When is sample sale season?

Posted 2 years ago

The mysterious "sample sale season" varies from city to city. We look at the stats to find out exactly when sample sale season is!

When is sample sale season?

Whether you're new to sample sales or a seasoned bargain hunting professional you will have heard people talk about sample sale season. But what is it, why is it and when is it?

Sample sales originally began as a way for brands to sell "samples" - one off production prototypes that were produced when designing the latest collections. These samples were often production quality, but were never produced in large numbers and were therefore never shipped to store or sold online - so you could get an original item from a top designer at an amazing price.

As sample sales have become more popular these genuine "sample" sales are often supplemented or entirely replaced by excess stock clearances - so past season and archive stock that was not sold through retail in time for the next season to arrive, and so is sold at a large discount. These sales are still sometimes called sample sales, but you'll also hear them called warehouse sales or archive sales.

Because of the nature of sample sales they very commonly come at the end of fashion seasons. But when is that? A lot depends on the brand - some of whom are rejecting the traditional seasons approach completely - but traditionally the last delivery date for Spring/Summer is the end of May, and the last delivery date for Fall is the end of September - and that's when you'll usually start to see the volume of sample sales ramping up.

Comparing City by City

Because the fashion markets are different in different cities - the sample sale seasons are subtly different in each one too. For example in New York, there is a clearly defined sample sale season for Spring in April to June, and then a massive peak for Winter in November and December:

Sample sale seasons in New York

In London the pattern is similar, but the Winter peak is not so dramatically pronounced, making for a slightly more even chart:

Sample sale seasons in London

However note that in London the scene is completely dead in both January and August - while New York hardly ever has a very quiet month in Summer/Autumn at all.

In LA the pattern still peaks in December, but the rest of the year is much more even, due in part to the monthly sample sale events that occur at the various fashion markets in DTLA, such as the Cooper Design Building, California Market Center and New Mart Building:

Sample sale seasons in LA

So now we know the seasons, when should you shop?

Clearly there is very well defined seasonality for sample sales, but what does this mean for shoppers? Well, first thing to note is that quantity does not always equal quality - there are many amazing sample sales during the peak sample sale season but even in off season there can be occasional sale events that bargain hunters just should not miss. At Chicmi we're on the lookout for sample sales all year long - and as a shopper you can sometimes find that hitting an off-season sale can be a more pleasant experience and give you a higher chance of grabbing something really special.

The second takeaway though is make sure you're prepared for Christmas! All three markets we've studied here have significantly pronounced peaks in sample sales over the festive season, so prepare your wallet and your bank balance for an onslaught well in advance to make sure that you don't miss out!

Keep up to date with sample sales

To ensure you don't miss out on any sample sales, make sure you're on our free daily or weekly mailing lists. You can sign up here.

If you're a brand organising a sample sale then you can check out our business solutions or go ahead and submit your event for listing on Chicmi.

How to organise a sample sale in New York City

Posted 2 years ago

Brands regularly approach us looking for advice on setting up a sample sale in NYC. We've put together tips to help you get started!

NYC is the world's sample sale capital

It's a question we get almost weekly - I'm a brand or a retailer with some excess stock, how should I put together a sample sale in NYC? The New York sample sale scene is so vibrant, it's easy to get lost in a jungle of options and choices. A great sample sale can be a huge success - not only helping you clear stock, but also introducing new shoppers to your brand who otherwise would never have discovered you, but a poor sample sale can be bad business, loss making and damaging to your brand too, so it's vital to get it right.

The New York sample sale scene is very unique and different from the other markets that we cover. You essentially have three options here:

  • Organise the sample sale yourself.
  • Turn to a independent organiser of sample sales.
  • Work with one of the established, dedicated sample sale venues.

What option you choose will depend on the scale of the sale, the resources you have available and the audience you want to reach.

Organising a sample sale yourself

Many brands in NYC do organise sample sales for themselves - and they are often extremely successful. If you already have your own showroom or store in the city, and the venue supports a large number of people turning up to shop, it can be a great success. There is a lot to consider, however, including:

  • How easy is your showroom or store to find, and how easy is it to access?
  • How much room do you have to present your inventory well and let people browse and shop?
  • Will you need to allow for changing facilities, or will shoppers not be able to try on goods?
  • How will you control crowds and deal with queues if the sale is very popular?
  • How will you take payment? Is it cash only, or can you take card payments?
  • How will you manage security and ensuring that goods are not lost, damaged or stolen?
  • Do you have the staff available to man the store permanently during the event?

If these questions daunt you, then it may be best to seek help from an experienced third party. But if you feel you've got all of the resources you need already available then there's no reason not to go ahead.

Marketing Your Sale

A vital and often overlooked consideration for any sample sale is marketing - how are you going to reach out to people and bring them to your sale? Experienced sample sale organisers have links with media and sites like Chicmi to make sure that your event is covered in as many places as possible. Dedicated sample sale venues (which we'll cover further down) even have their own mailing lists, which they can use to attract sample sale devotees.

