When Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” was mugged, she famously begged the man holding her at gunpoint to grant her one request: “Take my Fendi baguette … take my ring and my watch, but please don’t take my Manolo Blahniks.” The spotlight Manolo Blahnik received from the episode solidified its position as one of the most sought-after luxury shoe brands, alongside the likes of Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin.
The message the show sent was clear: A pair of Manolo Blahniks is a rare and precious thing, something worth risking your thousand-dollar Fendi bag and even your life. In New York City today, however, that is simply not the case. Not because the shoes have become any less desirable, but because a symbiotic relationship between the shoe seller and its loyal buyers is flourishing in New York.
Manolo Blahnik, like many other retail companies in the past, needs a way to get rid of its leftover goods from previous fashion seasons so new, updated styles can be filtered into stores. All, of course, while trying to still yield a profit. And who would be more willing to help find the company’s shoes a home than shoppers in New York City?
Enter the sample sale: an end-of-season sale where companies sell their products for typically 50 to 90 percent off of their retail value to anyone who can get to the sale. The sales are usually held at venues companies rent out, although some are held at regular storefront locations.
Sample sales can last anywhere from one day to two weeks and usually take place in large cities like Los Angeles or New York. The majority of sales are open to the public, although the more popular events require shoppers to reserve tickets for free in advance.
Two types of merchandise are usually available at sample sales: stock and samples. “Stock” refers to excess goods a company has left over from a previous season. A sample, on the other hand, is a prototype of an item of clothing, an experimental copy designers produce to see if their idea works as a tangible product.
Samples tend to be produced only in smaller sizes and sometimes lack tags or brand logos, but they cost much less than stock. Nevertheless, stock items at sample sales are often sold at a fraction of their retail price. For example, a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes bought at full retail value usually range from $700-$1030, but they’re available at the company’s sample sale for as low as $150-$200.
High-end shoe brands like Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo aren’t the only brands that have sample sales. Housing, bedding, jewelry and bridal companies all have sample sales, in addition to famous department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York. Even the Italian notebook manufacturer Moleskine had a sample sale where shoppers could buy 20-dollar notebooks for as little as five dollars.
Peak sample sale season runs from late May to August. The best way to get information about upcoming sales is from fashion sites like Chicmi or blogs like Sample Sally that announce sales on their websites a few weeks before they’re held, as well as locations and opening times. Venues that host sample sales, like 260 Sample Sale, also post information on sales they’ll be having.
Sample sales are the best way to save when shopping in New York City. They should be on the radar of anyone looking for a unique (albeit competitive) experience that will take you into the depths of New York’s fashion scene. Why shop like Carrie Bradshaw when you could save like Frugal Fannie?