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6 Tips for Clothes Shopping During Store Clearance Sales

By Jacqueline Curtis

shopping clearanceI love it when I go shopping and find that my favorite store is having a huge sale. Gearing myself up to spend a certain amount and then learning that I’m getting way more bang for my buck is one of the best feelings in the world. However, it took me years before I realized that the feeling of snagging a huge score while shopping didn’t have to be completely random. In fact, you can track a store’s sale cycle so you always get the best price for whatever clothing and accessories you want.

Stores want to keep their shelves and racks filled with clothing and accessories, but they get new merchandise so frequently that eventually, items that aren’t selling must be put on clearance in order to move it out the door. This is when it’s your turn to score.

If you know exactly when an item will be on sale, you can decide whether you want to wait to buy it on the cheap, or you think it’s worth the extra money to buy it beforehand. Having the option gives you the chance to be the savviest shopper possible.

Understanding Sales Cycles

Don’t get me wrong – stores want you to pay top dollar for the goods on the shelves. That’s why they put higher-priced items right at the front of the store, and sale and clearance items way in the back. But just because a jacket is 30% off doesn’t make it any less fashionable, does it?

Between seasonal sales and the regular sale cycle, there’s really no reason you should have to pay full price for any article of clothing or accessory – unless, of course, it sells out and you don’t get a chance to make your move. Armed with the information below, you can save money, look fashionable, and dress the way you want for cheap.

1. Wait Six to Eight Weeks
The typical retail store lets a new item hang out on the shelves for six to eight weeks before it’s marked down. Merchandise in retail stores is ever-changing, so shop owners can’t afford to have old items languishing on the racks and taking up space. Furthermore, after six to eight weeks of buying, there might only be a few of a specific item remaining – hardly enough to take up room on a display. Therefore, it’s moved to the sale or clearance section, usually at the very back of the store. There, it can be lumped with other sale items to be snapped up by savvy shoppers.

2. Thursdays Are Best
If you want first dibs on a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, your best bet is to try shopping on a Thursday. Stores know that most people come to the mall or the shop on the weekend, so they begin preparations on Thursday to mark down old merchandise and rotate new merchandise into the store.

By shopping on Friday and Saturday, you might score a great deal, but you might also have a limited selection – that’s not good if you want something specific. By shopping on a Thursday, you can have the best selection paired with the best prices to snag the item that you desire.

3. Ask Around
I once found a dress on sale that I loved, but they didn’t have my size. Instead of leaving empty-handed, I asked one of the retail associates if she could check around to see if any of their other store locations had the same dress in stock. As luck would have it, there was another, and the store had it shipped to my house for free.

If you see something you want but the pickings are slim, ask to see what the store can do for you. In many cases, the salespersons want to keep the sale in-house, so they’ll bend over backwards to make sure you’re happy. While clearance buys are often limited, most stores have inventory elsewhere, so if you really want a great deal, it’s worth it to ask. You can also check smartphone shopping apps┬áto see if they have the item in stock online.

clearance rack

4. Know the Return Policy
Clearance buys are often a great deal, but it’s important to read the fine print. Finding a shirt for $5 is great, but not if you can’t return it if it doesn’t fit.

Always read or ask about the clearance return policy. In most cases, all clearance jewelry sales are final, but plenty of stores offer store credit in lieu of a refund for clearance clothes. Stores do not want to see out-of-season merchandise boomeranging back to the store since they need space for new wares. That’s why most clearance return policies are pretty short, usually around 14 days.

5. Shop End of Season
One of the best times to get the most bang for your buck is to shop around the end of a season. Keep in mind that retail stores are a couple of months “ahead of the weather,” so you could still pick up a cheap sweater and get a month’s worth of wear before it’s time to bring out your spring wardrobe.

Generally, stores overhaul their merchandise in line with the New York Fashion Weeks in September and February, so keep an eye out. You can get excellent deals on summer fashion by shopping in September, and you can snag winter fashion on the cheap in February.

6. Know When Not to Buy
You’re going to pay a premium price if you shop too early or during the wrong month. For instance, it’s unwise to buy jewelry around Christmas, when you’ll probably pay top dollar for your baubles. And some items never go on sale – high-end designer shoes and accessories are usually pretty constant in price, especially if the item doesn’t technically have a “season.”

Final Word

You don’t have to spend a ton to look great. When you’re smart about buying during sales and clearances, you can dress the same as your friends, only for much cheaper. It’s the best way to stay in the loop without completely busting your budget.

When is your favorite time to shop? Do you have any other tips to get the best deals?

(photo credit: Bigstock)

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high fashion on a tight budget. She writes for several online publications, including her own fashion blog, How Not to Dress Like a Mom, and specializes in fashion, finance, health and fitness, and parenting. Jae grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Utah with her husband, two kids, and prized shoe collection.

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  • Volkier95

    Thanks I will do these things!

  • http://iheartclearence.com/ Iheartclearence

    I never knew Thursday’s were best…that will be my new shopping day!

  • http://youngandcentsible.com/ Charlotte

    I love this list. One thing to add though: retail stores almost always let you use coupons on clearance items, so there’s no reason not to google printable coupons+store of your choice before you head out! Often you can bring in a coupon for 20% off. I would be careful with the kind that are $10 off $50 etc., because they can sometime encourage overspending, but can sometimes be really great too!

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