If you're producing the sale yourself then, you need a marketing strategy, which may include:

  • Inviting people from your own mailing lists.
  • A VIP night for high-value customers, press and influencers.
  • Posting on your own social channels, if you think that the sample sale is appropriate for your audience. Some brands prefer to keep their social channels separate for brand reasons, or feel their social networks are too international to post a local sample sale event.
  • Advertising online, using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter adverts.
  • Local advertising with flyers.
  • In-store advertising if you have stores.
  • An events page on your website.
  • Making sure that your sale is listed on Chicmi.
  • Reaching out to local fashion press or even national press such as Racked or WWD.
  • Talking to instagrammers, vloggers or bloggers who you have a relationship with to promote your event.

Whatever marketing methods you choose, there's a few things to bear in mind:

  • The more time you give, the better the result will be. We know that many of you would rather announce your sample sale fairly late so as not to cannibalise other sales channels, but it will take time for your customers to organise their diaries, so give them at least a week.
  • One of the biggest advantages of sample sales is generating buzz and attracting a new audience, so make sure you don't limit your exposure to just your customer mailing list.

Chicmi of course can help. We will list your sample sale on our site for free - and we also offer a very popular digital marketing option (we call it Boost) to help you reach more customers online too if you'd like. We're happy to embargo your event until it's ready so make sure you reach out to us at team@chicmi.com as soon as possible so that we can help you put together your plan.

Working with an independent organiser

There are specialist stock clearing companies in most cities, and many of them organise some of the most prevalent sample sales in their respective cities. This is especially true of LA for example, but less so in NYC - where it's far more common to use a dedicated venue or host the sale yourself.

However there are a few - and the most prolific of them are Shelly & Renee and Privé Designer Sales who organise a large number of sales in various venues across the city. If you need introductions to others then make sure you get in touch with us - just drop us an email at team@chicmi.com.

The advantage of working with organisers like these is experience - they know the pitfalls, they have contacts at the venues, they know where to reach out to to get your event organised. Some organisers work on a set fee basis, some work on commission.

Working with a dedicated venue

The most unusual feature of NYC is the number of dedicated sample sale venues in the city. These companies own one or more locations that are dedicated to hosting sample sales. They all have in-house logistics and marketing specialists, they have close connections with sites like Chicmi, and they all have mailing lists packed with sample sale lovers.

There are several of them in New York, but by far the most prevalent ones are 260 Sample Sale, Clothingline and Soiffer Haskin. These three companies all angle their services towards a slightly different set of verticals, with Soiffer Haskin organising many very high end luxury sales, 260 Sample Sale working regularly with high street brands, and Clothingline producing more multibrand events than the other venues.

Unlike a venue that you might hire and fit out yourself, these companies are highly experienced at producing sample sales - and will help you with everything from logistics to marketing. This expertise, their large mailing lists and their specialized venues do come at a cost - but if you've got a large amount of stock to shift, and especially if you need the event to be spot on perfect and have the budget to support it, then working with them is an obvious choice.

Collaborating with other brands

If you don't have a huge amount of stock or you don't have the budget or audience to run a sample sale by yourself, then collaborating with other brands is an option. It's very common for groups of brands with complimentary audiences to get together and organise a sale - they not only share the cost, but can also all invite their own set of dedicated fans, who can then discover the other brands on sale too.

As mentioned earlier, some companies like Clothingline will often bring multiple brands together for multibrand events themselves - and these can be very successful.

If you don't have a network of other brands to reach out to then make sure you check out our Collaborate network, where you can sign up as a brand and be notified when collaborative events are happening in the city that you can be part of. It's completely free to join the list or announce your event - so there's no reason not to get involved.

Need help? We can point you in the right direction

Although we don't organise sample sales ourselves, we're always delighted to help guide brands to the right place. And when you've got your sample sale together, make sure that you let us know, so that we can help send our dedicated fashion lovers your way! We're always here at team@chicmi.com, or you can use our event submission form here.

Introducing our new gender icons

Posted 2 years ago

Chicmi's new gender icons make it easier to navigate the sales happening in the city.

Ever get to a sample sale and find out that it's full of clothes that are not for you? Well, not any more - following a request from a gentleman shopper, we're delighted to welcome gender icons to our listings:

Introducing gender icons

Of course feel free to use them as a guide or not at all - we recognise the importance of not being stuck to binary gender stereotypes for many of our shoppers!

Get the most from that bridal sample sale with our tips

Posted 2 years ago

Bridal sample sales can be an amazing way to say yes to the dress without causing your bank manager to cry, but they don't suit every bride, and a little preparation can make the difference

Shopping bridal sample sales

Bridal sample sales are an increasingly popular way for brides to shop for that perfect gown. Unlike real "sample sales", where manufacturers of clothing sell off designs that didn't quite make the grade or test production runs from the factory, most modern bridal sample sales are usually flash sales that happen in a bridal store or studio, and where you can purchase previous season stock, try-on models or even slightly damaged stock at a major discount.

