Saturday, January 24, 2009

9 Tips for Shopping the Clearance Section in 2009

If there is one thing I like, it is a deal. Throughout my life I've had varying degrees of disposable income, but no matter what my situation, I have a hard time buying something that isn't a deal even if money isn't a concern at the time. And now that the rest of the country seems to agree with me, I've created a list of tips for those of you making your first trip to the clearance section of your favorite store.

1. Approach the Rack with a Plan. Clearance racks are often overwhelming to people because all they see is a mass of different clothes thrown together without much organization. However, there is a system you can use to get through the rack efficiently. Before approaching the rack know what colors you like and what season you are looking for. If you know you like green and are looking for summer clothes, scan the rack first for short sleeves and then for color. Start scanning the rack...long sleeves, long sleeves, long sleeves, short sleeve. Ohh Short sleeves, check color - orange? Nope? keep going. long sleeves, long sleeves, short sleeves - check color - green? Yes, check price? Yes - ok, lets try it on. Use this method to quickly get through a rack of clearance items.

2. Shop off season - really off season
Most people know that you can get good deals on summer stuff at the end of August/Beginning of September. But you can REALLY get a good deal on summer stuff in November and December. So be patient and wait.

3. Don't forget online stores. Often people think that clearance deals can only be found offline, but if you buy off season at places like you can find some really good deals. Look for boots in June, swimsuits in November, you get the picture. Do a search for "[store name] coupons" and find some coupons for an additional amount off or free shipping. Check Craig's List for items you want. Just make sure to use the keywords "new" or "NWT." Try a service that can watch Craig's List for you this is a great way to find new items for a fraction of what you would pay in the stores.

4. Pick a few stores and track. There are some stores that you know you like. Visit these stores, sign-up for their email newsletters and take the time to learn how and when they mark things down. If you get to know the employees, ask them to shoot you an email when things go on sale.

5. Don't stick to your usual size. I usually wear a size 6 pant and medium top. However, I will scan the clearance racks one size up and one size down. There are two reasons to do this. 1. Items that are your size easily get misplaced in these areas and 2. clothes don't always run true to size. I recently bought an extra small sweatshirt (for $4 at Target) and a size 4 pants (for $5 at Gap). Not because I'd lost weight but because the manufacturer had obviously messed up the sizing of the item and made them too big for people who usually wear the size.

6. Don't be afraid to get your clothes altered. Pants especially. If you find a pair of pants that you like in your size, but they are too long. Buy them and pay the $7 - $10 it costs to get them hemmed. Most dry cleaners can do it for you.

7. Shop often. This may be too big of a temptation for some, but shop often and only buy when your deal fits that bargain. I have a general rule when shopping at my my kids I don't pay more than $5 per item (dresses excluded). My kids wear mostly brand-name clothing and this limit has served me well. If they offer good deals and exclusive offers sign-up for their brand credit card. If there is no annual fee and you pay off the balance every month you will save additional money.

8. Don't judge a book by it's cover. Don't rule out pricey stores because you think they won't have deals. I often find that "discount" retailers have less deals than department and name brand stores. I often find shirts, jackets, skirts, etc have higher clearance prices at Target than at Gap or Macy's.

9. Know the management. Many local and even national stores have flexibility in setting their sale prices. Find out which locations close to you are more generous in their markdown pricing strategies.

Recently, I was shopping at Gap (not the outlet) and for $5 I got a bikini for myself ($1 for each piece), a pair of shoes for my daughter ($1), a halter top for myself ($1) and a sweater camisole ($1). 5 Name brand items for $5, not bad! Bargain shopping is anything but boring.

Please add any tips you have.


Veriance said...

Make a list of what you need by first assessing what you already have. I always end up buying pinstripe pants. because I love them and now I have four pair.

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