The 10 cardinal rules of sample sales

Words by Alyce Greer

Illustration by Twylamae

How to prepare, hunt and clean up.

In life, there are a handful of situations where we witness a person’s true colours shining through. These include tough breakups, reality TV home renovation competitions, and sample sales of well-known fashion labels.

It’s during these moments we realise most people aren’t opposed to spreading rumours, stabbing you in the back and playing dirty to get what they want – whether it’s their old records, an extra metre in their main bedroom or the last cute skirt in your size that’s been marked down to 80 per cent off and would be perfect for your birthday next weekend.

Sample sales are especially brutal; they are not for the faint-hearted or kind-gestured. At sample sales, you need to be manipulative and aggressive, with a clear and strategic mind and very strong upper body.

You also need to remember the 10 cardinal rules of sample sales (if you ever want to be one of those girls dragging a garbage bag full of product to your car). Here’s how it’s done:

1. Plan out your sales schedule

Successful sample sale ninjas do not just ‘swing by’ on their way home from brunch. Successful sample sale ninjas have a meticulously planned out monthly or yearly schedule, including dates, brands, addresses and opening times.

Fashion Journal has an entire section dedicated to upcoming sales for you to plan for, or a simple Facebook event search for ‘warehouse sale’ works a treat too (make sure you select your city).

2. Make a pre-emptive strike

Instagram is a very powerful tool when it comes to three things: stalking, shopping and memes. So, use it to your advantage and make a pre-emptive strike before the sample sale begins.

Check the label’s Instagram feed and Stories as they often post sneak peeks of what you’ll be able to shop.

Screenshot or save any pieces you like, then when you walk in the door first thing, ATTACK!!!!!!!!! Or, calmly ask the nice staff member if she can show you where you can find these pieces, please.

3. Timing is everything

If you’re new to this whole sample sale game, there are a few rules you need to know about timing.

Firstly, when it says it opens at 10am, you need to get there at 9am – maybe even 8am. There will be a long queue, but it will be worth it when you get all the good stuff.

Sometimes though, it can be worth taking a risk and arriving 15 minutes before closing time, when they are shutting up shop for the day and – hopefully – restocking for tomorrow’s onslaught.

4. Create a positive affirmation

Sample sales are busy. They are overwhelming. They are stressful. There are women everywhere stripping off their clothes and leaving their handbags for you to trip over.

You need to get in the zone.

Before leaving the house, look long and hard at yourself in the mirror and repeat an uplifting, confidence-boosting mantra.

I am strong. I am calm. I am Zimmermann.
I am strong. I am calm. I am Zimmermann.

Remain focussed and repeat to yourself the entire time you are shopping or every time you get into a physical altercation.

5. Give yourself an allowance

Unless you’re one of those lucky people with unlimited disposable income, it’s a good idea to set a budget and draw out the physical cash beforehand. Going in head first with a loaded bankcard is playing with fire, and will result in you buying a whole bunch of stuff you don’t really need, or like.

When you restrict yourself financially, you’re forced to make some tough decisions about which items you want *deep down* and which items you can live without in order to pay for your food, shelter and caffeine addiction.

6. Dress approps, wear nice knickers

Being confident and brave at a sample sale is not just about telling the girl who’s rifling through your pile that they are your things. It’s also about getting down to your bra and knickers in front of a bunch of women – and some awkward husbands – you don’t know.

Dress in an outfit that lets you throw clothing on over the top right there on the shop floor (no long changeroom lines required) and is easy to take on and off if you need to. Think slip dresses, jackets with pockets, bags you can sling over your body and slip-on mules or sneakers.

7. Bribe an assistant to come with you

Even with your crossbody bag, having two free hands is still kinda pushing it. Bribe your mum, a friend or sister with coffee, food or a new sale outfit, to help you carry whatever you find.

Ensure this person doesn’t like fashion as much as you (you don’t want them using up their arm space for their own shopping) but likes fashion enough to help you sort through your maybe pile, and knows the difference between a cute top and a heinous crime against fashion.

Do not bring your husbands or boyfriends. They will only ghost you everywhere you turn and complain about how long this is taking. 

8. Go against the floor plan grain

Did you know stores are specifically designed for you to walk a certain path? It’s something to do with human behaviour. When you walk into the sample sale, you’ll notice everyone turning the same way, and moving in the same direction. You’ll also notice they put all the new season stuff at the front.

But you are smarter than this. You will not fall for the marketing tactics.

When you walk into the sample sale, you assess where the least amount of people are and start there. It’s probably where all the cheap stuff is hiding anyway, tbh.

9. Scan first, collect second

There are two types of sample sale people in this world.

There are those that begin at one rack, working their way through with a fine-toothed comb, and potentially missing out on everything on the other side of the room by the time they get there.

Then there are those that do a quick walk-through the sale to scan what’s on offer, quickly grab any must-have items and then do a second lap to closely inspect and collect anything else that takes their fancy.

Be this person.

10. Exercise your rationale

Sample sales are a test in patience, agility, self-discipline and most importantly, rationale.

It’s all very easy to walk in and drop your whole paycheck on the $10 bargain bin, but so you don’t do that, you must ask yourself some serious and sometimes personal questions.

Here’s some to get you started: “would I buy this if it was full price?”, “do I need a 15th pair of boyfriend jeans?”, “are there three things in my wardrobe this item works with?” and “should my bum be poking out the bottom of this dress?”

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