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Is That Clothing Sale Really Worth It? 5 Things to Be Aware Of

Clothing sale

Everyone loves a good clothing sale. We skim racks for bargains and get joy from discovering a good deal.

In fact, studies show we’re wired to gravitate toward a sale. The more we want a desirable item, the more the pleasure center in the human brain lights up. The pleasure in getting a bargain also lights up our brains, outweighing the pain of cost.

Have you ever experienced a sense of disappointment after making a bargain purchase though? Sometimes that clothing item that seemed like a steal at the time turns out to be just another item taking up space in your closet.

Here’s what you should be aware of when looking at a clothing sale:

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#1. The clothing isn’t always what it seems

People often get excited when they see a major label on sale. You see this playing out when they flock to clearance outlets or to department store sales. However, that hot deal on a new name-brand suit might not be as much of a deal as first meets the eye.

Sometimes those pieces look exactly like the full-price alternative, but they’re really not. An investigative piece a few years ago revealed that it’s common practice among some outlets to stock label-brand clothing that has been specifically made for the outlet. This means that the pieces are often made more cheaply, such as with quicker sewing, different buttons or a slightly different cut. This makes sense – they wouldn’t want to make a more expensive version that they know is for an outlet store. Here’s an extract from that article:

“In reality, much of the merchandise at the outlets of major department stores is made or bought specifically for those outlets, with designers and vendors creating familiar-looking pieces at a lower cost that often indicates inferior quality.

Neiman, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York, and Saks Fifth Avenue all have their own outlets; customers flock to these stores for the brand-name cachet and believe they’re shopping last season’s carefully curated inventory. However, this isn’t exactly the case. Nordstrom Rack, for example, confirms to Racked that only 20% of what it sells is clearance merchandise coming from their stores and website, while the rest is bought expressly for the outlet.”

Essentially, what you might be getting is a watered-down concept of the original design, made at lower quality in order to sell more cheaply. Outlet stores like Neiman Marcus’ talk about targeting the “aspirational shopper” – the person who wants the products that look like the full-price labels in their main stores, but don’t want to pay the regular price.

If you’re aware of the practice, you might be quite happy to purchase the cheaper item knowing that it may not meet the same quality standards. However, shoppers are often confused about what they’re getting. Look at store labeling in many of these outlets and you’ll see something like; “$120 – Compare elsewhere at $400.” Perhaps the full-price of the better-quality item is $400, but the piece made for the outlet shouldn’t be.

Clothing sale

Clothing “bargains” may simply be more cheaply made imitations Share on X

#2. You get what you pay for

A “great sale” that you spot may simply be last season’s merchandise that has been discarded by manufacturers. This is common practice and most shoppers expect it, but remember the “buyer beware” adage.

It’s not that you’re never getting a great deal on clothing – sometimes you really are getting a steal. However, remember that you’ll often be looking at very seasonal items. Perhaps the colors, patterns or style are “done” for now and you’re unlikely to get much wear out of them. 

You can try looking for the classic cuts and colors, but these tend to be the items in hottest demand. You’ll have to move quickly!

#3. That online deal may not be worth it

Roughly twenty seconds on the internet will turn up amazing “deals” that could be yours. However, shop online with great care. It’s not always easy to determine quality or things such as whether the clothing will fit you well.

We have to emphasize that looking good is all about fit and quality. Of course, every picture you see advertising garments online will look great, but that’s not always the reality of what shows up in your mailbox.

Online sales can be prone to the same pitfalls you’ll find in outlet stores, particularly if you’re looking at known labels. Outside of those, you get the bargain sites that promise amazing deals on different brands. However, a lot of these deal sites are sourcing their clothing directly from an offshore factory. The piece that looked good in pictures often turns out to be more “fast fashion”, made from cheap fabrics and with poor-quality construction. The sizing may not be what you expect either, especially when the clothes come directly from another country. That deal may not be so great after all.

#4. Return policies are often changed

It is common for retailers to change their return policy, especially for big sales. This is something to check, especially if you’re inclined to shop quickly under the assumption that you can return items later.

You will especially see this when retailers try to liquidate “as is” merchandise. Their aim is to get the inventory out of their stores and warehouses so they don’t want it to come back. 

When retailers sell “as is” merchandise with no returns, they will put out clothing that needs repairs or even clothing that is mislabeled in terms of size. This is something to be very aware of – it’s a good idea to try before you buy and ensure that you’re getting the size you think you have.

Clothing sale

#5. They’re using psychological tricks on you

… Of course they are. Sales are all about getting inside the heads of customers and finding those little triggers that push them to buy. When you’re looking at clothing sales, any number of psychological devices may be used to push your buttons.

For example:

  • Discount pricing, or the appearance of it. At sales run by professional liquidators, it is typical for prices to be marked up by 20 to 30 percent compared to what they were, then they will show a “clearance” price that may be 5% more than the original pricing. Some major retailers have faced lawsuits for doing similar things. For example, they might say that a pair of trousers are regularly sold for $200 when in fact they’re sold for $170. They then say that the $170 price is a discount (this is obviously a very dishonest practice!)
  • Free shipping on orders over a certain amount. This is an online sales trick that tends to get people searching for that extra item so that they can have free shipping. Realistically, they probably don’t need the item and would have actually saved money by buying the item they came for, along with shipping.
  • Multiple purchase pricing. Similar to the shipping, we’ll often work to find that extra item so we can get the “three for $200”, or whatever the deal is.
  • Clever language. The signage may say “up to 70% off” to get you into the store, but in reality, only two items have 70% off while the rest are mostly 20% off.
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Final thoughts

It’s easy to get sucked into a sale – we’re programmed to get excited about the idea of a bargain! However, when it comes to clothing or indeed any other product, remember the adage “buyer beware.”

Remember to look for the things that you otherwise would look for when you purchase clothing – good fit and good quality. Remember that it is common practice in some places to sell a more cheaply made alternative to the full-priced item as a “clearance” piece.

Importantly, know what you’re looking for and what to look for. This helps to avoid those impulse buys of items that never see the light outside of your closet.

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