Tuesday, June 12, 2012

16 Warehouse Sale Tactics


I have pretty much given up going to "in store" sales for about 10 years now. Sounds insane? Not really - because if I see another "up to 50% off" sign, I swear I will kill someone.

Why? Because pricewise, with the advent of internet access, in store sales just arent good enough. Even 50% off isnt good enough for me. 

My shopping mainstays are either full price (at the beginning of the season) or ebay or warehouse sales. Warehouse sales are usually at least 70% off and that's the number I like to start at.

In this blog post, I disclose 16 tactics which I have been using religiously for warehouse sale shopping for many many years. 

I have rarely seen anyone else mention most of these, but they are my mainstay techniques for my warehouse sale adventures.

It may be obvious that I LOVE to shop, but for those of you that aren't as enthusiastic, I am not trying to convert you to a shopping lover. 

My aim with these tips is to help you get the shopping task done easier and with less pain.

These tactics are not in any particular order of importance.

Tactic 1: Made for Outlet (MFO) items

If you are at a sale for a brand that has outlets, do your research beforehand about the brand’s normal styles versus its MFO items. 

What’s an MFO?

MFO items never see the inside of a normal store – they are made to stock up outlet shelves (read: volume) and can end up at the warehouse.

I have ever met a staff member who has admitted that MFO items are made on different production lines or with lower standards of quality control. However, do you want to take the risk that the bargain you scored at the sale is one of a gazillion MFO items? I certainly wouldn’t.

Woodbury Common, an hour out of New York, one of the best outlet centres in the world, comprises 400 stores, in a village style format. Shopping there needs careful pre planning as you cant physically visit all 400 stores in a day. I visited 135 stores from 10 am to 9 pm & I was exhausted. But I was as happy as a pig in mud!

Note also, even if the brand doesnt have 
outlets in Australia, they often transfer MFOs from the Asia Pacific region to Australia for warehouse sales. 

Coach is a good example of having quite a bit of MFOs at its Sydney outlet (birkenhead Point) - if there was a warehouse sale for this brand, I'd expect to see alot of MFOs.

Tactic 2: Dress easy


   Wear clothing & shoes that are easy to take
   on & off in the change room. No gazillions of 
   buttons, no hard to reach zippers, no high
   boots, no shoe laces, no high necklines 
   which can only be pulled over the top of your  

   Finally only wear shoes you have broken in so
   your feet dont hurt.

   3. Leave modesty at home
A lot of the best warehouse sales don’t have 

individual change rooms and you have to 

share a communal space and a limited 

number of mirrors.  Be prepared to leave 

modesty at home, wear a leotard or your best 

lingerie if that will help you strip with more 



4. Stay hydrated & energized

Those that love warehouse sales can skip this one. You'll be running on adrenaline all day long.

For everyone else, warehouse sales need stamina – to fight the other bargain hunters, to hone in on what you’re looking for and to manage the frenzy.

Keep a bottle of water in your handbag (make sure the lid is tightly screwed on) as well as some energy food (a packet of nuts or a muesli bar, or two).
5. Go back to school – it’s homework time

  Do your homework before the sale.

(a) Know what you are looking for.
(b) Know what the brand offers in general.
(c) Know what the brand offered the previous season so you can zoom in on particular items at the sale. he previous season can be seen on line or at the stores.
(d) Try the brand’s clothes on at the store so you know their sizing when you are at the sale.

6.  Make yourself a VIP even if you are not

   Find out if the brand has a “press/VIP/trade” opening ahead of the publicly advertised times.
   Press/VIP/trade sessions are not advertised.
   Even if you’re not in these categories, just call the company & ask to clarify the press times. You’ll realize pretty fast if they don’t have a press time and if they do, they will give you the times, assuming you are one of them. Trust me on this.

7. Use social media

Sign up on Facebook to Like every designer you actually like.
  That’s in addition to getting email or text notifications from places like Miss Confidential, OzSale etc.

Sounds like message overload? Not if it’s a designer or brand you love. It’ll be worth every penny when you snare goods you adore at ridiculously reduced prices.

   8. Can't decide? Leave it

This is crucial and simple. No exceptions.


Just like when you are shopping for anything in any fashion store, if you are “uuming & aahhing” for longer than 30 seconds, put it back.

If you need to send a photo to a friend to get a 2nd opinion, put it down & run fast in the opposite direction.

Warehouse sales are so caught up with women in a “bargain frenzy”, that the adrenalin takes over from the rational brain, causing bad decisions.

  9. Know thyself

  (a) Know your best & your worst colours  
  (b) Know your body type & what suits it

   I talk about this in my blog all the time. 

   It's crucial.     

