Scouring the Landscape for Fashion Possibilities

fashion your style Dec 12, 2021

I don’t like shopping. I like buying.  There is a huge difference between the two.

In my many years in the fashion industry I was both a professional buyer and professional shopper. I got paid to shop.

As a professional buyer I made semi-annual trips to Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and New York to buy seasonal inventory, timing the deliveries to ensure there was always fresh fashion arriving in store. To the average shopper, the thought of flying off to New York sounds enticing.  In reality, the days were gruelling. New York was not all bagels and Broadway. My days started early and ended late. Collections are made up of many different pieces. I would evaluate them based on fabric, line, shape, silhouette and value. I bought with the commercial knowledge of what sells, what works, what doesn’t. For every garment purchased I might reject 40 or more. By the end of each buying trip everything started to look the same.

As a professional shopper for clients, I had no loyalty to any store and looked everywhere to find the perfect clothes for them. These days, I only shop for myself and can assure you I don’t think there is anything recreational about retail shopping.

For many, stores are the promised land of possibility. Others find shopping frustrating. I’m often asked what type of stores are the best to shop in. The reality is that you can’t find everything in one type of store. You’ll end up buying in department stores, chain stores, specialty boutiques, off-price retailers, outlet stores; whichever type of store has what you want at a price you are willing to pay. That means looking everywhere at every price point.

My idea of a good time isn’t trudging around a mall only to end up seeing the same stuff in chain store after chain store. I do appreciate department stores and the small independent retailers that offer unique labels and great service, but they don’t always have the selection or sizes.

Who doesn’t love off-price retailers? (Winners, Marshall’s and more). They generally don’t do promotions, sales coupon, or other gimmicks. The inventory you find hanging on the racks are manufacturer’s overruns, discontinued designs, cancelled retail orders and incorrectly sized merchandise. You’ll never know what they have until you get there. That’s half the fun.

Then there are outlet malls. But before you drop hard-earned cash let me explain how they operate. Just because you are in an outlet mall don’t assume you are in an outlet store. Usually only about half the stores are true factory discount places.

Tags that say “Compare At” are not the same as “Sale Price”. It is a legal term used strictly for these types of stores. It also may be that it was manufactured specifically for an outlet store and, even though it may be a brand name, it’s not the same product you would get in their own branded stores. It’s not a knock-off, it’s the real deal, but the quality may be inferior. Does that matter? You decide.

Never assume you will find the best bargain even in an off-price retail or outlet store. Sometimes you can find an item cheaper when it’s on sale in a regular store.

In the off-season, stores are typically quiet. Retailers offer deep discounts to move their inventory and get ready for next season’s collections. If you are a chronic roam-through-the-aisles person to see if you can find a great deal on things you don’t actually need stop for a minute. Consider a bargain that seems too hard to resist, like the one on its third markdown. Try hard not to think with your sale brain (that’s the one you use when you lose all reason about why you should not buy it). Getting caught up in the pursuit of a bargain and buying an item mostly because the store is practically giving it away is just wrong. Everything is 100 percent off if you don’t buy it. Any item hanging in your closet that you are not wearing because it’s not right for you is expensive, no matter how deeply discounted it was.

On the other hand, if you do end up buying something truly special at a great price, enjoy that tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment along with the bragging rights on your shopping savvy. Then when someone tells you how much they love those fabulous designer pants you’re wearing, caress the fabric, smile, and proudly announce the price you paid.


This article originally appeared in the Calgary Herald.

Copyright: Helene Oseen 2021 

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