New York Shopping Deals

Everyone loves a bargain—including a temporary New Yorker. Scoring a good deal is a rite of passage, and the city is home to everything from low-cost department stores like Century 21 to the outstanding sample sales scattered throughout the city.

If a seasonal sale makes New Yorkers' eyes gleam, a sample sale throws them into a frenzy. With so many designer flagships and corporate headquarters in town, merchandise fallout periodically leads to tremendous deals. Although technically the term "sample sale" refers to stock that's a sample design, show model, leftover, or already discounted item, the term is now also used for sales of current-season goods. Location adds a bit of an illicit thrill to the event: sales are held in hotels, warehouses, offices, or loft spaces, where items both incredible and unfortunate jam a motley assortment of racks, tables, and bins. Generally, there is a makeshift communal dressing room, but mirrors are scarce. Veteran sample-sale shoppers come prepared for wriggling in the aisles; some wear tank tops with tights or leggings for modest quick changes. Two rules of thumb: grab first and inspect later, and call in advance to find out what methods of payment are accepted. The legendary Barneys Warehouse Sale, once the ultimate sample-sale experience, has become less reliable in recent years (it wasn't held in 2015, and it moved to Williamsburg from Chelsea in September 2016), but is still worth a visit if it's on—which is a good reminder to check on specific sales before you go.

Indeed, many of the department store sample sales have faded out in recent years, replaced by major discounts after the winter holiday season. Meanwhile, New York–based designers like Steven Alan and Leanne Marshall consistently hold sample sales up to twice a year, usually in early summer and early winter.

How to find out about these events? The level of publicity and regularity of sales vary. The print and online versions of New York magazine are always worth checking for sample-sale tip-offs, as are regular bulletins on Racked (www.racked.com) and Time Out New York (www.timeout.com/newyork). If you're interested in specific designers, call their shops and inquire—you may get lucky.

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