Weekly Money Saver: Secret Ways to Save While Shopping

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

For this week’s money-saving tip, our friends at LearnVest shared their insight into the inner workings of department stores: (Below is just a snippet of their findings — for the full article, click here.)

Love to shop? Join the club; in 2011 we spent about $4.7 trillion (yes, trillon!) in retail sales, according the U.S. Commerce Department.

Floor layouts, salespeople’s strategies and even storewide sales tap into our most basic consumer impulses. But not this season: To help you engage in smarter retail therapy, we asked two former department store employees to reveal their juiciest secrets so you save more.

1. Start at the Back of the Store

One evergreen retail strategy is to bury the best discounts–clearance items, especially–in the rear of the store, so you’ll encounter racks of beautiful new merchandise before you get to the real nuggets.

Furthermore, stores will try to influence your purchases by advertising their current sales, even the smallest ones, heavily throughout the store, says Abby*, a former salesperson at a high-end New York City department store. “A lot of times, the best deals are not during the big advertised sales,” she says. “Usually the best sales items are on a rack toward the back or slightly hidden.”

2. Befriend Your Salesperson

Salespeople aren’t just trying to make sales on the spot. They’re motivated to keep customers apprised of future deals, too, because they have sales goals to meet during those promotions. Ask a clerk to put you in her client book and to call or email you about other sales as they happen.

A lot of stores will let even let you come in a week or so before the actual promotion and hold the merchandise you’re interested in, then email you when the sale begins. That way, you get the item at a discounted price before the sale officially starts; the industry term for this is a ‘pre-sell.’ “They’ll swipe your card, save the info, keep your merchandise packaged up in a special area, and give you a claim ticket to come back once the sale begins,” says Abby. Of course, the secondary motivation for a pre-sell is to get you back in the store to spend more, so make sure to return armed with the will power to pick up only what you already purchased.

3. Aim to Save at Least 30%

“Generally speaking, a sale isn’t really worth it unless you’re saving at least 30%,” says Abby. “And there’s always a sale happening in which you can save at least 30%.” So if you’re the type to cringe when you have to pay full retail, wait for the stuff you’re coveting to be introduced into the sale rotation. (Again, getting extra chummy with your salesperson means you might get tipped off to just when that is.)

For more secret ways to save while shopping, read the rest of the LearnVest article here.

How do you save when you’re shopping?

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