There are a few things you may have noticed about me if you’ve been reading my blog a long time. I have a good appreciation for high-quality designer stuff, I like to shop, and I love a good sale. Actually, as I look through my closet I see that unless my clothing is activewear(I’m not a logical shopper when it comes to Lululemon) it was purchased at around 75% off for the higher end designer stuff, and at a minimum 35% off for the rest. The unfortunate thing about enjoying designer items is that you start to really get used to the quality, but also you really like to pay high street prices at all times. At this point, I’ve mastered this game so I thought I’d share My Tips And Tricks To Shop Like A Pro. I’ve got some amazing examples of my finds for you at the bottom of this post so you know this is the real deal as far as shopping tips. You can see the proof of my methods down below.
First off, you need to make a list. You can refer to a basics list like this one that I created, and see what is truly missing from your wardrobe. You’re probably not going to say something like ‘flip-sequined green top from H&M’, or ‘cold shoulder blouse with a statement print’. Chances are the only true needs in your wardrobe are for basic staples, something for an upcoming event, seasonal appropriate items (sandals, boots etc.). Maybe you need a new work wardrobe for a new job or a casual wardrobe for early retirement. My own current list includes; white dressy sneakers, white button-down blouse, camel wool or wool-cashmere blend coat, dark wash streamlined jeans. My objective is to elevate my casual look to something a bit more sophisticated and simple going into my 40’s so I’m looking for investment pieces. I don’t have a time limit for finding these things and have nothing but patience when it comes to getting the best value possible. This list is something you keep in mind anytime you are shopping an overwhelming sale, or browsing a store without a plan. This keeps you focused and keeps you shopping smarter. I have my list written down at my desk, and also on my phone.
Where I Shop For Deals:
Tip #1 Department Stores and Outlet Department Stores
Department stores and outlet department stores are the best for shopping because they often have the lowest prices, have very customer service oriented return policies and price matching policies, free shipping and returns and reliable sales. Because department stores curate a huge variety of brands and are constantly making room for new inventory on their finite floor space, they clear out a lot during their sales. You get the best sizing selections here as well.
My best purchases by far have been at these three events. Last year Vancouver had a Nordstrom Warehouse Sale that was hosted by a third-party vendor. This was the most epic sale I’ve ever been to and my sister, my friend and I each went to this sale almost daily for that entire weekend. Sadly this may have been a one-time event now that some Canadian cities are getting Nordstrom Racks (for some reason Vancouver is being ignored for Racks) so they have no need to find a third-party vendor to liquidate their merch. If these ever pop up again I will post it here instantly. The deals at this sale were so amazing. My #1 best find where these Acne Boots on the left. They retail for around $700 but I got them for $76. I had initially desperately wanted a pair of Acne Jensen boots and when I saw these I knew I had to have them instead. They are slightly different, and a far sweeter prize knowing I got them for such a great price. Other great finds at that sale were $30 designer jeans, $12 designer tees, $3 cashmere socks, $12 luxury sleepwear.
Another great hunting ground for me is Boxing Day at Nordstrom, or other end of season times (half-yearly sale, memorial day sales, and the upcoming Nordstrom Anniversary Sale). I had my eye on getting a soft cashmere wool coat but I wanted a deal. I had been hunting eBay for certain brands but when I went in to check out the Boxing Day racks at Nordstrom I found this perfect black one for 70% off. It fits perfectly and is a classic cut, style, and color. For formal events, I’m always at a loss for what coat to wear over a dress, and this is the perfect thing.
The leather biker jacket is one I got at last years Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Mackage is a Canadian brand but it’s so expensive. These Mackage leather jackets are sold at Aritzia for around $600, but I was able to get this one for half that price. You can also find these on sale at Aritzia occasionally at their end of season sales, but the markdowns aren’t very often that low. I also don’t love Aritzias return policies so I’m much more careful shopping clearance there unless I’m absolutely certain the fit is perfect and I’m going to keep it.
I recently purchased a pair of Feraggamo Sandals (I’ll post those in detail later on in this post) and got them for an amazing deal on eBay. I knew they originated at Nordstrom Rack, and when I was in New York last month I actually saw the exact same sandals at Nordstrom Rack, along with all the other Ferragamo sandal styles I was browsing on eBay. It was obvious they where Clear The Rack inventory.
