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Buying Denim Jeans from Your Favorite Designers – Timing is Everything

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There’s a saying on Wall Street that you “shouldn’t time the market” but you can certainly time the market when it comes to Fashion Avenue.

Finding the best deals in denim is all about timing and understanding the psychology of the design house that you love best.

Each design house has a particular image and a particular customer in mind. Some are big-name fashion houses that appeal to a certain level of taste and wealth, for example, Ralph Lauren. Their customers are discerning and while they relish a foray into a trendy palate of colors; they expect exceptional tailoring, attention to detail, high quality fabric and a very classic line. Even Ralph Lauren’s denim represents a classic, understated look.

Other design houses consider themselves “urban” and “trendy” and they will be very experimental in design, colors of denim, piping and other decorative ornamentation. They understand that their customer wants everyone to know what brand of jeans they’re wearing, thus the logos on these jeans, are often quite prominent, if not downright large. These design houses are often owned by pop stars, rap musicians and celebrities. The consumer who purchases these brands tend to put more importance on the cache of the celebrity or the designer than the actual material or tailoring quality of the garment. These clothes are trendy for about one year, so their durability is not as important as that of a classic designer.

Design houses like Guess and DKNY are so established that they fall between classic and trendy. They offer good a good quality garment but are not above more design and color experimentation.

Then there’s the old standby, Levi Strauss. Not quite the jean it used to be but still making a strong fashion statement in most major department stores.

In order to time your favorite jean purchase, you need to understand a few things that are going on behind the scenes. In major department stores, each brand or vendor, is actually negotiating for and paying for the space they occupy. Every square foot of display for that brand and the position of that brand is crucial. Nobody wants their new product to be buried in the back. Designers want to be up front and on the main aisle. Bearing that in mind, each design house can only feature one or two groups of their new clothes at a time.

Suppose a designer has 4 groups of clothes or jean designs for the Fall season. They generally only have the space to feature one or two groups before the others can be shown. It’s up to the merchandiser and the managers in the store, which group will sell the best first. it’s everyone’s objective to sell this group at full price, so timing is key.

The vendors, buyers and the managers watch each new group very closely to see how it performs. If it’s not selling within a week or two, it’s going to get moved to a less prominent position and something new will take it’s place. A department store is revolving it’s stock on a continual basis, so the floor always looks fresh and exciting.

If the design house is in decent financial shape, (those that aren’t in good financial shape insist on showing garments at full price way too long) you will begin to see the first sales start to occur between 2 and 4 weeks from the first time the group is shown. That price break will be around 25%-30% off.

In two more weeks, you will start to see that group on sale between 30%-40% off. Depending on the inventory flow of the store and how well the store and the design house is doing, you can count on your first 50% sale within 8 weeks of the group first being shown.

Between 8 and 12 weeks (2-3 months) after the group has first been shown, you will probably see the first mark down, where the ticketed price has now been reduced. Markdowns done between 8-12 weeks are generally 50% off the original price and may be eligible for additional discounts on sale days.

Due to the poor economy, a number of brands have begun to offer value pricing on certain items. These items are already reduced and come into the store at the sale price. They hardly ever change prices and they most likely will not be considered trendy. These garments are of average material quality and are in very safe, unexciting colors.

Aside from taking your chances and slugging it out on a crowded sale day, take note of the following tips:

Pick out your jeans the day before the sale and ask the cashier to put them on hold for you. Most stores will hold items up to 24 hours without any down payment.

For best selection, go shopping on a Tuesday. This gives the merchandising and floor crew time to recover floor from the busy weekend, add new merchandise and begin any markdowns that were scheduled for that week.

Thursday and Friday nights are great nights to shop. If the sale starts on Friday, there’s a great chance that the floor can be signed for the sale on Thursday night (an unannounced preview). If the sale starts on Saturday, they are almost sure to sign the store ahead of time because nobody wants to schedule signing on a Saturday morning.

And the biggest tip of all, when going through a clearance rack always, always, always double-check the prices with a price checker. On the downside, there’s a great chance of an item being misplaced and no matter how you argue you won’t get a clearance price. On the upside, because the economy has been bad and there generally isn’t enough crew scheduled to do all the markdowns all the time, you might find that the item you think is 50% off is actually 70% off! Always double-check the price with a price checker. Never assume that the ticket is right.

Different jean designs come out constantly, so most of these tips should apply to your favorite store and favorite designer. If you love a store and love a designer, study how their merchandise moves over a series of weeks. A little observation can yield great bargains!

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