanks!
#1: Know Your Wardrobe
With so much marked down, it's best to create a list of pieces you’d like to add to your wardrobe. A blouse reduced by 80% isn't a good buy if you already have two like it in your closet...or if you can't wear it with pieces already in your closet. So....ask yourself: What have I been missing from my closet when I go to put an outfit together? Or...is it time to replace my favorite pair of crepe dress slacks or black pumps? Sales are a great time to plug wardrobe holes and replace worn out pieces.
#2: Think Seasonal Pieces
Since the goal of the mega sales in January and July is to unload end-of-season apparel, those are the items that are going to offer the biggest savings. In January, you’ll find huge savings, for instance, on parkas, boots and cashmere sweaters. In July, it will be swimsuits and summer sheaths, tops and capris.
#3: Determine Your Budget
When the sign above the clothing rack or the banner across your favorite clothing site says “70% off,” you might think: How can I go wrong? To avoid making purchases you'll regret later, think ahead. Ask yourself: What is a reasonable price for each garment on my wish list? For example, if a well-made sweater by a favorite label is 60% off, marked down to $200, I’ll probably snatch it. I wear sweaters constantly and if I take good care of a well-made sweater, it will last forever. By contrast, a blouse marked down to $200 isn’t within my budget because blouses have a limited shelf life. No matter how careful I am, a blouse won't last more than a year and sometimes barely makes it through a season.
#4: Compare Prices Before Buying
You know what brands you tend to buy, right? Well, it’s a good idea to do a little consumer research before you buy. You may find better prices and more selection for a piece on your list at the label’s online site or in the department store. If you don't have time to research ahead, shop with a mobile device and check while you're in the store.
#5: Read the Reviews
Whether you end up shopping online or in the store, online reviews are sometimes useful--especially if there are a lot of reviews, positive or negative.
IN-STORE OR ONLINE SHOPPING STRATEGIES...
#6: Shop Alone
I have a girlfriend who loves to shop with friends. She’s always asking me if I want to go shopping and then out for lunch or dinner. I will gladly accompany any friend on her shopping adventure and have lunch afterwards, but I won’t shop myself. Over the years, I have bought more things than I care to admit based on a friend’s feedback, based on someone else's taste. The garments sit in my closet, price tags still attached. I'd rather shop alone and ask for opinions later, when I'm home and before I snip the bar code. If you're shopping a final sale and really need a second opinion, send a friend a photo from your phone while you're in the store.
#7: Stick to Your Style
Some experts say: “If you wouldn’t pay full price for the item, you shouldn’t buy it on sale.” I’m not sure I agree with that. There are lots of things I know I would love, but just can’t afford at full price. A huge savings gives me the freedom to buy it. To avoid buying something I may never or rarely end up wearing, I look for pieces that match my individual style. I also ask: How versatile is it? Can I wear it more than one season? Day and night? Is it comfortable enough? Can it be layered easily?
#8: If the Trend Matches Your Style, Buy It
The experts will warn you to shop basics at sale time and avoid anything too trendy. They don’t want you to buy trendy because the trend might be short lived. But as 50-something woman, I only care about wearing clothes that flatter me, make me feel good about myself. So…if this season’s “hot” color or fit flatters a woman or reflects her personal style, I say: “Grab it.” The color or fit might not be around next season. I'm not going to stop wearing something that flatters me just because it isn't "in vogue" anymore.
#9: Shop Quality
At 50-plus, I’m trying to downsize the amount of "things" I own. They say the French women shop quality, not quantity. I’m all for that. I don’t ever want to tell a woman she can’t wear a certain style. But I do believe women over 50 look their best in quality-made clothing. Look for quality—natural fibers and expert tailoring, for example. And shop the best labels within your budget.
#10: Shop “Signature Pieces” from Designers
A end-of-season sale--when a high-priced designer frock, handbag or pair of pumps is drastically reduced--is a great time to make an investment purchase. However, if you're making an investment, make sure it's a good one by choosing a “signature piece” by the designer—that is, a garment or accessory that reflects the designer’s unique style. Designers will often include trendy items in their collections, but a trendy garment doesn't retain its value the way a signature piece does.
#11: If it Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Buy It
If the garment or pair of shoes doesn’t fit perfectly in the store, don’t buy it. The only exceptions: Pants and skirts because they can be easily altered for length. Other than a hemming job, the cost of alterations can end up being more than the item was at full price. This tip seems so obvious, I know. But 80% off is very tempting sometimes.
#12: Don’t See Your Size? Don’t Give Up
If you don’t see a garment in your size online or in the store, contact the company or designer. It may be possible to have the piece shipped from the store’s fulfillment center (a warehouse) or from one of the company’s other stores. For example, a boot that can’t be found anywhere in a Northern state, might be available down South. “When a person is ordering online and the inventory is gone from the warehouse, the order gets seamlessly filled from the stores,” notes Ann Taylor CEO Kay Krill. “Previously, it was a loss. Our motto: If she wants it, she gets it.” During end-of-season sales, inventory may be low. But if you really like the piece, it's worth a try.
For more on…
- Shopping designer sales, visit Follow the Bargain Hounds in the New York Times.
- Kay Krill, 57, visit Ann Taylor CEO Reveals Her Most Important Career Lesson in Forbes