verbal croquis


i love sample sales

Posted in DE stuff,rants by verbalcroquis on January 19, 2007

The Bargain Queen’s post on sample sales prompted me to write a post of my own on the subject, from a designer’s point of view. In fact, Her Royal Majesty emailed me and Kathleen, asking if her post had any glaring errors. I didn’t find any, but was in general amused by how shoppers view sample sales.

I am a veteran of the battlefield otherwise known as the sample sale and I have to say, in short, they suck. For us working the sales, anyway. I’ve never shopped one as I try to avoid them at all costs.

The main reason I despise sample sales is how we choose what to sell. Every approach has its pros and cons, and they’re discussed more exhaustively than you can imagine. Either that or I’ve worked for incredibly indecisive people.

1. You have your photoshoot samples, the tiny samples from last season that you no longer need. Or do you? Should you have an ongoing archive of your collections? What if we want to repeat some of these styles/silhouettes/etc next season because it was so wildly popular?

2. You have not perfect samples. Do you really want to sell these imperfect goods so people see the crap armhole and think that’s indicative of our tailoring? The too-loose elastic? The embroidery with the wrong colors? But what else do we do with it? Throw it away so it can sit in a landfill for a million years because of our market strategy?

3. You have excess inventory from last season that didn’t sell, not even on sale. Ouch. That just hurts. You can only chant “learn and move on, learn and move on” so many times before you start feeling sick to your stomach.

4. Some celebrity borrowed something and it was returned in less than perfect condition. (I’m sorry–I guess the last part of that sentence was rather redundant.) Who really wants something with Flavor-of-the-Week’s pit stains? (Ugh, don’t answer that.)

The point is, inventory is money and if it’s just sitting on a rack in storage, that’s money you put in a sock under your bed. It gains no interest, the value depreciates over time, and is of no use to you.

Okay, so we’ve spent the entirely-too-many-hours picking what goes on sale. Next you pick the date. Definitely not during blow-out sale season in the stores–too much competition. And not after a major holiday like, for example, the entire month of January when everyone’s wallets are recovering. Of course, not during tradeshow season–we’re too busy. Not that date–half the girls working the sale observe the Jewish holidays, not that date–billion dollar bobbleheads are having their sale, not that date–I want the sale money to file for this quarter.

Now the major details have been sorted, on to picking a venue, deciding whether you’ll go solo or invite other companies (the smaller you are, the wiser the latter choice is), setting the hours, finalizing who’s working the sale, putting together a lovely poster and mailing everybody in time (not too soon, lest they forget, and not too late, lest they already have plans).

Man, I’m exhausted just typing all this stuff out.

Alright, now we’re at the day of the sale. So much fun I can’t even tell ya. Let’s just go over some things that have run through my head during these sales, as outwardly I smile and nod:

“Please stop tugging on my shirt to get my attention…no, seriously, stop pulling on my clothes…gaahhh!!!! STOP TUGGING AT MY CLOTHES!”

“The size 0 is too big for you? I’m sorry–I just don’t have much sympathy for you. Please take your loud nasal whine elsewhere, thanks.”

“Why exactly did we put all the effort in putting up “CASH ONLY” signs everywhere if apparently no one in this room knows how to read except me?”

“This blouse is $45 to make, and by selling it for $50, we’re making a grand $5 off of it, and you know this thing sells for $200+ retail and now you’re asking for a discount because it doesn’t have the cute extra button in a plastic baggie on a hangtag? I will find you that cute extra button and shove it down your throat, you (*^&%*!%&#*(%(@!”

And then the sale is over. Sometimes you blow out everything and there’s enough cash for you to go to New York for a much needed sourcing trip. Sometimes you don’t make much money at all.

Honestly, the only version of complaining I like to do is when I can express aloud what I don’t like. Once I’ve figured out what it is that’s bugging me, I can try to fix it. But this whole sample sale monster is just something I don’t know how to sort through and tame. If there’s any way to make better, faster choices for the sample selection would probably make it all go a whole lot faster and smoother.

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4 Responses to 'i love sample sales'

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  1. Wow, that’s a completely different perspective on it all!

    I’m always polite to everyone anyway (well, unless they’re seriously rude to me first) but I’ll make an extra effort to be pleasant to the people working the counters at sample sales.

    I guess it’s really not what you signed on for when you became a designer? 🙂

  2. SRR said,

    I never knew that sample sale decision-making is so complicated. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    Rude, whiny customers suck. They make the salespeople miserable, and the rest of us who have to wait behind them seeth in anger. Us “normal” shoppers feel for ya!

  3. Simon said,

    I once had a woman be so rude to one of our staff at a sample sale, I needed to intervene. Our poor sales associate was near tears after being berated for not knowing a price of a garment, and I approached her and asked if I could assist her in some way. She wreaked of booze and I suppose she just finished lunch at a nearby restaurant and came by for the 1.00 pm opening.

    She started to go off on me when I politely asked her to leave the premises and that we did not wish to sell her any of our merchandise.

    Well, you should have heard the commotion that ensued. Apparently she knew every lawyer/legalist in town and she was going to “sue” us for whatever reason and that she would “own” our company after this was all settled.
    I learned that she frequented a nearby dining establishment and quite frequently only had liquid lunches.

    Only a few days later, she was arrested for DUI only a few blocks from her favourite hangout, and this was witnessed by the same sales girl she berated only days earlier. True story.


  4. Simon, unfortunately, I have no problem believing every word, just based on my own (not as horrid as that story, but still bad) experiences.

    I mean honestly, sometimes we’ll have 200+ garments out–how the hell are you supposed to remember all those prices?


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