If you’re someone who loves a good
shop, making the most of your retail experience is nothing short of an art
form. Knowing when the sales are, where to find the choice merchandise, and how to get the best samples are all incredibly important. It can make a difference of hundreds
of dollars and can turn you from a casual buyer into a trusted, loyal friend
of the store (and friends always get the best deals).
Each store is different, though, and
there are strategies to learn for everything from high-end makeup to budget
footwear. To up our shopping game, we asked nine New York City salespeople to give us the inside scoop on how to shop like a pro. You'll be surprised by what they told us.
"You can take back anything
you bought (for store credit) without a receipt, as long as you have an I.D. A lot of people are afraid that if they open something, they can’t bring it
back, but Sephora is really good about working with you to find the right product (hence the store credit).
"Also, please engage the
salesgirls when they come up to you (even if they seem annoying), because
they really do want to help. The biggest question to ask is, 'What do you have on
sale right now?' because the discounted items are usually strangely located
and interspersed among the full-price stuff. And, always ask for samples. You can
get three samples from each section of the store, and often they’re nicely
sized. The associates can really hook you up."
"The most common mistake our customers make is buying rings that are too
big, because they get self-conscious and think their hands are large or
ugly. For example, I tried to put a size six on a customer; it resisted a tiny
bit at the knuckle, and she got embarrassed and insisted on the seven, even
though the six was better. Your ring should fit snugly (especially a midi-ring), and
your hand will adjust to it slightly; a ring should never be loose. Also, if it’s
a ring you’re going to be wearing often (or every day), invest in solid gold
because a) it never needs to be taken off and it will not wear (unlike
plated), b) it will never depreciate, and c) it won’t stain your fingers. It’s
more money up front, but very worth it when you consider that even the thicker plated rings
will rub off eventually.
"A lot of people don’t know that we carry things besides jewelry,
including a lot of more boutique makeup/skin-care products that are really
popular and hard to find, like our Rituel de Fille line or Jao Goe Oil.
"Lastly, always shop weekdays if you can. We get really swamped
on weekends. And, since our designers are in house, we really try to listen to
our customers’ wants and respond to them, and you’ll be able to talk to us a
lot more during the week."
—Stephanie, Leo, and Amy
"Two things are really important when it comes to designer
shopping if money is at all a concern: 1) consistency and 2) tailoring.
Many high-end designers have a signature dress, shirt, suit, or accessory that they
put out on a yearly basis in slightly different colors or patterns. Spend a day
in a store like ours and find the signature item that really works for you. There is a reason a lot of older women end up
with 40 flawless shift dresses in different colors; they found their look and
accumulated many variations of the piece over the years. Once you know the cut and size that is right for you, you can then look for it on eBay or at consignment stores and outlets.
That item will likely never change, and there are probably 70 different colors and patterns
of it floating around online for cheap.
what makes wealthy people look better, not the clothes themselves. If you only own five outfits, but they’re all perfectly tailored, it's way better than having 50 that
don’t fit you right. Any time a store offers complimentary (or severely reduced) tailoring, jump on it. Taking it to a third-party tailor will almost
always be expensive, so take advantage
of a store's in-house tailoring.
"Lastly, a lot of our clients come in during weekday afternoons
to meet with our stylists or preferred sales associates. So, even though there
will be fewer people in the store overall, you may find it more difficult to meet with
someone one-on-one (and it’s always worth it to get a stylist or associate’s
help when shopping for designer clothing). I recommend weekend evenings before close, or
early mornings during the week, if you want someone’s undivided attention."
"The Gap runs promotions of 25% to 40% off the whole
store very frequently; during transitional seasons, like fall and spring, it occurs almost every weekend. (Note: You’re better off shopping on a weekend, since that’s
typically when the better promotions are.) Also, Gap.com and Gap store locations
run completely different promotions, and the online ones are usually better. If
you find something you like in the store, check online before buying to see
what kinds of deals they’re offering. On a normal day, Gap.com offers at least 20% off your
purchase or other promotions on select items.
"Many people don’t know that Gap offers price adjustments within seven days of a purchase. That means that if you buy something (even if it’s already on
promotion when you buy it), and it gets marked down
even further, you can bring in your receipt
to get refunded the difference.
