Monday, June 16, 2008
Sample Sales 101: Get Savvy
About a month ago I paid a visit to the Catherine Malandrino sample sale in NYC. I always do well there. I once scored a yummy lemon halter dress that I wore to two of my close friends' weddings later that summer. It was a good investment especially since I can’t afford Catherine’s designs at retail. Well fast-forward to the recent sale. I was in the fitting room trying on a sweet purple spaghetti strap number. Frustrated that it wasn’t fitting properly I threw my hands up in angst and was on my way out the door when two of my co-workers asked a salesperson for assistance on my behalf. Not only did the salesperson help me realize that I actually needed a smaller size than the one I originally tried on but she didn’t pressure me to buy anything. Seriously, she was cool as a fan. I paid $95 for the frock and a couple of weeks ago I peeped the exact same dress in Intermix on the sales rack for $295. (Originally tagged at $495!!!)
Are you interested in learning how to really catch a B-A-R-G-A-I-N at a sample sale too? Of course you are! Read on for insider tips from Heide Kennedy, the super-duper sales rep who helped me out with my latest Catherine purchase. With Heide’s help, the NY based company Savvy produces sample sales for cult designers like Tracy Reese, Rebecca Taylor and Vivienne Westwood in addition to Catherine. Read on to find out the best time to attend a sample sale, how nice gals really can finish first and why it is so important to focus, focus, focus.
PPT: What exactly is Savvy and what is your role there?
HK: Savvy produces traditional brick and mortar and online sales. I am responsible for getting the designers to work with us. We just started our online sales in November of 2007. Then of course we have stock sales and the company has been in existence for about ten years. Now we have our own venue which is on 18th street in NYC.
PPT: Will you explain the difference between sample sales and stock sales? I don’t think most people know.
HK: Well, sometimes designers cut too much or stores cancel orders so they [the designers] are left with overstock. This allows the public to buy the product at a lower price. The name "sample sale" has just been coined and has stuck but most of what the general public attends are stock or warehouse sales.
PPT: You mentioned that you work directly with the designers. What is your career background?
HK: I grew up in fashion. My dad had an outerwear company so I was always in the garment district. I went to Parsons School of Design, lived in Paris for a while and I’ve done some personal shopping. I also go to all the fashion week shows and the trade shows.
Me cheesin' at Nassau's One & Only Ocean Club wearing my Catherine sample sale find
PPT: How is the explosion of online sample sales good for indie designers?
HK: There are so many new designers, especially in this economy, who are struggling. It’s hard to survive without corporate backing. There are many designers who don’t have enough units for a traditional sale with us because they’re not a big company. But with the online sales you don’t need that many units so it’s great.
PPT: What are the biggest mistakes people make when shopping at sample sales?
1 - Not being focused. It’s so easy to walk into a sale and get distracted because everything has been marked down. It’s like going into the supermarket hungry.
2 - Not remembering that there are no returns or exchanges at most sample sales. Since this is the norm, more people should make sure they have their desired size and style, color, etc.
3 - Not being organized. Most sample sales have an open fitting room so buyers should be most careful with their belongings and hold onto their desired purchases tightly.
PPT: When are the best times to visit a sample sale to get the best deals?
HK: Well the first day is best to purchase the most-wanted pieces because those always go first. The last day is best in terms of prices because most designers slash their prices on the last day. So I suggest grabbing the piece that you love and must-have on the first day and holding out on the ones you’re iffy about because chances are others will be too and it will get marked down drastically.
PPT: Most savvy shoppers know how important it is to befriend the sales associates in their favorite boutique to get the scoops on new shipments, sales, special events and the like. Would you say this transfers to sample sales as well?
HK: Absolutely. At Savvy, we try to mimic the non-sample sale retail environment as much as possible. We treat our customers the way we would like to be treated so it becomes contagious all around.
These bags and more will be on sale courtesy of Savvy and L.A.M.B. by Gewn Stefani beginning June 18th. Read this for the details. I seriously have my eye on that green one...
If you wanna get in on more online sample sale fun, also check out editorscloset.com (thanks Ben!) and always check dailycandy.com which has some of the best sample sale alerts hands down regardless of where you live.
PPT NOTE: Many sample sales require buyers to check their bags so be sure to carry an oversized wallet that fits your cash, debit/credit card and most importantly a phone to call your best friend before you blow the mortgage money on that fushia, sequin ball gown… Get even more sample sale tips here.