Warehouse Sales Survival Guide

Warehouse sales. Just the term can sound cheap. And the prices at these sales are very inexpensive. But the quality items a shopping sleuth can score—think Miss Sixty jeans for $40 or less, $30 classic cut designer duck 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, and customer service is nil so be prepared to carry piles upon piles of clothing for hours that might put out your back. You're also 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 that 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. Use this eight-step survival guide to build your strategy and you might just become a warehouse sale junkie.

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

General Atmosphere at the Gilt City LA Summer Warehouse Sale at Siren Studios in Hollywood, California.
Todd Oren/Stringer/Getty Images
  • Get to the warehouse sale as early as possible. Try to get there on the first day, if not the first hour, of the sale. If you can't do that, aim for at least before lunchtime 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 the everything-must-go mode.
  • Serenity now. If you think sifting through the hodgepodge racks at your favorite retailer is a pain, wait until you experience the warehouse sale and its massive piles of clothing, “sorted” by general size with frequent overlap. Or going through 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, which is 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.
  • Dress comfortably. Since you'll be spending hours on your feet clutching mounds of cloth, you want to be comfortable. Consider that with all the pieces you'll have to try on to find the right fit, it's a good idea to dress 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.
  • Bring snacks. And water. Remember that you might spend hours on your feet clutching cloth. You're bound to get hungry. 
  • Take with you a small purse. You need all your strength to carry pounds of apparel to try on, back and forth. and 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

People shopping at the Gilt City LA Summer Warehouse Sale at Siren Studios in Hollywood, California.
Todd Oren/Stringer/Getty Images
  • 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, 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.
  • Leave your modesty at the door. Are you expecting your own private changing room? Perhaps an open bar with that? Consider leaving your bottom-of-the-drawer skivvies 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. Think of it as a gym locker room.
  • 8. Be nice. People can be aggressive at warehouse sales, but they can also be thoughtful and offer you a chance to try on a gorgeous designer piece. Being nice isn't just the civil thing to do: it can pay off with someone returning the favor.
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