Shopping for Clothes: Tips and Tricks for Shopping at Clothing Stores

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Shopping for Clothes

I realize just about all of us know how to shop for clothes. We've had to do it most of our lives. However, there is always room for improvement. If you are thinking about getting a new wardrobe or just picking up a few items in the future, I am here to help with some tips.

As someone that has worked at several clothing stores, I hear some of the same questions over and over again. I've worked at some high-end retailers, but I've also worked at budget clothing stores, too. Much of the advice I have to offer applies to either type of store, and anything in between. Since many customers have questions, I hope I can give you some good answers in this hub.

Clearance is Usually in the Back

When you walk into a clothing store, naturally you want the best deal. Yes, the awesome sales are often in the front of the store to lure you in, but the best clearance items are often in the back.

I know customers that have figured out this secret and immediately head to the back of every clothing store they enter. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If the store is having a big clearance sale (which basically means they desperately need to rid the store of last season's stuff), you may find some clearance racks at the front of the store. Otherwise, 9 times out of 10, you are heading to the back.

You Won't Find That Sweater You Liked Last Week in the Same Spot This Week

Clothing stores move stock around ALL THE TIME. Actually, let me take that back. The staff working at clothing stores moves stock around all the time. It is time-consuming for both the workers and customers that come back to get an item they saw just last Friday. There is a method to the madness though.

Workers move the stock around constantly for a number of reasons:

  • Most stores regularly get shipment. This means we come in early to unpack piles of new clothes at least once a week, but sometimes even more! We tend to show off the newer stuff in the most obvious spots, so most displays must be shuffled around each time a shipment comes in.
  • We want you to roam around the store. If we kept all the sweaters in the same section of the store at all times and you only want to buy a sweater, you will go straight to that section, then straight to the register. We don't want that! If you wander around a bit looking for the items you actually want, you are bound to stumble upon some other stuff you didn't know existed, but now you think you need. Stores rely on impulse buys.
  • Some stuff sells quickly! Just because you see twenty shirts that all look the same on a Saturday, don't just assume they are going to sit there until you get paid next week. Part of the reason stock associates shuffle around clothing so much is so shelves don't look empty. Right now, the big trend in women's fashion is rompers and they are flying off the racks so fast, we can't keep them in stock. If you love something that is in style, you'd better buy it as soon as you can.

Don't Be Too Surprised By Messy Tables

I know sometimes when you walk into a store you may see some messy displays. Any store with tables displaying folded clothes gets hit hard by customers all day long. Please don't assume this is because the workers are being lazy. Sometimes a few workers are assigned to folding clothes all day long. It may take as long as an hour to fix a table full of clothes (all items have to be folded a certain way and put in order according to size and color), but it only takes a few minutes for one customer to destroy all that work.

Also, please do not assume a messy table means the clothing on that table are less desirable in some way. I realize presentation means everything, but sometimes a table has just gotten messy. While a worker is busy making one table pretty, the other table is having all the clothes tossed around on it by customers. A shirt is still just as nice on the messy table as the neat table, and if you arrived a little later, chances are the messy table would be neat and the neat table would then be unorganized.

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It's OK to Ask for Opinions

Although some clothing stores offer a more personalized customer service experience than others, all clothing stores have sales associates on the floor to help you. If you see me on the floor hanging up clothes, don't worry about interrupting me. Chances are, I have been doing that task for too long anyway and will welcome the interruption.

Yes, I do usually know where the blouse is that will match those pants. Of course, I don't mind telling you if that shirt is professional enough for an interview. Ummm, I may be too short to reach those pants on the tall shelf, but I can grab a step stool or a tall co-worker to help out.

Wash Those Clothes Before You Wear Them

I am just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to buying clothes and trying to wear them immediately. In some cases, you really can do that. If you find a clothing item that obviously looks like it has never been worn, you may be OK. However, if you find an item in the clearance section, please know it has been tried on a lot. Wash it before you wear it.

I don't want to gross you out, but not everyone is known for good hygiene. In some situations, I can smell a customer before actually seeing her. Sometimes when I am working the fitting room, I put back the same pair of pants from the clearance section once an hour. You never know what other customers have going on, so make sure to clean the pants before wearing them.

While we are on the topic of the fitting room, please don't dump items on the floor. Please either hand it to the fitting room attendant or kindly take them back if you are feeling generous. The fitting room floors are sometimes dirty and you would not want your own clothing sitting there; please don't leave it on the floor for someone else to clean up or trip over.

Look Out for Strategically Placed Sale Items

At many retail stores, you will find some sale items in the front of the store. This is to entice you to enter the store just in case you are only passing by. However, don't just assume the good deals stop there. Many clothing stores purposely place sale items throughout the store so you won't just stop in one area and go. You'll find other products while roaming around the whole store.

Another strategy retailers use is placing some items that are not on sale near the sale items that will look equally appealing. After all, you don't want to just buy only the dress that is on sale when the perfect matching full-priced cardigan is sitting right beside it.

Let's also talk about the sale items at clothing stores. Customers love a bargain, so a common trick that is used in retail is to make everything seem like a better deal than it really is. Have you ever been to a store where practically everything is marked down? It is because none of the clothes are actually worth the full price.

