Have all of the firesale discounts at major stores started to make your head spin? Don’t know when to shop where to get the best deal? Here’s help.
- It pays to be picky: Haute brand Bottega Veneta knocked 30% off the price of its intrecciato woven bags, selling them for roughly $1,000 — a real deal if you’re a Bottega fan. Still, with sample sales and discounters selling current-season looks for up to 80% off, I’m turning up my nose these days at most fashion discounts of less than 50%.
- Timing is everything: Consider the black wool Balenciaga coat that was selling recently for 45% off at Neiman Marcus. Is that a good deal? To some extent, this depends on whether you can live without the coat. It could sell out at that price. Yet the price could go somewhat lower. It’s not until department stores sell fashion and accessories at 70% off, in general, that they’re selling them at around the wholesale price they paid. After hitting that level, department stores often ship unsold goods to off-price stores such as Ross Dress for Less and Century 21, which sell marked-down goods.
- Target off-price stores, to which manufacturers are selling directly this fall, particularly those near wealthy businesses or residential areas. And go on Friday evenings, right after such stores stock up for the weekend masses: Shoppers report seeing the likes of Prada, Missoni and Helmut Lang in the ultra-low-priced “Runway” sections of T.J. Maxx stores. “With department stores cancelling orders, we’re getting additional brands,” says Laura McDowell, a T.J. Maxx spokeswoman. “They have excess product. They know we pay our bills on time and we can’t return the product.” Richard Jaffee, a retail analyst with Stifel Nicolaus in New York, recently saw Cartier, Tag Heuer and Breitling watches at the Filene’s Basement near Union Square in New York. Century 21 has a well-stocked store near Wall Street in New York. Loehmann’s “Back Room” in Miami is particularly full, Mr. Jaffee says. [Mr. Jaffee] recommends heading to department-store outlets such as Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off Fifth and Neiman’s Last Call. “They’re getting better stuff” than in past years because the parent retailers are doing poorly, he says.
- Go where the tourists are: For years, I’ve found extraordinary bargains at the Saks Off Fifth outlet in Las Vegas. Bob Brvenik, president of outlet-mall developer Prime Retail, says his company’s malls are chock-a-block with luxury goods. The Baccarat outlet at Prime’s Orlando mall recently received a $40,000 crystal chandelier, priced at 40% off. He recently bought himself a Zegna overcoat for $250, marked down from $995, at Prime Retail’s San Marcos, Texas, outlet mall near San Antonio.
- Seek out sample sales: Daily Candy (www.dailycandy.com) often reports on local sample sales. In New York City, check out Soiffer Haskin and Clothing Line — both in the Garment District. Register with the Web sites of your favourite stores and brands. They’ll let you know about “pre-sales,” when you can get the deals before the masses.
- And resale shops: [T]he Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer centre Thrift Shop in New York is sometimes called the Bergdorf Goodman of thrift shops. Its “designer room” recently teemed with luxury goods, including a black and white Carolina Herrera evening gown for $350; a grey tone-on-tone Armani jacket for $150; and, for $1,200, a full-length Givenchy mink coat. “We’ve had an exceptional year this year,” says store manager Anita Askienazy.
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