Sample Sales

In anticipation of mass producing a product and selling it to the general public, designers and agencies make up samples to hawk their product line to potential retailers. Samples are created by virtually every designer—whether it’s for apparel, shoes, handbags, or jewelry—to test reaction to a product before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to manufacture it. When the designers are done with their dog and pony shows, they need to get rid of the samples and turn to retailers to help sell them at a fraction of the suggested retail price.

Until a few years ago, live sample sale events looked something like this–


The thrill of the hunt and the mere social aspect of the event appeal to many fashionista wannabes, but the average shopper will encounter some problems with this shopping model:

  1. If you don’t live in New York, Chicago, LA, or Dallas, San Francisco and a few other large cities, you have to travel there to take advantage of the live sales.
  2. And did you see those bins piled high with purses? Do you really want to dig through all that?
  3. If you’re a working stiff, you have to take a day off work to take advantage of live sample sales.

So what’s a designer diva to do? Go ON LINE!

Once the profit potential of sample sales was realized, designers and retailers changed their mindset about the teeny-tiny clothing sizes only (2, 4, and 6) and expanded their lines. And they turned to the World Wide Web to unload their products! A fairly new trend, sample sale websites expand upon the popular, live sales in cities we know as shopping meccas. The online sample sale has become so popular that many sites have expanded beyond fashion and now offer household items, wines, and travel deals.
What You Need to Know
All of the sample sales are members only and most require that you be referred by another member. Online sample sales run anywhere from 24 to 48 hours (some longer), or until sold out. Since inventory is often limited and some sites are in high demand among the fashion conscious, popular items can often sell out in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

Before you shop at any online sample sale, check out these tips for getting to be sure you understand the parameters of each sale. Most are the same, but sites can differ from day to day, depending on what’s up for grabs.

  1. Check out the starting time of each sale and log in as soon as the sale starts–especially when designer brands are featured. Most sales start at 11 AM ET, but some start at 10 AM ET and some at noon. A small number start at other times, and when possible, I’ve tried to denote the starting times on each sample sale. Remember, many sites carry only a few items in each size and the most desirable items sell out in minutes.
  2. Know the site’s return policy. Again, on some sales, you may allowed to return items-most for credit only–but some sales specify absolutely no returns. If returns are allowed, you typically have a specified number of days to return the item.
  3. If you’re a stickler about shopping in season, sample sales are probably not for you. It’s important that you realize that most items are from the prior season, but lots of things work any time of the year. For example, you can wear denim year round and some of those essential pieces like a tank are always a welcome addition to your closet. Of course, jewelry and handbags can go from season to season in most cases, so the time of year really doesn’t matter.
  4. Don’t let the excitement of the bargain get the best of you! It’s important that you know when to just let something be. If the good stuff’s gone before you get a chance at it, there will always be another sale and another great deal. If the price doesn’t seem all that good to you, leave it! Some sites have wait lists and if you missed that item you were dying to own, put it on your wait list so that you’ll be notified the next time this item is on sale.
Pennywise Panache brings the online sample sale to your desktop with a few simple clicks. Our goal is to bring you the most comprehensive, up-to-the-minute information on sample sales and hopefully, once you join the sample sale sites, you won’t see the need to subscribe to their emails because all the information you need is provided right here—at-Pennywise Panache.

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