Saks Off 5th is a gem. I’ve seen some crazy deals there for Manolo Blahniks and Valentino shoes, but unfortunately didn’t get to partake in those finds, I’ll catch them later when they end up on eBay. Years ago I used to buy my Rebecca Minkoff handbags there. My most recent find from Saks Off 5th was a couple of years ago when I discovered my love for Rails buttondown shirts. They are so darn expensive but the fit and feel of them is amazing. You can find them on sale at the upcoming Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (several colors and styles are in the sale), but if you are shopping for Rails shirts at any other time of year, check out Saks Off 5th for them. They always have a great selection at great prices.
Other outlet department stores to browse around at Last Call Neiman Marcus (they currently are having a 60% off everything! Buy Manolo Blahniks!), Bloomingdales outlet store, and Macy’s.
Tip #2 Go Consignment Shopping
I love online consignment shopping. For some reason, online consignment shopping is much more pleasant than in-store consignment shopping for me. Some people love treasure hunting in thrift stores but I prefer to narrow down my search to brands I like, or categories I’m shopping for. The exception being when I’m in a city known for amazing consignment stores like New York or Paris. I went to a few consignment stores in NY but didn’t find anything that struck my fancy, but when I was in Paris a few years ago I got a pair of sunglasses as my souvenir, and I wear them ALL THE TIME. I used to be very worried about shoe shopping online but have learned that usually sellers have purchased items on clearance at places like Nordstrom Rack during their clearance events in order to resale them, or they’ve purchased the shoes for an event and wore them once, or have just barely worn them for a variety of reasons. People buy stuff all the time that they regret, and just want to recoup some money and alleviate guilt by selling those items. I’ve had great luck with my shoe finds being in new or near new condition, but I always just wipe the insides with Lysol just in case. Another thing I look for on Consignment sites are brands, and very specifically what those brands are best at making and known for. For example, I search for Theory white tailored shirts, or blazers by Veronica Beard or Smythe, or Max Mara coats (still haven’t seen a great price for those).
Thredup is a great consignment site as a buyer because you can very easily narrow down your search to brands, or sizes, or categories and the prices are probably nearly as low as eBay. You won’t get style names on any items, just generic titles, and I think that’s what keeps the prices low. To shop Thredup for designer stuff you need to keep your mind open. I got my nude LK Bennet Sledge Pumps when I was on a hunt for nude patent heels for a wedding. I got the Manolo Blahnik pointy pumps when I was searching for any Manolo Blahniks in great condition under $130. You can even set alerts for brands to pop up. I’m no longer shopping for Manolo Blahnik heels but I love getting an alert when they have something new in. I always check it out. You can also reserve items by putting them in your basket. I believe it holds that item for you for 24 hours. This is another great strategy to see if you really want that item. A self-imposed cooling off period.
I’ve shopped this site once for my Golden Goose Sneakers. I was price comparing across a few different sites and Vestiaire was low on my list because they authenticate for buyers, which means the item goes from the seller (usually in Europe) to Vestiaire to authenticate for a few days, and then it gets shipped out to you. I wrongly assumed it would take weeks and weeks but I think I got my item in a week and a half, with tags on them certifying authenticity and condition. The downside to this is the shipping was high (I had a coupon code which took care of shipping) and if you are in Canada you will get charged duties and taxes by DHL. I will only shop again when I have another free shipping coupon and the price is lower than eBay.
I have shopped and sold a ton on eBay over the years and it’s the #1 place to buy and sell your Lululemon items. Because I’m price conscious I buy a lot of NWT items on eBay that are very expensive to buy in stores here in Canada. Swimsuits, bras etc. We don’t have access to Outlet Department Stores in Canada which is where these items go when they are out of season. I don’t care if my bras or swimsuits are clearance and from summer 2016. If I like the style and color then I would rather buy it at discount prices. Luxury items used to be slightly trickier to buy on eBay (you should always read seller reviews) but they now have an authenticated luxury handbag site. Most items on eBay are NWT.
This shop is a high-end luxury online consignment store with authenticated goods. This is the place to go for high-end handbag purchases, or any of those current season popular luxury items (Gucci belts, Gucci Loafers). They currently have a 20% off code (REAL) and a 0% APR financing thing. Read the fine print for their details – I’m not sure what they are. I’ve not shopped here yet but I know others that have.
Tip #3 Online Boutique Retailers Clearance and Sales
Like department stores, online boutique retailers have a huge variety of inventory that needs to get cleared at the end of the season to make room for more new season items. Shopbop is a new favorite place for me to shop for clearance.They have hidden items that pop up for you based on your searches!
