Are fashion sample sales a waste of time? This was the question I pondered as someone who recently relocated to London from Perth, Western Australia. My month of sample sale bargain hunting in London started by accident. Moving half way around the world I suddenly found myself with a bit of spare time on my hands whilst settling into my new London life and routine. As with all things social media these days, I stumbled across a London sample sale twitter post which had been retweeted by the House of Holland for their upcoming sample sale. The retweet was from the website www.chicmi.com which specialises in promoting sample sales, vintage sales and shopping events. A massive fan of House of Holland brand, I quickly clicked on the website for more details and suddenly my eyes feasted on a list of upcoming sample sales in London. Before I could shout ‘sample sale heaven’ my October and November diary was full of sample sale events. Madness I know, but lets just say the city where I hail from is very much lacking in the sample sale culture. Here are a couple of anecdotes from my sample sale experience.
MULBERRY SAMPLE SALE
The first day of the Mulberry sample sale was absolute chaos. I arrived around 10am to the Music Room venue in Mayfair and there was already a long line of shoppers snaking along the pavement outside waiting patiently for their chance to enter the Mulberry sample sale melee. Once inside there were loads of bargain hunters scouring through piles upon piles of sample sale stock. With the shopping frenzy swirling around, I was surprised to see a women with her miniature dog in toe and a small baby strapped to the front of her bargain hunting mother. Women two or three deep were clambering to access the rows of tables and stands piled high with handbags, totes, cross bodies, purses, key chains, cashmere scarves, leather gloves, shoes, belts, jewellery boxes, note pads, dog accessories and more. Racks of clothing including silk blouses, skirts, pants, sweaters, jackets, dresses and coats. If you were looking for something unique you needed to hunt through all the repeat styles and colours of handbags and purses. Unfortunately the item which I fell in love with was a navy satchel handbag discounted to £1000, which was way over my sample sale budget and so I sadly left empty handed that day.
VICKI SARGE SAMPLE SALE
The Vicki Sarge sample sale was a one-day only event. And my advice if you want to snap up some of her wonderfully creative designs at a bargain price, arrive as soon the doors open. I arrived mid-morning around 10am and the small shop on Elizabeth Street, Belgravia was teeming with shoppers eager to find that special jewellery piece or two. I had never heard of Vicki Sarge before finding her sample sale online at chicmi.com and I’m so glad I did. Her jewellery was fun, playful, dramatic, delicate, colourful. A ton of stock had already been snapped up and luckily after scouring the remaining pieces I found a gorgeous gold statement necklace for £69 which was originally priced at over £200. I would definitely recommend this sample sale and even a trip to her store on regular non-sample sale days would be a delightful treat.
GENERAL MULTI-DESIGNER SAMPLE SALES
Lets just say I won’t attend a generic multi-brand sale again. Whilst there was mild frenzied action in the shoe area of one event I attended with loads of Hunter boots and the odd designer shoe sprinkled in amongst other high street brands – the clothes, handbags and accessories left me with little desire to purchase. The sale was advertised as ‘designer brands’ but you had to pick through the racks to find the well know luxury designer brands and once you did, the items for sale weren’t terribly exciting. Those who did see purchasing on that day would probably disagree, however, I felt the quality of stock was lacking in inspiration and felt more like a jumbled and rehashed version of previous seasons.
SAMPLE SALE TIPS
After a couple of months traipsing around London from Mayfair to Shoreditch to Hackney the novelty of attending so many sample sales finally wore off. Now that the bargain buzz in my brain has died down to a low hum, next time I will be more rational and selective about which sample sales to attend. Here are a few tips and things I learnt along the way.
- Pick your sample sale events carefully – not all sample sale events are created equal.
- Give yourself a budget.
- Set the alarm and arrive early.
- Mentally prepare for a potential sale-scrum. Especially at the popular sample sales like Mulberry, Joseph, Roskanda and Mary Katrantzou.
- Be focused. Resist the shopping frenzy around you to avoid buying unnecessary just-because-its-on-sale items.
- Choose carefully. Samples sales have a strict no refund policy.
- Ask your sustainable fashion self “Do I really need this item?”
And in answer to my question ‘are sample sales a waste of time?’ It depends…
*this post was not sponsored by any of the brands or websites mentioned