In many stores (I won't name any names), you will find a table full of shirts that are half off. But if you go back next week, it is buy one get one free. Well, basically, as long as a customer buys more than one shirt, it is all the same deal. Those shirts are not worth 10 bucks in the first place; they should really be priced at $5 a shirt, but since customers like a bargain, these "sales" allow the customer to feel as if he or she is getting the best deal. In all honesty, even at 5 bucks, the store is still making a profit. I won't even attempt to guess how little it really costs to make those shirts.

By the way, I realize many customers love to know when a good sale is going to end. Trust me when I tell you, they rarely give employees a specific date - we are not just being secretive! The fact is, there is usually always some type of sale. Sometimes employees find out about the sale the day it is going to start. In some cases, I get the same sale emails customers do, and I check my email early in the morning so I know what is about to happen at the store that day. We don't always know all the secrets either!

Why Are You Still Reading When You Could Be Shopping?

In the end, there are many ways to look for the best bargains at clothing stores. There are also plenty of tricks retailers use to bribe you to shop. At least if you walk into the store knowing how the store wants to manipulate you, you can be prepared.

Even if you are not necessarily looking to save the most money, I hope this hub has been helpful for you when you go on your next clothes shopping adventure.


Copyright ©2015 Jeannieinabottle

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Comments 16 comments

lambservant profile image

lambservant 19 months ago from Pacific Northwest

I worked at Target for a month several years ago shelving new stock, mostly clothing. I was always surprised at the volume of new stuff every day. To shelf items, you must read the numbers on the tags. It was too hard for me because every item has a several kinds of numbers on them, all the numbers placed differently. They'd show me, see this number matches with this number for said brand name, specific style blouse. However, when I came to another style, or different brand name blouse, the numbers on the tags were arranged in different order and I could never figure out which set of numbers on the tags was the one I needed to use to match. I quit. It was a second job and I had to get up at 3 or 4 am to do it. I wouldn't have lasted long anyway.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 19 months ago from Baltimore, MD Author

That sounds really complicated, lambservant. I am not sure I could do that either. Also, the 3 or 4 AM thing is not so great either. I got up at 5 this morning for work, which I was not too thrilled about, but that is still much better than 3 AM. Thanks for your comment!


drbj profile image

drbj 19 months ago from south Florida

I don't love shopping but I do love a bargain so you will find me occasionally at that table with those items on sale. Must be something in the genes. :)


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 19 months ago from Baltimore, MD Author

Yes, I suppose it would be something in the genes, drbj. ;-) Thanks for dropping by!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 19 months ago from Central Florida

Good tips, Jeannie. I worked in retail for a while after graduating high school. I was told that clothing is sold at a 200% markup. So, even when items are advertised at 50% off, the store still makes a huge profit.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 19 months ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Great advice for shoppers from all walks of life! Thanks!


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 19 months ago from Baltimore, MD Author

bravewarrior, you are right. I think there is a huge markup at all stores. Associates at most stores where I've worked get a 50% discount, but the store never really loses money even then. It is still a gain for them, which I think it part of the strategy. Workers think they are getting a deal and the store still cashes in. Thanks for the comment!

Thank you, randomcreative. I am glad you liked it.


janikon profile image

janikon 19 months ago from Toronto, Ontario

I use to work retail and I cannot tell you how working retail has ruined my love for shopping. I don't think there is anything I hate more than shopping but, that being said, I love me a good clearance section.

The skinny jeans I'm wearing today I got for $10 at a boxing day sale, marked down from $75 - my hate does not put a damper on the savings.

Target just closed across Canada I think it was absolutely terrible how the employees were treated near the end.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 18 months ago from Baltimore, MD Author

janikon, I wish working in retail would ruin my love for shopping, but it just doesn't seem like it ever will. It has, however, destroyed Christmas and Christmas shopping for me.

That is a really good deal on jeans. Sometimes I think stores are willing to break even on clearance items or at least make some money rather than donating to charity or throwing stuff out.

It is disappointing how some stores treat their employees. I don't think Target is any better than Walmart in that department, even though people tend to come down hard on Walmart. I have relatives that work there... it is just like anything else, some good and some bad.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 18 months ago from Nashville Tn.

I am a shopper who loves to shop and if I find a bargain all the better. Really like your hub. Had no idea that clothes are a 200% mark-up. Now, I'll be expecting better bargains. :)


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 18 months ago

I love to shop when I have money to buy clothes. I tend to make my shopping experience a little bit easier by shopping for clothes that I really need. thanks for the informative hub and the advice. Best of wishes.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 18 months ago from Baltimore, MD Author

Thank you for your comments, vocalcoach and torrilynn.

Yeah, the mark-ups are totally ridiculous. I think they are potentially more than 200% at some stores. It depends on the brand. And yes, go for those bargains, vocalcoach.

I try to shop for clothes when I need them, torrilynn, but sometimes, I get tempted when I don't need them, too. And you're welcome. I hope the advice is helpful!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 18 months ago from USA

I'm a speed shopper -- in, out, see it, select it, buy it, gone. I hate the crowds.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 18 months ago from Baltimore, MD Author

FlourishAnyway, I can do that if I am in a hurry or just picking up groceries, but I am not so great with that technique at many stores. I wish I could be more like you! Thanks for checking out my hub!


Lexine Webb 18 months ago

Like this. I'm new to this. Please check out my hub.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 18 months ago from Baltimore, MD Author

Thank you for your comment, Lexine. I will check out your hub.

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