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The Vera Bradley Outlet Sale: Our Annual Pilgrimage

Updated on June 26, 2012
Daughter with a sampling of her Vera Bradley items
Daughter with a sampling of her Vera Bradley items | Source

We get our tickets months in advance. Some schedule their days off work. In my case, I make sure my husband is in the country and takes the day off to watch the kids. We see if friends need anything, too. We get ready for our annual pilgrimage to the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale.

Vera Bradley is known for its bright, colorful, fun bags ranging from backpacks to change purses. They have now evolved their line to include reading glasses, beach towels and stationery. They release new patterns on a regular basis and loyal patrons are eager to see what new colors and lines Vera will unveil.

A Cult?

They have an amazing following, almost cult like. I cannot be certain if the following is Midwestern only or becoming nationwide. I do know that I see their ads in magazines all the time now. Where I live, kids carry these for their school bags. Because the bags are made of fabric, they are washable. Unlike leather, a child’s nail cannot destroy your bag. This is huge for me. I have seen a child scratch a leather bag. I have seen a mother brought to her knees wondering, “Do I yell at my child or cry for my bag?”

Imagine a cult like following having access to an outlet sale?

How It Began

7 years ago, one of my sisters and my Dad went to the Vera Bradley Outlet sale in Fort Wayne, IN. She asked me if I needed anything. I am not a purse person. In fact, as a young girl, you wouldn’t catch me dead in a dress. You definitely would not catch me with a purse.

There comes a point in every girl’s life when carrying a purse no longer becomes an option. There is a point in which you need to start figuring out how to carry all that super important ‘stuff’! At first I got by with just back packs. In college, my pockets could carry what I needed. 7 years ago, I had just had my first set of twins. There was no way I was going to get by without some sort of bag now.

I knew nothing about these bags at all! I couldn’t even begin to answer my sister’s question. I told her, “Just look for something I could use for a diaper bag…but not a diaper bag”. I had looked online and was overwhelmed with the patterns available. I hoped for the best.

I was happy with what my sister brought me. I carried it as my new diaper bag. The next year, when my sister was going back to the outlet sale, I signed up. I was going to my first Vera Bradley Outlet.

How To Explain The Sale?

Newbies can never be properly prepared for what the outlet sale is like. It is like explaining childbirth to someone who has never had a baby. They think they understand. They sort of get it. But not until they are in the midst of the chaos and excitement can they grasp what in the world everyone was telling them about.

I cannot paint an exact replica of this experience, but I will try.

Dogs Like Vera!

Annie likes Vera
Annie likes Vera | Source

Imagine If You Will...

Imagine that you bought tickets for the 11-1:30 pm time slot. The crowd is forming. You are anxious for some deals. 11:00 passes. Now we are getting antsy. The lady, who chose to bring her baby and keeps hitting you by accident with her stroller, is getting antsy. 11:15 passes. Now we are getting annoyed. 11:20 arrives and the cattle are moving. I think they opened the doors.

I think we are heading in! We pass thru a set of double doors. We go down an escalator. We go back past the doors we used to enter the building. We see hundreds of people still standing outside not moving at all. Out loud we kid, “They should have gotten in line sooner!” In our minds we say, “Sorry chumps…we are going in!” As we approach ‘THE DOOR’, I am reminded yet again how to hold a ticket for quick scanning. It is scanned. I am corralled to the right. I am in the outlet sale!

I am handed my giant pink garbage bag. Pink because the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer,, receives proceeds from the outlet sale and multiple other Vera Bradley events.

Then, I see the outlet sale in all its glory. While in line, I was given an overview map of how the tables would be organized. I knew that stationery was in row 1000, highlighted by the orange balloons. I knew if I wanted luggage, I needed to head towards 4000! But what the map does not show is 1500 other people carrying giant pink bags and hunting for deals! Drat!

