I recently got a question about online shopping—more specifically how I do it and whether or not I am afraid that the items won’t fit. In my opinion, ‘fear’ is not the word I would use, considering there is actual bad stuff in the world to fear, but I understand the sentiment.
Online shopping has been around for about 15 years, JCrew being one of the pioneers of website-driven apparel shopping. Now it seems like everyone and their beagle is instituting the point-click-purchase way of life. And why not? It’s hella convenient, you can buy items that are not available in your local region and you can easily compare prices of the same item, or find similar items that tickle your fancy. Frankly, online shopping is like Kanye West, you wouldn’t engage in it all of the time because it can lead to reckless behaviour, but you can’t deny that it’s changed the landscape of what we consider ‘normal practice’.
Before I delve into my insights, I need to explain the American retail landscape. Why the American one, you ask? Well, because of Canadian businesses’ desire to follow the American lead. For example, why do we all of a sudden have Black Friday sales in Canada? Answer: So that Canadian businesses don’t miss out on your Xmas dinero. It’s as simple as that. So let’s learn the rules so that they can be broken later:
- There is very little on this earth that requires you to pay full price for anything. This is the mantra with which–and the basis from which–I shop. Remind yourself of this every day, like a Buddhist chant.
- January is the best time of year to buy clothes in general, and winter clothes more specifically. I don’t mean the Boxing Day or Day after Christmas sales—those are hit and miss—I mean the January sales when no one else has money (see the logic here?). I need a virtual fly swatter to shoo away all of the retail outlets that keep emailing me their sales. This wallet is now closed.
- Sale ≠ Clearance. If I ran a Shopping 101 workshop, then this would be one of the things I insist that people learn. A sale is when retailers place an item at a reduced price for a temporary amount of time. Clearance, on the other hand, is a permanent price reduction. Ah, the beauty of a steady state.
- Buy out-of-season. Yup, this is counter-intuitive to most people, but you want the most bang for your buck. Basically, when you buy your clothes this way you will ensure your ability to hit the clearances and not the sales. Also, you should find that the discounts are deeper. The retail cycle looks like this:
Now this chart is from the perspective of a designer who wants to sell to a merchandise buyer at a retail store. This means that the Selling Dates are not the retailer’s selling dates, but those of the designer. What we are interested in is the Delivery Dates because that is when the store receives the merchandise from the designer (or wholesaler) that they are going to offer to you, the consumer. From looking at this chart, Spring delivery to the store occurs from late January to late March. Translation: look for winter sales in mid- to late January. Fall delivery dates begin late June, therefore expect summer clearances to begin mid- to late June.
Looks like I will have to make this one a two-parter. I see that I have already written quite a lot, but luckily I am more economical with my words when I write than when I talk.
You have to know the rules, to break the rules