My First Time: The Barneys Warehouse Sale

Now THIS is I'm talking about.
Cashmere Sweater: The Row (Barneys Warehouse Sale) | White Vest: Peter Som (Consignment) | Pants: Madewell | Handbag: Balenciaga (Consignment) | Loafers: Isabel Marant (Barneys Warehouse Sale)
Cashmere Sweater: The Row (Barneys Warehouse Sale) | White Vest: Peter Som (Consignment) | Pants: Madewell | Handbag: Balenciaga (Consignment) | Loafers: Isabel Marant (Barneys Warehouse Sale)

I’ve lived in New York for more than five years — but until this week, I never braved the crowds at the Barneys Warehouse Sale. This sale is legendary among New Yorkers; Many of my girlfriends would call in sick JUST to be the first in line. But I still was not convinced. My reasons for avoiding the sale are threefold:

1. I do not like competing with other shoppers.
2. I would rather use a vacation day for an ACTUAL vacation.
3. I do not like to wait in line, especially to ENTER a store. (Plus the OTHER line for the dressing room — and then yet ANOTHER to pay.)

But this year, I saw my window– the Barneys sale got bad reviews. It sounds strange, but lukewarm reviews are music to my ears: bad word-of-mouth means lighter crowds, which means I’ve got an actual shot at finding a diamond in the coal mine. I made the trek on Tuesday night, and the place was a ghost town.

Now THIS is I'm talking about.
Now THIS is what I’m talking about.

Maybe I missed the heyday by a few years, but I still had a blast — and found some well-priced transition pieces for fall. The sale is running until Monday, with prices dropping each day. Here’s how you can maximize your shopping trip.

Six Steps to Unlock ROI at the Barneys Warehouse Sale

1. Stick to two zones. The best stuff is ALWAYS in the shoe department or hanging on the racks marked Designer. (Do not bother with the rest. If it’s not designer, it’s excess stock from the Barneys in-house label or cast-offs from the outlets — truly bottom of the barrel.)

2. Don’t look at everything. Flicking through every single hanger will take hours. Instead, gravitate toward certain colors or fabrics: At this sale, my eye was drawn to cashmere, gold, silk, wool, sequins and navy.

Clockwise from top left: Step X, Step X, Step X.
Clockwise from top left: Check the price last. (Step 3) | Look for stains. (Step 4) | Take pictures before committing. (Step 5).

3. Don’t check the tag at first. It is MISSION CRITICAL to evaluate the design, fabric and color BEFORE looking at the price tag or the designer label. Otherwise, you may be tempted to buy something “meh” just because it’s inexpensive or from a prestigious brand.

4. What’s wrong with it? Don’t settle. A lot of the inventory will be stretched, ripped, stained or otherwise unwearable. Don’t make excuses — these items are ruined. Show the damage to a sales associate, and they’ll take if off the floor.

From Left to Right: Look for the special fabrics and colors, like bronze sequins. (Step X) | Ask for a photo -- it's more reliable than sharing a mirror. (Step X)
From Left to Right: Look for special fabrics and colors, like this bronze sequin gown by L’Wren Scott. (Step 2) | Ask for a photo — it’s more reliable than sharing a mirror. (Step 5)

5. Don’t trust the mirrors. You’ll be using a communal dressing room, and at any given time, I was half-naked with a dozen other women clustered in front of two mirrors. Sale or not, you’re still spending money. Don’t leave without knowing what that outfit really looks like. I always ask someone (usually a sales associate) to take a picture of me in an outfit I’m seriously considering. Everyone says yes — and if you offer to do the same, you’ll build up some seriously good shopper karma.

6. Be nice. When you’re pleasant and chatty with sales associates and fellow shoppers, it pays off: Sales associates will pull dresses that are hidden off the floor for you to try, and the shoe department guys will go above and beyond to find your size. And when one fellow shopper saw me dreamily staring at the last pair of Alexander Wang brogues in my size — which she was going to buy — she happily handed them to me. (Her shopper karma went up 100 points.)

My Barneys Sale Scores. Clockwise from Top Left: Isabel Marant Loafers, Aexander Wang Brogues | Cashmere Sweater by The Row, Isabel Marant Loafers | Navy Brocade Pants, Oatmeal Wool Tank Top, Cashmere Sweater (All by The Row)
My Barneys Booty. Clockwise from Top Left: Isabel Marant Loafers, Aexander Wang Brogues | Cashmere Sweater by The Row, Isabel Marant Loafers | Navy Brocade Pants, Oatmeal Wool Tank Top, Cashmere Sweater (All by The Row)

The Barneys Warehouse Sale is running until Monday, so you still have a few days to test-drive my tips. (And there’s a rumor that discounts will be deep as 75% by Labor Day.)

If you make it, happy hunting. And who knows? I may see you there for Round 2.

  • Arun Kumar

    Is any haggling to be done?

    • http://www.TheStylePragmatist.com/ Diana @ The Style Pragmatist

      Sadly, there’s no haggling at a department store. 🙂