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Fashion bargains

Find them, understand them, love them!

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You weren't seriously thinking about paying full price, were you?

After all, with a combination of online, retail, catalog and secondhand options the potential is great for buying what you want for less.

Here's a handy guide to buying fashion at a price:

Rules

  • Never buy because of price alone; always buy because you first like the item.
  • Buy classics. Avoid the temptation to splurge on too-trendy pieces. Put your money in timeless pieces like sweaters, good jeans, wool separates and quality leather goods. If it's out of style (or quickly fading) you won't get your maximum $$$$ worth.
  • Check the return policy. Know the company's policy before you buy; be extremely wary of a company that won't take exchanges or charges a restocking fee. 'Net shopping mean colors and fabrics can't really be distinguished, not to mention fit. Go with generous return policies if at all possible (you may have to sacrifice this rule for the secondhand).
  • Even designers make mistakes. There are plenty of ugly goods out there with a chi chi label sewn in the collar; discounters and outlet stores can be a dumping ground for the slow sellers. Good judgment and taste are your guides here.

Resources

Discount/Off-price - From online pioneers like Bluefly.com  to brick and mortar stores like T.J. Maxx, the discounter or off-price retailer is all about offering you merchandise for less than you'd pay at a department store or specialty retailer.

Outlet store - Often grouped together in an outlet mall or warehouse area, the outlet store is a retail outlet for major brands and merchants to sell off-price (end-of-season, etc.) merchandise to the public.

Auction - If you enjoy the thrill of the hunt as much as the purchase, then online auctions are for you. Ebay.com has become legendary for providing great fashion finds.

Secondhand - Vintage, consignment stores and flea markets have become favorite haunts of fashion lovers around the world. Not only will you save a bundle, you'll end up with something unique by shopping secondhand.

Sales - While many merchants at least double the cost of an item (they pay $25 for a shirt and charge you $50), some mark their retail prices much higher, only to promote items later (they pay $25 for a shirt, mark it $60, then promote it at 25% off -- or $48).

You'll have to gauge the validity of the "sale" price merchant by merchant. The best way is to have a general idea of what the usual asking price is of an item (e.g. jeans for $40, Tshirts for $15, etc.) Click or shop several stores to get a feel for common retail prices.

Why a bargain is a bargain

There's always a reason an item is being sold at less than retail.

Here are a few clues to a rock-bottom price:

  • It's an end-of-season sale.
  • Demand for the item was less than expected.
  • The clothes arrived in the store at the wrong time of year (coats in the summer).
  • The weather was not conducive to business: cool summer, warm winter, etc.
  • It was bought at the tail end of a fad's popularity.
  • The item is damaged.    
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