July 30, 2012
We might all love designer clothes and accessories, but very few of us can afford to just take a trip down Rodeo Drive and buy whatever catches our eye. Being just a few years out of college, I don’t quite have a “throw it in the bag” budget. But my starving college student days are over and I want to look like it. That’s why online sample sales are like a godsend to me, and have been since I discovered them three years ago.
Here’s how they work: websites partner with designers to sell their products for a large discount – whether it’s to create exposure, help get rid of overstock at the end of the season, etc. – and then these websites feature select styles from specific designers each day (usually for a brief period of 24-48 hours in length). Sample sale websites require you to become a member; this is free, but ensures designers that the site is “private” and that they are not cheapening their brand by publicly advertising low prices. Sample sale sites will also sometimes require you to have an invite from a current member, so as a bonus for our Made Woman Mag readers I have provided links with already-included invites for my favorite sites below.
There are dozens upon dozens of sample sale sites that have popped up in the last couple of years – covering anything from clothing, to shoes and accessories, to home décor items, to travel. For a full list, I recommend checking out SHEfinds, but here are my 4 personal fashion-focused favorites:
Ideeli is great for clothes, shoes, accessories, home décor items, and everything in-between. What sets it apart from the other sites is that it has a “1st row” membership for $6.99/month (billed annually), which grants you access to the sales an hour early – 8am PST instead of 9am PST. The cool thing is, even if you have a free “2nd row” membership, you can still see all the items going on sale starting at 8am; and you’ll realize how useful this is. Once 9am strikes, you have already had the chance to browse through the items, decide what you want, and are just waiting to click that “add to cart” button. CLICK FOR INVITE LINK
Hautelook is one of the most popular online sample sale sites because it consistently partners with great popular brands for up to 75% off. They also have one of my favorite interfaces. Sales on Hautelook begin at 8am PST every day. CLICK FOR INVITE LINK
Founded in 2007, Gilt was one of the original online sample sale sites. Gilt sales start at 9am PST and feature a whopping 10-20 designers a day, with an average of 40% off. One of the additional perks of Gilt is a flat shipping rate of only $5.95 for all items. CLICK FOR INVITE LINK
Rue La La
Rue La La was also one of the originals, along with Gilt. Lately, it has added a lot more high-end designers – which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your spending range. They also have one of the best phone apps, and really handy notification options on their online calendar. Sales start at 8am PST. CLICK FOR INVITE LINK
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Having spent an inordinate amount of time and money on sample sale sites, I’d like to leave you with some helpful tips:
- Time is of the essence - Know when sales start. The best items will often sell out within the first 15 minutes, so you have to be online at 8am or 9am sharp to even have a chance.
- It’s ok to hoard items in your shopping cart - When a sale starts, just hurry through and add anything you might like to your cart without thinking too much. Then take a more careful look and decide whether you actually want those items or not. If you spend too much time thinking, the item might be sold out by the time you decide to add it to your cart.
- Calendars are your friend - Sample sale sites will usually have a calendar of upcoming sales. If you love a specific designer, this is a great way to know when they’re having a sale and be ready. (Set an alarm or notification of some sort for yourself.)
- Pay attention to return policies - Some items can be returned and others can’t – it’s not always the site’s policy, but the specific designer’s. Some sites will also only let you return items for credit, not for money back.
- Keep an eye on your credits - When you return items for site credits, make sure you know whether these have an expiration date.
- Invite, invite, invite - Most sites will give you credit if you invite friends who buy something, so take advantage of this as much as you can.
Now there’s no excuse to not look good in 2012. Just remember, shopping can be an unhealthy addiction, so everything in moderation.