My Check Out Bag From the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale: The White Bag of Commitment

My white check out bag
My white check out bag | Source

A 15 Step Guide To Surviving The Vera Bradley Outlet Sale

1. Prior to the sale, do a little homework. Know what styles or type of bag you are looking for. Do you need a backpack? Do you want a small bag? Does it need a zipper? There are so many styles that a novices’ head could explode. In addition to styles, get familiar with patterns. Not every style will be available in every pattern. It is an outlet sale of course.

2. So you are debating between 2 patterns for 1 style of bag. Instead of hem hawing in the middle of the aisle, throw them both in your giant bag. You were given a giant bag for a reason. We like to think of it as a wish list rather than what you are going to end up purchasing.

3. If you go with a group as I do, know cell phone numbers and split up. You are on a mission. You don’t have the time to dilly dally. There are deals to be had. You need to stay focused!

4. When you stumble upon your group mates, say hi and exchange pleasantries, but don’t forget to stay focused.

5. Alternate hands while carrying the pink bag. If you do not, you could end up with a debilitating cramp resulting in a loss of productive shopping time.

6. When your focus is gone and your desire to look has been depleted, NOW gather the troops. Find your meeting spot. This is where decisions happen.

7. Gather as a group, but don’t sit. Sitting is apparently forbidden at the outlet sale. Trust me. I went pregnant in the past and was corrected by a security guard! This is where you cross reference what you were asked to look for and what you planned to get for yourself with what you actually have in the bag. This is when you might even make clarification phone calls or text messages. At this point, we begin a pile of ‘no longer want it’.

8. As a group, you are privy first to this pile. Maybe someone in the group found something you didn’t find or didn’t even see. You can add this to your own pile. Ultimately, this pile will be tossed into a giant bin. These were not chosen. These will not go home with us.

9. Some might take a last pass thru the sale. This is when you double check that you didn’t miss anything or allow items one more chance to scream your name and get picked up.

10. Ultimately, you are reminded overhead of the time you must depart. You must be out the room and heading toward check out. Once you commit to your bags, you head to check out. You are gitty with your purchases. You know you did a great job. You are almost done. You walk thru another set of double doors and see those same 1500 people trying to check out the same time you are. Double drat!

11. You remind yourself that there is a $1500 limit per person. You are proud that you aren't even close. Then you rethink your math just to make sure. They did have Vera calculators. Maybe I should have gotten one of those?

12. The line moves quickly. People are still purging at this point. Sometimes the group will still find a deal on the way to check out! Finally, it is your turn to check out and the total is stated. Holy Cow! I am glad these things were on sale!

13. So I am given my white bag now. Pink is the bag of wishes. White is the bag of commitment.

14. Our group reconvenes. We are still gitty with excitement, but tired from the pursuit.

15. Time to Eat!

I Didn't Buy Myself A Thing!

This year I didn’t buy a single bag for myself! I am not even bummed.

Why did I spend almost the entire day in search of nothing?

A few reasons:

1. I might want to buy something. You never know when inspiration to buy a new bag will strike.

2. I had friends with wish list items since I told them I was going to the sale again this year.

3. I have a five year old daughter who nearly wets herself when she gets a new purse.

4. I spent three hours by myself yesterday listening to what I wanted to on my radio. No one ever complained or asked me a silly question.

5. The Biggest Reason: I went with five of my sisters. There seems to be a core group that has made this an annual trip. Regardless of our desire to buy bags, this is the only thing that we, as sisters, do with each other every year. We drive to Fort Wayne, IN, together. I met them halfway this year. We talk in the car and catch up. We see familiar faces during the sale. We ask each other to keep an eye out for a certain bag that maybe we have yet to find. We end up eating lunch/dinner together afterwards and continue with the catching up.

Line Item Summary of My Day

Chipping in on gas
Teacher gifts
Friends' Bags
My Family's Bags
A day with my sisters
The Breakdown

© 2012 Karen Lackey

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