Sunday, 3 June 2007

Why pay retail?

I took the day off on Friday to go to the Satya Jewelry sample sale. I love it; it's my favourite sale along with the Theory sample sale, which also had an advance opening on Friday.

I’ve never met a sample sale I didn’t like, it’s a mystery to me why London never has sample sales - at least they didn't seem to when I lived there.

In New York the sample sale season is typically twice a year around May/June and November/December when - usually - current season’s merchandise is offered at a 40-80% discount. If I were a tourist I’d time my trip to New York to coincide with sample sale season instead of heading down town to spend hours in the hell that is Century 21. I hate that store, it drives me absolutely insane, I don’t know how anyone puts up with it, but tourists seem to flock to it, and it seems to top the list of places to visit for most of my Brit visitors, especially Miles who loves to replenish his stock of Calvin Kleins there. I know you can get good deals, but I find it hard to be in there for more than 10 minutes. All those densely packed clothing rails, surly assistants and aggressive bargain hunters. Yikes!! Not to mention the fact that the clothes often look a little worse for wear, like they’ve been trampled by a herd of wildebeest. Give me a sample sale over that place any day.

A popular misconception, even among many of my less sample sale savvy New Yorker friends, is that the clothes sold at sample sales are sample sizes. Not true. I’m sure there are certain sales where only a smattering of wafer thin models can squeeze into the clothing on offer, but not at any sale I’ve ever been to and certainly not at Theory where the clothes run from US size 00 to a 12.

I love Theory, especially their trousers, a colleague introduced me to their sample sale four years ago and I've rarely worn trousers made by anyone else since. I’m not sure how they do it, but they seem to suit every woman regardless of shape or size. They are like the trouser equivalent of those one size fits all stretchy gloves I wore as a kid; they flow over curves, cling just enough in all the right places and flare slightly at the bottom, lengthening even my stumpy legs. I’m addicted. Ash takes the piss out of my obsession with their sale, but it’s just common sense to me. I baulk at paying full price, upwards of $220 at the likes of Bloomies, when I can get this season’s trousers for $89 at the sample sale, less than what she pays for trousers at Banana Republic, for seemingly higher quality if retail price is any barometer.

The Theory sale is also pretty civilized compared to most. The clothes are organized by size and they have a communal changing room where the capacity is also managed so that you are not fighting for mirror space with 10 other bargain seekers. The Theory sale is the only one I've been to which has the luxury of changing rooms. Usually you have to cast modesty aside and strip down to your skivvies in a darkened corner of the showroom to try anything on. I used to frequent one sale that was held in the top floor corner loft space with curtain-free windows spanning the length of three walls with a small corner set aside for changing which was adjacent to a large window. The building was a little higher than the ones immediately surrounding it, but I’m sure the people working opposite, or in the taller office buildings a couple of streets away, got an eyeful since the majority of sales enthusiasts have no qualms about stripping down to just a g-string to try on potential bargains, although you always see one or two more modest types struggling to try things on over their clothes so as not to flash the neighbors, which is how I was at my first sale.

I’m less inhibited these days, although I still like to preserve some modesty by wearing sample sale appropriate underwear - a thin vest top and boy short knickers – when I'm not sure if there’ll be a changing room available. I wish more of the women would follow my example, if only for the consideration of their fellow bargain hunters. It’s deeply distressing when you bend down to adjust the hems of your bargain, 70% off retail, trousers, only to look up and find yourself nose to cheek with some woman’s thong clad arse. Shudder. I appreciate that quarters are tight, but still…there are limits to what you should have to put up with for a bargain.

Unfortunately after waiting in line for almost an hour to get into the Satya sale – a typical wait to get into the more popular sales if you’re not close to the head of the queue once the doors are opened - and then blowing $375 on jewelry - 3 pairs of gemstone earrings; 2 bracelets and 2 necklaces, one long beaded jade necklace and one with a pendant of garnet and carnelian for mum – my financial conscious wouldn’t allow me to also stop by the Theory sale. I consider stopping by to just check it out, but I am weak willed where Theory is concerned and I knew restricting myself to purchasing just a single pair of trousers wouldn't work, especially as restricting myself to a budget of no more than $150 at Satya clearly worked out so well. Ahem.

Ah well, there’s always the December sale to save up for.

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