  10. Grab everything in sight, then decide

As a result of the “bargain frenzy” – grab everything in sight that you remotely like, as soon as you see – then sit in corner and cull. 
   For delicate items,  I grab two or three (all the same size) – because when you get to the change room or in good light, often they have pulls or snags, so only one of them is viable. By the time you return to the racks to pick up another, the others would have disappeared.

I will also often grab one size up & one size down (in the biz, this is called "bracketting") because when I return to the racks, those sizes are gone too.

  11. The early bird

   Get there early.  

   Firstly "early" in respect of the opening day.

Don't be shocked - early can be hours before the doors open especially for coveted international brand sales such as Hermes (4 hours prior), Gucci (3 hours prior), Jimmy Choo (1 hour prior), David Jones Boxing Day sale (I was there at 1 am for a 5 am opening) or Belinda etc. 

that's me 2nd in at the DJ's Boxing day sale one year when I arrived at 1 am for a 5 am opening

  Anything special or one off will disappear in the first 10 minutes, no scratch that, in 3 minutes (as the fist person walks through the room).
  Secondly "early" on any particular day. The benefit here is that everything will be organised & easy to find. Its not just that items will be taken, its that they will be picked up & laid down all over the place such that you wont be able to find them even if you tried. 

  If the door is glass, spend time peeking through it to get the lay of the land. If you're 10th down in the queue, ask the person behind you to mind your spot, go & peek, then go back & tell them what you saw. 

eg: Hunt Leather and Camilla & Marc are usually in small premises with glass doors.

  12. Samples

Lets talk about samples. Samples are the one thing that tends to disappear fast because they are one offs.

Most warehouse sales have their samples on a separate rack and priced at ridiculously low prices. 

Samples can be ready made garments from other brands which gives you something unique.

They can also be garments made up by the brand to test fit and/or be used as samples for the makers – in which case they are made with special care as they act as a  quality benchmark. 
   Samples can be, but are usually not made in the basic/classic colours.

   Depending on what you are looking for, plan when you will attack the sample rack ahead of the sale.

eg: If you desperately want a black cashmere sweater at the Banjo & Matilda or the Jac+Jack sales, then its not a good idea to attack the sample rack first.  Go directly to the main racks as the classic black sweaters are likely to go fast from those racks. 
  eg: If on the other hand you need a sweater with an interesting pop of colour or pattern, this will be harder to find on the ordinary racks - scan the sample racks earlier than if you were looking for the black sweater.

13. Make friends - customers

Most of the time there will be a queue to get in, even if you got there hours prior to the doors opening.

Use the waiting time to make friends - all these women who are equally enthusiastic will exchange details with you about sales they know about and anything they have heard about the stock at this sale.

14. Make friends - staff

If you are in the queue to get in before the door opening time, you will notice the staff may pop out to have a smoke or get a snack.

Flag them down & ask about the layout of the room, the types of goodies in there (shoes, bags, clothes, mens, womens etc).

eg: So if you're looking for a dress, they can tell you that the dresses are at the back or the right side so you can charge in that direction as the doors open.

eg: If you're looking for a suit at the Carla Zampatti sale, they may tell you that the suits are broken down to jackets in one area & skirts or pants in another. 

eg: If you have big feet, the Sambag staff can tip you off as to whether they have large sizes so that you may choose to concentrate your initial efforts on the cashmere items.

This kind of r
econnaissance will help you navigate the sale faster and get what you want before someone else does.

15.  Stalking can be OK

If you see someone at the sale clutching something you want, dont ever, let on that you like it or want it. Just watch them & if they put it down, grab it. In this case, stalking is perfectly OK, in fact, recommended.

Depending on how big the sale is, you may decide to ask a sales assistant if there are others of this coveted item. Keep this conversation very very low key. Why? Because if the other lady gets wind of it, there is no way she is letting the item go. That's human nature. When you know someone else wants it, you want it even more.

16. What if you hate shopping?

If you hate shopping, let alone frenzied warehouse sales, either stay home & be prepared to pay full price or stick to store sales.

Warehouse sales are trecherous territory & are likely to cause you to make mistakes which will then hang in your closet and create guilt for you. You dont need that.

The best alternative for someone who hates to shop is to take someone with you who:

(a) loves to shop; and

(b) has a fashion eye like a hawk; and
(c) understands what you are looking for, because you have communicated this to them - dont expect them to read your mind, no matter how well they know you; and

(d) you have communicated your budget to; and

(e) wont be distracted by their own likes.


16 tactics in no order of importance.

If I had to summarise I'd say the most important are homework, know thyself, get there early & if you cant decide, leave it.

If you want to read an article about my sale adventures, try this one....


What are your thoughts about my tactics?
Have you been using any of them yourself? 
Do you think you might try some of them?

Also if you have any sale tips, I'd love to hear them.

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