These are not events that suit every bride. If you want to spend a long time choosing your perfect dress, be pampered in a luxurious environment, have an assistant and a bunch of friends helping you pick styles and give advice, and just generally feel like a princess, then you might be best to stay away from a sample sale. But if you're a passionate bargain hunter who would love to get a gown worth 10x the price for a snip, and don't mind facing some chaos to achieve it, then this is the place for you!

But like any bargain hunting exercise, there are secrets that can help you get the most from your trip! Here's our run down of the game plan!

Know what to expect

Advanced knowledge of what to expect from a bridal sample sale will always give you the upper hand. Each bridal sample sale is different - some can be quite civilised affairs with an allocated time slot, changing rooms, and a dedicated member of staff on hand, but many can be a free for all where you're diving through racks of stock with other brides, no changing rooms and very few staff to help. Some need you to book, some are first-come-first-served. Some only have limited sizes available, some have the full range. Some are cash only, some credit card only.

Read as much as you can about the sample sale before you go, and unless otherwise stated, expect the maximum of chaos before you go, and prepare for that.

Be prepared

The single biggest advantage you an give yourself over other shoppers is to be prepared before you go. Make sure that you know the type of gowns you'd like right from the start, and if you can try them on in advance then even better. Book yourself an appointment at a bridal store that sells those designs in advance, try on some gowns, and get an idea of the sizes and styles that you like so that you can dive straight in and grab them in the sale before anyone else.

If that's not possible, make sure to spend time browsing the designer's website to get an idea of the kinds of gowns you'd like to check out. The more you can turn up with your mind full of potential matches the better. But try not to fixate on one gown too much - have a selection in mind - as you may find that the only gown you've picked is already gone, or not available in your size. You will need to be prepared to compromise to get the best deal.

Finally, be prepared to walk away. There are no guarantees that you will get that perfect dress, even in the most awesome sample sale - so beware of day-after-regrets, and don't spend an inordinate amount of money on a dress you're not happy with.

Bring a friend

Most bridal sample sales will let you bring at least one friend or family member along too. Many will specify how many guests are allowed during the event.

Make sure you bring along someone you can trust to give you honest feedback and tell you the truth. It's very easy to get carried away with an amazing price tag and not realise that you look like a pink blancmange - your BFF will need to point you in the right direction when that happens!

Dress appropriately

It's common for changing rooms to be out of action during a bridal sample sale, or for them to be so busy that you'll lose out on valuable browsing time. Yoga pants and similarly tight bodywear is your friend, so that you can try on items without having to search for privacy. Certainly, avoid that frilly transparent bridal lingerie set you've been saving your wedding night - that's not for today!

Also, make sure to bring some heels! If you're trying on a dress, slipping on some heels that are like the ones you're planning to wear on your big day can help you quickly make sure that dress is the right one for you.

Get there early

The early bird catches the worm, and that adage is never more true than at a sample sale. Make sure you get into the store early - in popular events there can be a queue for hours before it starts. Fashionably late just won't cut it here, and you'll miss all the best deals.

Be thorough

Once you've narrowed down your selection to one or two items that you're sure suit you perfectly, and you're ready to make the final call, make sure to check everything thoroughly. Check for damage, missing frills or beads, marks or anything else that's amiss. Make sure you're confident in the size, and that you've factored in the pricing for alterations and adjustments if you're going to need them. Remember that most sample sales are final sale, and that there's no going back once you've made your mind up!

Have fun

Whatever happens, try not to take the event too seriously. The more you stress out about it, the less enjoyable it's going to be. You're there to possibly grab a bargain on the gown you've been eyeing, but you might walk out empty handed. Be ready for either outcome, go with the flow and enjoy yourself!

Now you're ready to dive in, check out the latest bridal sample sales on Chicmi in London, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Say hello to collaboration!

Posted 2 years ago

Fashion brands can now more easily collaborate with other labels through Chicmi's free business-only distribution list.

Let's get collaborative!

The Chicmi team are regularly approached by fashion brands looking for advice on hosting events in the cities we cover. Many of their questions relate to collaborating with other businesses - what collaborative events can I be part of, how do I get other brands to attend my events?

We decided that it was time to build a fashion industry network to bring brands like these together, so that's why we're proud to announce today that we're launching our collaboration tools.

We've built a business-only distribution list that brands can sign up to. You can choose exactly what sorts of events you want to hear about, the cities you operate in, and the categories of product that you can provide. You will then receive carefully vetted announcements - probably only one or two a month - from other labels seeking collaborators for their events.

If you are creating an event then you can use the tool to announce your plans to the brands who have signed up. You specify the basics of your event - the type, the kinds of labels you're looking for, and provide a detailed description of what you're wanting the brands to contribute. We will then distribute it to the list.

Head over to our collaboration page now to sign up or send out your announcement! Let's create a more collaborative fashion community!

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