Warehouse Sales Survival Guide

  • 01 of 02

    The Art (And Science) of Warehouse Sale Shopping: Part 1

    warehouse sales survival guide
    Photo by Flickr user indie138

    Warehouse sales. Just the term can sound cheap. And the prices at these sales are very much cheap. But the quality items a shopping sleuth can score -think Miss Sixty jeans for $40 or less, $30 classic cut designer leather boots usually retailing for $300, a cashmere top for $10- are anything but cheap.

    There's just one thing. Warehouse sales are a mess. They're crowded, the selection can be overwhelming, customer service is nil so be prepared to carry piles upon piles of clothing for hours which might put out your back, and you're on your own when it comes to figuring out what's on trend versus what's better used as a dish rag since garments may be from previous seasons and feature trends which never quite caught on. Hence the overstock.

    Note to warehouse sale virgins? You've got to work for your insanely discounted fare. But there are ways to mitigate the makings of a shopping nightmare. Follow my 8-step survival guide to build your strategy and you might just become a warehouse sale junkie.

    • 1. Get to the warehouse sale as early as possible for the best selection.
      Inasmuch as possible, get there on the first day of the sale. If currently residing in a perfect world, get there within the first hour of the sale. Or at least before lunch time when the wave of 9-to-5ers show up. You're more likely to score the best pieces if you do. However, if you go on the last day, you're more likely to score the best prices as some sales get into everything-must-go mode.
    • 2. Serenity now.
      If you think sifting through the hodge podge racks at Winners is a pain, wait until you experience the warehouse sale and its piles, masses of tops, jeans, whatever “sorted” by general size with frequent overlap. Or the shoe section, also “sorted” by size, though not always by pair. It's a mess. And it's up to YOU to make sense of it. It can take HOURS to properly explore your sartorial options at the bigger, multi-brand sale events, a small price to pay for cutting out retail markups. In the everyday world, patience is a virtue. At a warehouse sale? It's your best friend.
    • 3. Dress comfortably.
      Did I mention you'll be spending hours on your feet clutching mounds of cloth? Also consider that with all the pieces you'll have to try on to find the right fit, it's a good idea to consider dressing in an ensemble that's easy to remove and put back on several times over. Same with the footwear. Bring a light pair of heels in your bag if needed.
    • 4. Bring snacks. And water.
      Hours. On feet. Clutching cloth. And you've been there since 10 a.m. It's now 3 p.m. 
    • 5. Keep the kitchen sink at home. Bring the small purse.
      I'm such a bag lady. So are you. But not today. You need all your strength to carry pounds of apparel to try on. Back and forth. Match after batch after batch. And you can't leave something with even a hint of potential in whichever pile or rack you found it because it won't likely be there when you return.


    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    The Art (And Science) of Warehouse Sale Shopping: Part 2

    warehouse sales survival guide
    Photo by Flickr user lulemon athletica
    • 6. Stick to basics.
      That tie-dye ascot, diaper crotch leisure suit and batwing silk blouse might be screaming “hot” today but chances are if it's being sold at a warehouse sale, then that particular trend is on its way out. Or it didn't work out in the first place, which is why no one paid full price for the "look." So unless you've got your pulse on what the industry is pushing for this season, the next season, and the season after (you'd be surprised how far ahead you can “predict” where fashion is heading, e.g., military is back in this fall ... shocker), and you're able to improvise with that knowledge, then your best bet is to keep things basic at a deep discount sale. Camisoles, t-shirts, Mary Janes, unadorned pumps, dark wash jeans, standard cardigans, black slacks, classic sheath dresses, workout clothes, chinos, polo shirts, running shoes, ballet flats, v-necks, simple sleeves, and solid colors are all safe bets.
    • 7. Leave your modesty at the door.
      Expecting your own private changing room? Perhaps an open bar with that? Consider leaving your bottom-of-the-drawer skivvies, you know, the one with the hole you-know-where, at home because warehouse sales generally do not offer retail store accommodations. Instead, expect a room, or section quartered off with curtains, where you and your fellow shoppers of the same gender can try on your respective piles. Together. Like in a gym locker room. I've personally come to prefer this setup. I can get as many second opinions as there are women in the room and cultivate a temporary sisterhood. With complete strangers. The last warehouse sale I went to was wrought with the occasional “I look so fat in this, I need to lose weight” uttered by women with beautiful, curvacious bodies, my cue to reply “oh honey, you deserve better than that rag.” Clothes should be made to fit US, not vice versa. If a piece of clothing is making your butt fat or flat, then smite the manufacturer, not yourself!
    • 8. Be nice.
      I've been to my fair share of blowout sales. I've seen aggression emerge in lineups over who was there first, with fights barely contained over it. It consistently leaves me wondering... what's the point?! Can't say I've fought over a piece of clothing or pushed someone out of my way at warehouse sale. Do I really want a black eye over a dress? But I've been offered a chance to try on a gorgeous designer piece by a shopper who thought it might work on me. She remembered me from earlier when we both lunged at it at the same time and I let her go for the dress with a smile. Hey, maybe she really needed a beautiful dress. Maybe she didn't even own one. God knows I've been there before. How do you relay how shameful it feels to not even own a gown to your average first worlder who takes such privileges for granted? It seems like only the ones who've been in that dark place can understand how low it make you feel. Back to this lady. So fate had it that the dress I relinquished didn't fit her so what did she do? She made a beeline towards me and asked me if I'd like try it on. It fit perfectly! The dress I gave up for someone else's benefit came right back to me. And I bought it. No fights, no confrontations, just a sense of compassion and camaraderie. More recently, I had on-site attendants, who remembered me from when I asked how they were holding up because they looked exhausted, go out of their way to help me find the second half of a pair of luxury boots I couldn't locate in the chaos of boxes, even though it was not their job to so. In my humble experience, being nice isn't just the civil thing to do at warehouse sales. It pays off.