6 Tips for Shopping at Sample Sales


A few weeks ago I hit up the Reformation sample sale that 260 Sample Sale hosted in Soho. It pretty much met all of my expectations: the venue itself was chaotic and stressful, the merchandise was super discounted, oh, and I cried. Really, I did—you’ll see why in tip number three. I haven’t been to a ton of sample sales in my life, but when I go I often come out of it with a few purchases that I love and likely wouldn’t have picked up for myself at their original retail prices.

Sample sales are a great way to shop your favorite brands for a discount and although you trade in traditional shopping comforts like a friendly salesperson to answer any questions you have and return policies (most sample sale don’t let you return items, so keep that in mind) if you go in with a plan, you can still emerge with some awesome stuff. So below find my top tips for how to navigate sample sales from how early to get there to what to expect in the fitting room.

1. Do your research

You can’t guarantee that the styles a brand has up on their website will be exactly the same as the ones at a sample sale but at least it will give you a sense of what might pop up that could be very similar. For example, I knew at the Reformation sample sale my entire focus was going to be on dresses so I could skip past tops, denim, skirts, etc.

2. Get there early

Typically for sample sales of big name brands, I’ll try to arrive between 45-60 minutes before they open. I know that might sound insane, but just download a podcast and hang out in line. You’ll be so glad you did when the doors open and you’re one of the first people in because it’ll be less hectic and there will be more stuff for you to choose from!

3. Plan on checking your bag

Most sample sales will insist on you checking your bag, even if it’s too small to smuggle out any clothing in so just keep that in mind when you go. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I had the misfortune of losing my debit card at the Ref sample sale because they wouldn’t even let me just take my wallet out and I put the card in my pocket. BIG MISTAKE. Learn from me and put your credit card in the bottom of your shoe or in the back of your phone case to save yourself an hour on the phone with your bank trying to cancel your card.

4. If you see something, don’t hesitate

If something catches your eye, even if you’re not sure what it is, make sure you grab hold of it the second you see it! You can inspect it more closely once it’s in your arms. The sample sale will likely limit the amount of items you can bring into a fitting room so make sure that you have all of your options in front of you can you can decide in line for the fitting room what you want to take in and what you’re okay with passing on.  

5. Wear the proper undergarments

When I say fitting room, I hope you know that I’m referring to a large sectioned-off area with a empty clothing racks and a few mirrors scattered around. It’s a large, communal space so make sure you’re in undergarments you’ll be comfortable in, since you’ll likely be changing in front of other people. Also make sure to wear what you think will be best under the clothes you’re trying on, like seamless underwear or a nude bra instead of a black bra, and so on.

6. Go more than once

One of the great things about sample sales is that as the stock dwindles down, they often decrease the prices. Try to get to the sale on the first day it opens and make a plan to stop back on the final day to see if there have been any extra discounts placed on something that you were maybe on the fence about. It might sound crazy, but it could be worth it if something you had your eye on gets marked down an extra 25%!

Photographs by Sarah Ratner | Follow Sarah on Instagram

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Do you shop at sample sales? What is your number one tip?