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10 Tips for Shopping at New York City Sample Sales

Even a sample sale beginner will feel at ease with our advice


If you've never been to a New York City sample sale, you might be intimidated -- but there's no need to be scared! New York City's Sample Sales are a great way to get designer clothing at deeply discounted prices and with these tips and advice, you'll be an expert shopper in no time.

Not sure where and how to find Sample Sales? Here's Where To Find Sample Sales.
More: New York City's Best Discount Stores

1. Know Where You're Going

Atmosphere inside Housing Works' Fashion for Action 2009 public sample sale inside the Chelsea Thrift shop on November 19, 2009 in New York City
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Bring addresses for sample sales -- they are frequently held in office buildings and warehouses and there aren't always signs outside to indicate the sale is going on. Knowing that the sale is on 33rd between 5th and 6th Avenue is not enough -- you need to know the exact address and floor/suite where the sale is being held. Most Sample Sale Listings will include the necessary details. If you have a phone number, don't hesitate to call to see if you might need an appointment.

2. Plot Out a Path

Some time spent with a map designing a route for the best path to work your way through a series of sample sales will save you tons of time and make the most of your shopping stamina. But don't be so stuck to your plan that you don't take advantage of sales you may discover on flyers and billboards as you walk around.

3. Dress for Success

Successful Sample Sale shopping requires lots of energy and time on your feet. You'll be happiest if you wear comfortable shoes. Lots of the sales don't have changing rooms, so wear undergarments (or a leotard) that you won't mind other people seeing under clothing that is easy to change.

4. Few Sales Are Truly Private

Even though some samples sales require that you make an appointment or have your name added to the guest list, very sales are limited to a specific audience. If you know about the sale, as long as you make the call to get added to the list or make the necessary reservation, you should have no trouble getting in.

5. Shop Early for the Best Selection & Shop Late for the Best Prices

Early in the morning on the first day of a sale, you are most likely to have the best items to choose from -- and probably the best organization in the store. As the day goes on, items will be picked over and often the best bargains will be gone. Discounts increase as the last day of the sale approaches -- these sample sales are the way that manufacturers get rid of excess inventory and most don't want merchandise left over when the sale is over.

6. Closely Check Items Before Purchasing

All sales are final, so if you discover a hole after you've already paid, the item (and hole) are yours. You may be happy to replace buttons, fix hems and repair zippers, but it's best if you know what needs to be done before you buy.

7. Be Open-Minded, But Know What You Want

Finding a specific item can be a challenge at a sample sale -- you're more likely to find great deals if you keep an open mind about what you're seeking. Hit several different sales to maximize your chances of success. Being open-minded doesn't mean forgetting your budget -- most listings will give you an idea of prices to expect, so choose sales that meet your goals.

8. Just Because It's at a Sample Sale, Doesn't Mean It's a Deal

Sometimes, there's a good reason that an item didn't sell during the regular season -- whether it's a skirt that's not cut to fit well or an ugly purse, just because it's got a designer label doesn't mean you should buy it.

9. Bring Cash

While some designers and warehouses accept credit cards and checks, some will only take cash.

10. Avoid Lunch Hour Whenever Possible

From about 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. sample sales tend to be at their most crowded with New Yorkers on lunch break trying to find a deal. Try to get to most of your sample sale destinations early to avoid the crowds.

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