Like Nordstrom, Shopbop has epic sales. A few times a year they have a 20% off anything sale and you can increase your discount by purchasing within different price categories. This is one of those places you should keep a wishlist going, and when those sales come around, you can purchase them on sale. I love stores like this that have a ton of different brands, both high street and designer. Very recently I had it in mind that I wanted to get a Veronica Beard Blazer from the NSALE. I look at them every year but never buy one, and I realized this year why that was. They are EXPENSIVE, even on sale. I usually like buying a few items at the NSALE so getting a blazer would eat up my entire budget and then some. I decided to look around online for clearance at my usual haunts – The Veronica Beard site had a few on sale I liked, and lower than the NSALE ones (because they are an older season, not new Fall 2018 like the NSALE). Then I looked at Nordstrom Rack and some of the other department store outlets. They all had great options, but when I browsed the Shopbop site, although nothing came up on my search, this beautiful pink boucle blazer came up as a recommendation. It was under $200, clearance, and my size. I snatched that baby up! Shipping to Canada was lightning fast too because I prepaid the duties. The weird thing is if you searched for this exact blazer it came up in a full-size run at full price, but it recommended it to me on clearance (along with other brands). I now know to pay extra special attention to the little ‘recommended’ bar at the bottom of the page. I scroll through that little gallery of thumbnail images to see what hidden clearance items get recommended. Another funny thing is that the recommendation for this blazer still pops up for me, but now the price is slightly higher. Still a great deal but not the smoking deal I got it for.
I forgot to add this one and a reader just asked for my Canadian specific recommendations. I have not shopped this site but recently learned from a friend that this is a Canadian online boutique for luxury brands that is based in Montreal. She got a Saint Laurent belt here on sale and was very happy with it. It was her alternative to the hyped up Gucci Belt. Because this is a Canadian online boutique, it means no import duties or taxes for Canadian shoppers, and prices are in CAD. They are currently having a 70% off sale and have high, high-end luxury brands like Balmain, Chloe, and Valentino, and some more contemporary brands too. This is a great option for Canadians designer sale shopping since our only other option for a Canadian retailer is Holt Renfrew and they don’t have an e-commerce site. If you are Canadian and have any recommendations to add to this list, share in the comments.
Revolve also has great sales. I haven’t purchased there in a long time but I do like to browse.
Tip #4 Sign Up For Emails
Set up a folder on your email account for retailer emails and sign up! You will get a heads up with their sales and promos but also if you are a first-time shopper for that brand you often get a coupon code for 10-15% off. I signed up for 10% off at Veronica Beard but ended up making my purchase at Shopbop. I also got a promo code sent to me by Vestiare Collective for free shipping, which I used on Golden Goose.
Tip #5 Sign Up For Preferred Customer Lists or Loyalty and Rewards Cards
Most stores want to collect your data and keep you on an email list. People get really suspicious about this and feel like it invades their privacy. I’m not going to negate that, but what I will tell you is that in exchange for having you on their email listing or ‘preferred customer’ database, you get perks and incentives. Get a dedicated email for this if you want to be anonymous, and share only the information you feel comfortable sharing. For Nordstrom, it’s early access to their Anniversary Sale, and points which build up to a $20 gift card. For Aritzia, you are on a ‘preferred clientele’ customer list and you get a phone call to pre-shop their sale and have access to lower sale prices. Shopbop has a tiered level shopper after you create an account, with various levels and incentives and birthday gifts. Lululemon collects your info as well, and occasionally they send out incentive gifts to great customers. I think last year random Lululemon customers got $20 egift cards sent to them.
Tip #6 Flash Sales
I haven’t used this method since the shopping style (waiting for brands to pop up only for a few days) doesn’t match my shopping style well. I like to browse and stalk items. I have friends that use these sites often though, especially for kids clothes. Because these flash sale sites don’t actually have the items (they are selling on behalf of retailers and using their warehouses as drop shippers), the shipping times can vary greatly. You also have a much more limited size run and cannot easily return items. You need to become a member (free) and logged in to view the deals of the week.
Hautlook currently has Rebecca Taylor stuff on sale for 60% off. Hautlook is a Nordstrom Brand.
Amazon Prime is coming up in 7 days. I don’t plan on shopping this sale as it competes with the NSALE, but there are some great designer brands that also sell on amazon.