"At the end of every fiscal year (January or February), Gap phases
out products like denim, khakis, and workout pants with newer versions. If you shop during those months, the 'old' products are
usually sold for half the regular price, even though they are pretty much
the exact same as the new versions. The beginning of the year is a great time
to stock up on those types of things.”
“I worked in the cosmetics
area of Whole Foods for a year, but I became pretty familiar with how the
store works overall. First, I cannot stress enough that you should ask an associate for their suggestions of cosmetics products. Whole
Foods has a weird mix of really good, healthy products that actually warrant
being really expensive and products that abuse terms like ‘natural’ or
‘organic’ and aren’t worth it. We have several lines of things that I wouldn’t
buy (sorry, I think Burt’s Bees is not good enough for the money), but we also
have lesser-known lines that an associate will let you sample. Also, I always
told customers that one of the best and cheapest face masks we have in the
store are our bottles of organic honey. Seriously, it’s amazing. Try it.
"For the rest of the store,
there are certain things that are really jacked up, price-wise (like produce,
nuts, and regular milk) and things that are definitely worth going to Whole Foods for. I
recommend shopping in the bulk section (things like grains and spices can end up being really cheap) and for special dietary needs (we actually have good brands of things like almond milk or sheep’s yogurt, and
a wide-ish selection of flavors and styles). Also, always buy your baked goods there. It’s a little more expensive, but they're actually made from quality ingredients and by people who know what they’re doing. But, most importantly, never do all of your shopping there. It’s just a
waste of money. I divide my weekly grocery list into 'Whole Foods stuff' and 'Food Town stuff,' and get it all done on Sunday. I’ve never looked back.”
“Two things are really
important: Do not be shy about asking for samples. We give really good
samples that can honestly last you weeks. We distribute foundation
in these little jars that are a) adorable and b) really useful. Same for a lot
of our powders. Also, once per quarter-ish, when you are looking to stock up on
a bunch of basics, don’t just come in and buy them. Even if you think you don’t
need it, get the consultation that comes free if you buy $100-worth of products (which can add up very quickly).
"A really good professional
will go over the products you should be using — which often change with the
season — and make a nice face chart of how to recreate it at home. If you’re spending
the money already, always make an appointment with your favorite artist ahead
of time. When you get to know an artist really well, they will get to know your skin
intimately through the seasons and be able to recommend more and more precise
items. My clients have really transformed their faces over time.”
"I tend to shop at Nordstrom Rack more often than Nordstrom because it's more budget-friendly, although the customer service is definitely not on the same level as the regular store. The front of the store is generally where they keep 'made for the rack' merchandise. A lot of people think that The Rack is all runoff from the regular store, but a good amount of the merchandise at the front of the store never even touched Nordstrom. "The trick to finding heavily discounted clothes straight from the regular store is to head to the clearance racks in the back, or any rack that doesn't seem to have a lot of the same item on it. Also, they tell you that there is a 60-day return policy for The Rack, but in reality they will never turn down a return as long as they can find some proof of purchase."
"Two things to remember at Aldo: 1) Basically everything you
could possibly want to buy is going to go on sale, and probably pretty soon. So, if you are not in desperate need of that item, just wait a little bit. If you’re
afraid your location will run out of your size, don’t worry — I guarantee another store will have it, and they will find it for you. (You can also find them
"2) Always ask an associate when the sales are (it obviously
aligns with the seasons, but they can probably get more precise than that), and
be prepared to do your shopping when that happens, before everything gets picked
over. We have a lot of customers who only come in twice a year and never pay full
“J.Crew offers tailoring, which I’ve only personally used once, but it turned a blazer I found in the dregs of their sale into something that looked great. Also, you can — and should — take them up on altering jeans.
"A lot of the
times, things get tossed around like crazy in the sale section, so going first
thing in the morning is the way to find things without them having been
ransacked over the course of the day. While you can sometimes get 50% off the sale price online, the store's sale section often caps at 40%. Oftentimes, you’ll find the same things on sale as in the full-price selection, it’ll
just be a different color — think the trumpet flare skirt everyone has, for example,
and the cotton tees.
location has the best shoe selection by far, but when it comes to shopping sales, you really have
to be prepared to visit multiple locations; the selection can vary really widely, and
often all the stores' sale racks are completely different.”