Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bricks 'n' Mortar vs Net-a-Porter: A Guide to Online Sale Shopping

I get warehouse sales. You run in, you punch all the girls who took the shoes that you want, you divide and conquer (one girl each to shoes, bags, accessories, another to man your place at the cashier. The one with the knuckleduster is in charge of punching, the one that's good at math is in charge of paying for everyone's stuff so you get the bulk extra discount.) You grab and grab and grab and then while you're waiting in line to pay, you cull. You go with your gaggle of gal pals but you DO NOT SPEAK until everyone has done a full round of the venue. It's practically down to an ART.

Then there's this whole online beast, which is a great alternative to shopping in Hong Kong's marked-up market, but doesn't really compare to the steals you get at a sample sale. Until sale season. I think I've got the schedule down for Net-a-Porter -- the US sale starts first, followed roughly two weeks later by the International site's sale. It starts at "up to 50% off", then goes to "final clearance up to 70% off" and ends with an extra 20% final final final clearance. Then whatever's left over goes to the Outnet. Problem is, I CAN'T PUNCH ANYBODY ON THE INTERNET. Especially when I stick something, say a beautiful canary yellow lace Erdem cocktail dress, into my shopping cart and when I hit "Checkout" it's mysteriously gone, and I'll never know which bitch it was that took it.

Anyway, this has happened to me multiple times this season. With the Erdem frock, as well as a DKNY racerback gown, a Vionnet find on the Outnet clearance rack, a Theyskens Theory tuxedo dress on My Wardrobe. Finally I had to go on an Asos binge to make up for all the things I was not buying. Online sale shopping, I must say, simply does not work well with my shopping style. But I've come up with a few sensible suggestions to make my next sale season a more profitable one.

In that light, a few tips on online sale shopping.

Figure out when a sale is going to be on. A good way to do that is to figure out when the sale was last year. Start pre-shopping so you know what you want beforehand. If you need to visit a brick-and-mortar store to get an idea of sizing, do that before the sale begins.


Decide how bad you want various items. If you NEED it, get it the minute the sale starts. If you only need it at a certain price, then you can wait till the second or third round of price-slashing -- but unless you have bad taste or it is a high-ticket item, there's a big chance it'll be gone.

Figure out at what point the items in your basket can't be poached (usually once you hit checkout and head to the pay screen). Just because it's in your shopping cart doesn't mean it won't be gone by the time you're ready to pay. Also work out how long items can stay in your shopping cart for -- it could be as short as one hour, so if you spend over an hour shopping, you'll have to re-add your items to the cart again.

For god's sake, figure out shipping costs and group combo buying earlier, rather than later. If I had the patience to do it, I'd even create an excel spreadsheet of shipping costs against sites. (Note to self: good idea for another blog post.)

Remember, even after the discount, not all sites are created equal. Net-a-Porter items might have steeper discounts than they do on Shopbop, but Shopbop's mark-up isn't as high. A good site to do price comparisons on is ShopStyle, which archives the same item from different sites. (Bear in mind that they work with the US Net-a-Porter database, not the international).

Decisions need to be made quickly, but many sites allow returns, even on sale merchandise. But if you're going to buy on impulse, either make sure that the site pays for return shipping, or that the item is light enough that it won't cost $500 just to send it back from whence it came. There's nothing sadder than ordering shoes, realizing they don't fit, and having to pay even MORE just to get rid of them. Tees, bras, slutty dresses GOOD. Shoes, coats, anything leather BAD.

Image: QuartSoft

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