How to Survive a Sample Sale

Moving to London was a revelation for me in shopping terms. I’m not talking about the little boutiques and independents that are hidden down unassuming alleyways, or even the big well known markets and shopping streets as all of these can be seen on any visit to the city. Any savvy London shopper will tell you that the best bargains can be had at a sample sale, that rare event where a brand needs to get rid of all of their excess stock that may be used, damaged or left over from the sale. 

Usually held in a town hall or boring looking office blocks, I’ve been to some brilliant (and awful) ones for brands including Urban Outfitters and Accessorize, as well as designer brands, and you really can get some unbelievable bargains. 

Some recent sample sale bargains include Pierre Hardy, Swedish Hasbeens, and Miu Miu boots!

Here are my top tips for surviving a sample sale:

Have an idea of what you’re looking for
By the time you get in it’s likely clothes will be on the floor, sizes won’t be in their allocated areas, and there will be more left shoes than right. Go with an idea of what you want rather than aimlessly rummaging through everything with the vague hope of finding something or anything.

Don’t buy for the sake of it
I found an amazing Alexander McQueen leather dress recently and picked it up quickly before anyone else nabbed it. Then as I walked around I started realising that I had only picked it up because it seemed like a good purchase. It’s never a good purchase if you’re not going to wear it!

Take a bag
This isn’t a civilised shopping experience most of the time, and there aren’t baskets or sales assistants. I’ve ended up with armfuls of stuff that I’ve been hardly able to carry and seething with jealousy at the clever woman who brought her Tesco bag for life. 

Plan your arrival time
If you get there first, you’re in with a greater chance of getting the best quality bargains, and things that are more likely to be on trend now. However, if you get there late you can benefit from final reductions and offers as retailers don’t want to take anything back with them.

Don’t expect brand new
These items are likely to have been used in photoshoots or window displays, or have been returned as faulty. It is highly unlikely that you’ll find a brand new, never worn item, so go with the expectation of having to sew up a hole or put up with a small biro mark. It’s a small sacrifice to pay to the bargain gods!

Do a second circuit
I took my boyfriend to a sample sale recently (his first) and he quickly said that he couldn’t find anything. After convincing him to do a second circuit while I still rummaged, he ended up getting 3 pairs of shoes for about 1/5th of their retail price. People put things down or you could purely have missed something the first time around, so go back just in case.

To find the best sample sales I recommend signing up to your favourite retailers’ newsletters and Twitter feeds as they are often announced online. I also use, which is specifically for London sales.