Tuesday, 21 August 2012

How to Survive a Value Village Sale Day

It's that time of year again: back to school shopping time! Buying an entirely new wardrobe is out of the question for those of us on a budget, but the best sale of the year (well actually the best sale that happens 4 times a year) is coming up, so your budget might not get hit so hard if you shop smart. I'm talking about the Value Village Half Price Sale Day! I've been going to these sales since I was a wee lass, and for many a year I actually had to work them as well (never ever EVER again), and I shall probably still be going to them when I'm 64. But not everyone can do a VV sale day and make it count, so here are my helpful tips on how to get the most out of the trip - and make sure that you make it home in more or less one piece. I know at least one person who'll be hitting up the sale with me in a few weeks time, and even though he's no veteran shopper with my tutelage he'll be fine. I'm still going to pack him cookies though, just in case ;)

  1. Plan ahead. I like to scout out the location up to a week ahead of the actual sale day. I make sure that I know how to get there (buses can be a bitch early in the morning), make sure that I know the opening time, and most importantly make sure that it’s worth going at all. If the merchandise doesn’t look promising a week beforehand, then chances are it won’t have improved much by the time of the sale. Sometimes the product will “flip,” but often a store has a general pattern of merchandise turnover that doesn’t vary. Make sure that you know where everything is in the store, especially the fitting rooms and cash registers because these are your main points of interest.
  2. Dress smart. Wear clothes that are comfortable, that come off easily, and that you don’t mind getting stretched out or dumped on the ground. I usually stick to a tshirt and jeans, because they’re easy and reliable. The same principle applies to shoes. You’re going to be on your feet for quite a while, so you need something that isn’t going to give you blisters and that is broken in. Avoid anything with laces because you’re going to end up tying and untying them constantly, and that takes up precious time that would be better served shopping. I usually opt for flip flops because they’re comfy and I can slip them on while I’m getting dressed and not have to bend over to fiddle with laces, straps, or socks. When it comes to accessories, the best bet is to avoid them altogether. If you have to carry a purse make sure it’s one that’s light and hands free (two hands means faster flipping through racks and the smaller the purse the less weight you’re carrying around). Leave your necklaces and bracelets at home because you’re just going to lose them or end up throwing them in your purse; don’t wear a belt because it takes time to undo and do up again; even take out your earrings (you have no idea how many times that I’ve gotten shirts caught on earrings in the rush to try things on). One thing that people never think about when they plan shopping outfits, but is actually quite important, is their underwear. Don’t wear anything fancy, uncomfortable, or garment specific, because you’re going to be trying on a bunch of random clothes. It’s best to wear stuff that you wear normally, rather than say that bra that only goes with the little Gucci dress. And for god’s sakes actually wear underwear if you don’t normally!
  3. Go early. Like really early. Like be lined up to get in early. Yes, this means you’re a keener, but this also means that the store is going to be less crowded, the fitting rooms will not be as busy, and you’ll scoop the best stuff! This is one day when it pays to be up at the crack of dawn because by the time everyone else is waiting in line at the fitting rooms you’ll be off sipping a post-shopping cosmopolitan with lunch.
  4. Once you enter the store you must have a battle plan. Yes, a battle plan. Shopping a Value Village sale day is like going to war, or at least like a competitive sport. Some people like to target specific sections (this is where your pre-sale visit will come in handy, since you will already know where the different sections are in the store), but I find that the best strategy is to start at one end of the store and work my way across aisle by aisle. This ensures that I go through every single section so that I don’t miss anything, and that I won’t get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff. It’s easy to take one look at the aisles stretching out in the distance and see infinity, but as you progress through the tshirts, the long sleeved shirts, and the sweaters you can easily measure how far you’ve come, and how far you need to go to finish.
  5. Do not start off with a shopping cart. It may seem like a good idea (woohoo lots of deals and lots of clothes!), but it’s going to make navigating down the aisles a total pain for you and for the people trying to shop around you. I always wade into the fray without a cart or a basket since I can carry quite a stack of clothing draped over my arm, and once my stack gets too heavy I head for the fitting rooms. Once I come out of the fitting rooms my stack of stuff has been narrowed down, and I can either carry on, or find a basket to put them in. When the time comes to get a basket I always opt for the wheely ones instead of the hand baskets because they’re easier to maneuver and leave your hands free to shop without banging into everything.
  6. When the time comes to head for the fitting rooms be prepared for a wait. There’s lots of other people shopping too, and whining is not going to make the line go any faster. Some stores impose an item or time limit on the fitting rooms for sale day, but many do not. Some people (bad people) take advantage of this and bring in cart loads full of clothing and hog a fitting room for a long time. This is one of the reasons why I don’t shop with a cart. An armload of clothes can be quite a bit, but it doesn’t take forever to try on. Not only does that make it easy on you (breaking up the shopping into smaller portions), but it also keeps the fitting room lines moving (and therefore keeps your fellow shoppers happy). Once you’ve made your selections for purchase (YAY!) and are ready to head back out into the fray it is best to dispose of the hangers holding your clothes. You do not need them to go through the cash tills (contrary to popular belief), they will only weigh you down, and it’s actually much more convenient for the workers if you leave your hangers at the fitting rooms.
  7. Remember that this type of sale is a marathon, not a sprint. First timers should probably not attempt a full store shop, and it’s always a good idea to pack a snack so that if you get tired you have something to boost your energy. I don’t pack a snack when I go, but I’m a seasoned pro at Value Village half price sales, and I always make sure to have a snack for whoever gets dragged along with me so that they can keep up. Or at least attempt to keep up ;)
  8. I find it best not to go into the sale expecting to find anything particular. Value Village is not the mall, they do not carry things in various sizes, and their merchandise is extremely random. If you go in thinking “I want a white sweater” chances are you will find every other colour except white. Some things, like a pair of jeans that fits, are do-able but for the most part it’s best to just let the clothes come to you.
  9. Know what your sizes are. This way you won’t be wasting valuable time trying on things that are never going to fit. The Value Village sizing system is obviously not the greatest since they size things according to the brand label, and since every brand sizes differently things can get a bit out of place, but if you know what your general size is then you’ll be fine. My strategy for tops is to search through my normal size diligently, and then glance through a size up and down for variance. For bottoms it gets a bit trickier, because the sizes are more specific than small-medium-large, and trying on the thousands of jeans in stock is completely un-doable on a sale day. I usually stick to looking for my regular brands because that narrows it down a lot, and occasionally grabbing a random pair or two that I like the look of outside of my normal range.
  10. Don’t look at price tags. Seriously, it’s the Value Village half price sale, so it’s not like it’s going to be expensive. Never the less, the last sale day I went to (two stores in one day, thank you very much!) I was slightly shocked that I spent $100. Then again, I got a HUGE amount of clothes, which probably would have cost closer to $1000 at full retail.  

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