Designer Discounted

Your Ultimate Guide to Sample Sale Shopping

It’s not easy to shop sample sales. The discounts are sometimes hardly worth your time and the selection can be disappointing. But if you’re a serious fan of a certain brand or designer—and don’t mind standing in queue for a few hours—then sample sales can be a goldmine of closet staples you will cherish forever. Before you go into battle, here are some things to keep in mind. 

Designer Sample Sale In New York
A designer sample sale in New York | Photo from T Magazine 

What is a Sample Sale, Really? 

Not all sample sales are created equal. In fact, there are four types:


1. Designer sample sales happen mostly in key fashion cities like Los Angeles and New York, where design houses are typically located. If you manage to get into a designer sample sale, which is often by-invitation, you can good deals. Size-runs are often limited to 2-6 in clothes and size 7 in shoes.

2. And then there are those massive warehouse sample sales. They are hosted anywhere and often involve several different brands. You pay an ‘entrance’ ticket to get in. Discounts can be substantial and the selection can be large, featuring clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories from multiple designers. Expect the styles to be a few seasons old. Some brands are also known to manufacture items specifically for these warehouse sales, so the quality may not be so good. 

3. Store sample sales are typically less crowded and a bit more exclusive, but the items—unsold inventory from years past—can look dated or worn-out.  Popular sizes are impossible to find. Don’t bother to go if you have to pay a fee to get in. You’re better of being nice to one of their sales associates and asking him/her to call you just before they have a sale.

4. The easiest type of sample sale to access is the online sample sale. But beware—items are often snatched up the minute they are posted, so there is no room for indecisiveness. Most merchants don’t accept returns or refunds for heavily discounted goods, so don’t purchase an item unless you are absolutely sure it will fit you, or that it can easily be altered to fit you. 

To get first dibs on online sample sales be sure to sign up here at . We will send you alerts whenever your favorite designers go on sale. This service is free. 

Inside A Designer Sample Sale
Inside a sample sale | Photo from StyleCaster 

How to Win in a Sample Sale

To emerge from a sample sale a ‘winner’ means getting all the items you love, in your size, without ever needing to use violence . This involves some preparation. Here are tips to keep in mind:

1. Dress for the occasion.

This is not the time to wear your Louboutins. You need to be in clothes that are super easy to take on and off. Better yet, wear something slim-fitting so that you won’t even have to go to the fitting room to try things on; simply put a skirt or top on without removing your clothes. Think streamlined casual—perhaps black leggings and an easy tank top. Wear slip-on shoes.
2. Leave your big bag at home.

Most sample sales don't let large handbags in (to prevent shoplifting), so bring a small crossbody bag that can hold your wallet and phone. That’s all you really need. Keeping your hands free makes it a zillion times easier to browse through rack after rack. 

3. Bring cash. 

Some sales don't accept credit cards. Check beforehand. If this is the case, be sure to bring money. 

DKNY Sample Sale
A DKNY sample sale | Photo from SampleSally 

4. Be there extra early.

Some sample sales attract huge crowds, so be prepared to wait. Popular designer sales like Kate Spade, Gucci, Prada, Alexander Wang, and Michael Kors have entrance lines wrapped around the block two times on average. Less-known designers might mean shorter lines. No matter what, it always pays to be first in line if you want to get first pick.

4. Be polite.

They’re just clothes, so relax! Don't grab items from someone else’s basket. Don’t hoard. And whatever happens, don’t bicker.  There is nothing uglier than two women fighting over one handbag.

5. Stick to your plan.

Shop for what you wanted in the first place, and don’t buy an item just because many others are eyeing it off. Don’t succumb to purchasing an item you don’t really want because the price is ‘good’—especially if it's not your size. If you have to pay for alterations, that deal might not be a good deal after all.  

Are Sample Sales Truly Worth the Effort? 

If you love the designer or brand, then yes—a sample sale can be worth lining up for. But there is no shortage of ways to score designer discounts online. Just being a member of already puts you ahead of everyone when it comes to online sample sales. You can also simply bookmark our Latest Deals section and drop by whenever you need some retail therapy. We post all the latest luxury brand discounts from major retailers daily. 

Published February 12, 2015 by Sylvia Page
Designer Discounted