My Most Powerful Shopping Secret, Part II: Online Shopping and Outlet Stores

A lot of my friends seem to think that Lord & Taylor is synonymous with matronly. This is certainly not the case, and I find such an insult to be a personal affront!

A lot of my friends seem to think that Lord & Taylor is synonymous with matronly. This is certainly not the case, and I find such an insult to be a personal affront! (Most of Lord & Taylor’s clothing does NOT look like the above outfit.)

Last week, I shared with you all of my secrets about how I manage to shop at Lord & Taylor so frequently, but while still conserving the contents of my bank account. Unfortunately, most people I know do not share the same positive sentiments I hold toward Lord & Taylor, a place where you can buy clothing ranging from comfortable t-shirts to fancy dresses. They say that they go there once in a blue moon, which I cannot fathom; they are simply not as enamored by the store as I am. Indeed, it is true that you cannot stock your entire wardrobe by shopping there exclusively (although they do have the perfect LBDs!). Thus, my second major shopping tip for saving money: take advantage of deals available online and go shopping at outlet stores.

A typical Black Friday crowd. Now imagine how much worse it would be if there were no online outlet for the other thousands of shoppers  to shop!

A typical Black Friday crowd. Now imagine how much worse it would be if there were no online outlet for the other thousands of shoppers to shop!

Online shopping has taken almost every economic industry by storm. Stores can no longer depend on consumers to walk into their stores, despite governmental promises that revenue and sales will rise once the economy recovers. This can be seen most visibly the numbers on Black Friday in 2013: online shopping rose 15% last year, to a staggering $1.2 B. Many people no longer feel the need to go out shopping when they can do so in the confines of their home. There is a convenience factor to online shopping, in which you can simply place an order-the rest of the work in subsequently done for you. Except, of course, for opening those boxes that are stubbornly sealed shut!

Online businesses facilitate the process of achieving better deals than can be found at brick and mortar stores. They can afford to do so because they need not worry about many costs that regular stores must contend with on a monthly basis. Indeed, overhead expenses, which are one of the largest costs for running a business, are virtually absent.

The word's most popular shoe store...and I've never even checked it out until now. What can I say, when it comes to shoes, Lord & Taylor has my loyalty.

The word’s most popular shoe store…and I’ve never even checked it out until now. What can I say, when it comes to shoes, Lord & Taylor has my loyalty.

To get clothing online, people often flock to company websites; to get shoes online, most go to Zappos. Zappos has a great business model, in which it provides free shipping as well as next day delivery. According to a friend of mine, Zappos truly keeps this promise. She was such a convincingly satisfied customer that I just might take a look there.

Before I check Zappos, though, I will stick to my method. When I buy clothing or shoes online, I go to ebay. People think I am insane for doing this; reactions range from “How do you know it will fit?” to “How do you know it’s not used?” I especially do not get any slack for the latter when I am buying shoes. My answer to these questions: I don’t. However, in my experience, descriptions of the items, as well as pictures from many angles, are accurate. For clothing, I look for the tag-it is a red flag if it is missing. Then, I either go to the store to see the item in person, or flock to the store’s website to see the official picture and retail price. Only then do I determine whether or not I want to buy the item. When it comes to clothing being sold by an infrequent ebay seller, you often can bid, leaving room for tremendous savings. However, a new trend has emerged on ebay, in which people who sell large volumes of clothing create a virtual “store”. While the prices are often fixed, the major boon of the virtual store is that you can browse for multiple items that are similar in style. In that respect, virtual stores similar to brick and mortal ones, except for the fact that you need not lug around clothing you are considering, nor must you tirelessly go through many racks. In my experience, I have had much success using both ebay forums, and I am happy to say that all the items were unused and cost far below retail. The major downside to online shopping, through, is that sellers often force you to pay more by charging outrageous sums for shipping. Really, there is no need for something, unless it is china or porcelain, to require priority mail! In some cases, I have actually decided against buying something, despite the item’s low price, because the final cost of the transaction actually exceeded the retail price!

Just seeing this sign makes me nostalgic. Daffy's motto really resonated with me, as you can imagine.

Just seeing this sign makes me nostalgic.

While shopping online is all the rage nowadays, do not forget about the opportunity for extreme savings at brick and mortar stores (in addition to Lord & Taylor). In the past, there used to be many off-price retailer stores. In places such as Syms, Filene’s Basement, and Daffy’s, one could buy various designer duds at a discount. Personally, I was not so keen on these stores, which had a tendency to sell clothing that looked rather dated. Daffy’s, in particular, was a hit or miss store. Unfortunately, due to the financial pressure from the Great Recession and the growing competition from online shopping, many were forced to declare bankruptcy and liquidate (convert all assets, such as inventory, to cash by selling them so as to pay off existing debts).

Secret: At Banana Republic Factory Store and Gap Outlet, show your AAA card to get an additional 10% off! Crazy enough, this discount doesn't apply to the regular stores!

Secret: At Banana Republic Factory Store and Gap Outlet, show your AAA card to get an additional 10% off! Crazy enough, this discount doesn’t apply to the regular stores!

With the disappearance of such stores, what’s a frugal girl like me to do? Two words: outlet stores. These stores are extensions of the original stores, carrying what was not sold. The fact that this merchandise was not sold does not indicate poor quality. It could very well be that the company manufactured in excess, and therefore selling so much at the original stores was not feasible. Prices at the outlet stores are usually substantially less than those of the original ones. But be careful of a ubiquitous trick they sometimes do. Say, for example, an item is significantly reduced at Gap. If it still does not sell, and gets moved to Gap Outlet, the price of the item might be returned to normal, or have a less substantial markdown. If you want to guarantee that you are paying less than the original price, look at the sales and clearance section-that is where I find my best deals! I love casually telling people that I paid a mere $8 for a certain skirt from Banana Republic. (I do not think it is dishonest to say this, even if it is from the outlet store, because both sell the same merchandise.) Just like the case with Lord & Taylor, you can buy quality clothing for major markdowns, but still look trendy and chic.

I hope this blog will further help you save money when you go shopping for clothing for Spring Break! It might be tempting to splurge on the new arrivals for the summer, but I beseech of you to not give in!

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Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 4:17 am Comments (0)


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