So how can you shop 'til you drop, put together a chic wardrobe and still have money left in your wallet? Fortunately, there are many ways for savvy shoppers to avoid paying full retail prices:
- Flash sales. Gilt Groupe, Ruelala, Ideeli, and Swirl are discount sites that offer reduced pricing on designer goods to members only for a limited amount of time. The products you'll find on these sites are typically excess supply purchased from luxury retailers at a deep discount. That's how members have an opportunity to purchase a $495 Rag & Bone dress for 60 percent off. To get the most out of flash sales, know the sizing and quality of the brand you're buying and understand the website's return policies.
- Comparison shopping. Sign up for an online shopping service with a powerful search engine like Shopittome or MyPerfectSale, register your favorite brands and sizes, and you'll receive an e-mail notification when items you might like go on sale.
- In-store promotions & sales. There's so much competition among retail stores, it seems like sales are offered every week. Bloomingdale's often offers 20 percent off coupons to cardholders, while Nordstrom marks down regular-price merchandise during its Anniversary Sale. Get to know a sales associate at your favorite stores to help you take advantage of the best deals and markdowns.
- Loyalty discounts. Sign up for emails from your favorite stores or like them on Facebook for significant savings. Cole Haan, for one, offers 25 percent discounts several times a season to regular customers, as well as big discounts off sale items.
- Discount stores. Retail stores often sell inventory that's left over at the end of a season to an apparel industry insider, who then sells it to discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall's, or Loehmann's. Say Macy's overbought a certain style of The North Face jacket or had hundreds left in stock when the southern region had a milder winter than expected. The discount store will hold onto themuntil they're back in season, so you can score a warm coat at a great price. Make sure to examine your finds carefully, however: The merchandise that ends up in a discount store is sometimes flawed or fits poorly. Bluefly.com and Outnet.com take the discount concept online, offering discounts of 10 to 70 percent off retail prices on designer goods.
- Outlet stores. While these stores used to carry merchandise from the factory with small flaws or defects, many stores today feature items made especially for the outlet store. Careful shopping is a great way to buy name brands at a bargain price.
- Thrift and consignment stores. Take a look around thrift and consignment stores in your neighborhood for great prices on designer goods. Some shoppers clean their closets every season to make room for new threads, while others are getting rid of great items they no longer need due to a lifestyle changes. That's good news for you -- someone else's gently used Louis Vuitton handbag is now your treasure.
- eBay and Etsy. Online auction sites and DIY online retailers offer a smart way to find great clothing at bargain prices, from a gently worn pair of Manolos on eBay to hand-painted silk T-shirts on etsy.com.
So, now you have the inside scoop on why that great blouse costs what it does -- and some insight on how to save money before you plunk down your credit card. Check out the links on the next page for more information. Then, go out and find some great deals!