Department Store Sale Shopping: Not For the Plain Jane

8 July 2012

The long waited July sales are currently underway in almost every store on the Manhattan’s east side, west side, uptown and downtown.  Comparable to their holiday sales that push winter clothing into your closet, the July discounts attempt to force feed you last minute summer threads in order for the store to make room for pre-fall merchandise.

These massive, storewide sales hock heaps of designer wear for large discounts, leaving me to wonder how stores and designers would  profit from a 70% off sale? “ When items need to be marked down—and sometimes when they don’t —retailers simply return to their vendors, whoever sold them the animal print  sweaters or the emerald blazers, and demand kickbacks, known in the business as ‘markdown money,’” journalist Maureen Tkacik states in a memorable New York Magazine article.

I re-read Tkacik’s 2006 article before visiting 4th of July sales at Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf, and  it  helped  me to  view the sales in a whole new light  The article mentions time and time again a certain shopper Tkacik calls the animal print lady, the type of shopper who  only visits  stores during big blow out sales, and leans toward certain  fashions that are available for 50-70%.  Although more than six years old, I am glad to report that not only the animal print ladies are not extinct , but the animal print itself continues to hang on sales racks everywhere.

Bloomingdale's Department Store Sale

I assure you that during my latest visit this week, merely every designated designers sale rack held at least one article of animal print clothing. Tkacik wasn’t kidding in her discovery; the animal print lives on devoted discount shoppers . What Tkacik did not foresee when she wrote the article was the fact that animal prints would become a closet staple and will probably never go out of style,  hence the  shoppers she calls “animal print ladies”are merely the ones who  know when to buy their animal print clothes for less than the full retail price.

Some things never change; as I was browsing the 30% off racks of Max Mara in Bloomingdale’s the day before 4th of July, an associate approached me stating that even thought their 50% off sale didn’t begin until July 5th, they would still honor the upcoming discount. A pre-sale of sorts, except you didn’t have to come back to pick up your merchandise, you could bring it home with you same day .

During another visit on July 7th, a Bloomingdale’s sale associate informed me  that although there will be no  “consolidation sale this year, Chanel is expected to take an additional 40% sale starting July 10th.

And yet, the 2012 “after July 4th  sale” at Bloomingdale’s left us wanting for more, as we  would characterise it as rather….tamed. The signs discreetly spread around the  store mentioned only the additional discounts that varied between 20% and  30%.  For some items, when you do the math, the sales  don’t look so bad. Take for example  the  Karen Millen dress in the picture, it went from over $200 to $99,  and when you calculate the additional 20%  discount,  a trip to 59th Street might be well worth it. Would this purchase turn you into an animal print lady? I wouldn’t worry about that, you probably are one if you read this website.

30% off racks of Max Mara at Bloomingdale's Department Store Sale

Karen Millen Sales Rack at Bloomingdale's Department Store Sale
Karen Millen Animal Print Dress $99 (orig. $200)

On Tuesday July 3rd, aside from the inundation of leopards, cheetahs, and zebras (oh my!) every brand was trying to push out their red, white, and blue clothing. Starred pants and blue and white stripe boat neck shirts were heavily discounted, in hopes that last minute shoppers would be out in search of the perfect outfit for their 4th of July barbeque. Above all this, I noticed heaps of neon.

Clearly the target sale audience members for the shoe department were no plain Janes either. For the most part, all visited  stores held, on average, a 50% off sale for their designer shoes.   Prints, patent leather, and neon were the trends here. Prada had a bright pink pair of heels, Lanvin and Stella McCartney had eye catching neon  leather heels that you could see from miles away at Bergdorf.

To get down to basics, I was impressed by the sale selection at Bergdorf Goodman – they were certainly the winner over Bloomingdale’s , which is surprising. Given Bergdorf’s current renovation within the women’s contemporary section, it seems there were less shoppers and more discounts. I’ll take the plastic bags hung about and floors strewn with sawdust if that means 70% off Rag & Bone denim and Vince clothing any day. The sales at  Bloomingdale’s were pretty standard. Set up just the same as their Holiday sale, with bonus discounts to boot.

Shoe racks at Bloomingdale's Department Store Sale

Sales Rack at Bergdorf Goodman Department Store Sale
Bergdorf Goodman Department Store Sale

There’s some serious study to be had in the theories of sale shopping. The sample sale shopper vs. the department store shopper, the 4th of July shopper vs. the Holiday shopper, the Bergdorf shopper vs. the Bloomies shopper, etc, but that’s for another day. For now we will simply bask in the glory of cheap leopard print heels and neon pink skirts, and save the psychology for a rainy day. I do promise you will gain one thing from this article: you will never again be able to serenely browse a sale rack again without taking immediate notice to the infinite display of the anti-plain Jane wardrobe. Sorry.

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Posted by Staff Writer at 09:20 AM
CITY LIFESTYLE , Opinions , SALES , Sample Sale Reviews , Tips Guides |

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