Monday, March 24, 2014

Navigating End-Of-Season Sales

This week, I'm handing over the reins for a post from guest writer Matt Hanrahan. If all goes well, Matt will be doing some more writing for the blog in the upcoming months, so we hope you like his stuff! Here we go:

If you’ve been to a mall in the last few weeks, you’ve probably noticed the huge crowds and the great deals at most (if not all) of your favorite stores. Late season sales are probably one of the best times all year you can shop, and right now you have an excellent opportunity to upgrade and maintain a fashionable wardrobe. In this article we’ll discuss how you can pick up some great new pieces and avoid making some common mistakes when hitting the mall.


Let’s first talk about the obvious benefits. It’s so hard to pass over stores lowering prices by 30, 40, or even 50 percent, and this short period of the retail season is probably the best time to snag great deals on staple pieces you’ve been missing in your closet. 

Probably the best part of this season is full inventory sales. Even if you are fully prepared for anything fall and winter can bring, full inventory sales will let you take advantage of your favorite stores new lines without breaking the bank. 

This is especially the case with shoes; if your footwear is looking a little scuffed or muddy I recommend waiting for the nearest department store sale and stocking up (full disclosure, I’m a big shoe guy so take “stocking up” with a grain of salt”).

Last but not least is the time and efficiency benefit. If you’re a busy guy like me, even one that loves shopping, spring brings a lot of opportunities to get away from the bright lights of the retail environment and into the sunshine we almost forgot existed. With every store around dropping prices all at once, you don’t need to spend a lot of your precious time hunting for discounts because pretty much every place has them. 

What to avoid:

Now I know most people reading this are probably well aware of the deals and discounts at their favorite stores and I might go so far as to say you’ve already read this week’s Deals and Steals For The Weekend”. You probably also know that, when late season shopping, you run the risk of buying something that you hate in 6 months. 

That being said, the mistakes many people make are a little less obvious. The first thing you want to watch out for is smart marketing, and by that I mean the goal should be to avoid impulse buys. The reason most sales only last a few days is to get you to buy right then and there. Try to move yourself away from anything someone might consider trendy and definitely don’t buy anything you wouldn’t buy at full price. 

The next piece of advice to avoid is outerwear like coats, gloves and hats. A lot of people will tell you that this is the best time to buy these items but I completely disagree. Your outerwear is one of the most worn items in the winter and you should love how it looks it and feels when it’s just a few degrees outside. If you buy a winter coat when it’s warm out you can’t comfortably test it, it might not fit in your wardrobe in a year and realistically you’re looking through what didn’t sell. (Editor's Note: I agree with Matt here, but I will give a nod to scoring staple outerwear at the end of the season. In other words, I say go ahead and buy out-of-season, but only if it's a timeless piece - no risk of it going out of style before you can wear it. Bonus if it's something you've been on the hunt for all season but couldn't find. Just my two cents!)  

Finally, if you are like 99% of everyone else, you are working with a limited budget. I am in full support of buying clothes well in advance of the season (as long as they are basic items you need) but if you spend most of your money on seasonal items, you won’t have enough to buy anything for the upcoming summer weather. (Editor's Note: Amen.)

Tips for your next shopping trip:
To round out our discussion here are the tips take advantage of the benefits but avoid the pitfalls of end of season shopping:
  • Don’t use this time to buy anything particularly trendy. Only buy staple items for your wardrobe.
  • Try to identify any pieces you may be missing and focus on finding those items first. Think solid colored shirts, chinos, jeans, accessories, and formal wear.
  • Avoid very heavy fabrics. Clothing sold in the fall is meant to be worn in the winter when it’s cold, and that thickness is going to make you very hot in the summer doldrums. 
  • Try to identify full inventory sales and spend most of your time and money there. Not only can you pick up in season items on the cheap, you are supporting companies that give us this opportunity. 
  • Stay away from outerwear (we’ve discussed this above)
  • When online shopping, give yourself a few hours or even a day to make sure this isn’t an impulse buy. 
  • Finally the golden rule: If you wouldn’t buy the item at full price, don’t buy it on sale. 

What are you’re favorite tips for end of season shopping? What mistakes have you made? Let me know in the comments!

Matt hails from the suburbs of Minneapolis. His day-job is at an investment firm, but he also has a passion for clothing (or, more significantly, style in general). Check out his own blog on life after college at, or follow him on Twitter (@mhanrahan18).

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