Downtown LA Sample Sales

Tomorrow is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for sample sales again in the showrooms of California Market Center (California Mart) and the New Mart. They are across the street from each other. I've gotten some very cheap and very cool stuff there, and yes, there is quite a bit of stuff for guys too (they just don't know about it unless their girlfriends drag them there). If you're a soon-to-be first-timer, there are certain things you need to know.

Sample sales happen the last Friday of every month, except months with special "market days." The Cal Mart website has a list of sample sale days. I have no idea about New Mart, but they've been open every time I went. Even then, many showrooms will be closed. It'll be pretty obvious which ones are open for business.

Before you go, familiarize yourself with the floor plan of Cal Mart. With New Mart, everything are cool and it's small enough a building that it's not a problem, but Cal Mart is HUGE. It pays to know which floors contains clothes you'd want. Floors and subdivisions are grouped by what they sell, so if you know ahead of time what floors you'll hit, you'll save a lot of time.

Knowing different designer brands and how they fit you is the key to being an efficient shopper. If you like a particular designer, search the Cal Mart and New Mart websites for those showrooms. Who knows? They just might be open when you go. Furthermore, when you know what size fits you, you can just go through stuff hanging on the racks more quickly and efficiently. Knowing the "magic number" means you won't have to try on every piece, which saves lots of time.

Wear either spandex workout clothes or a big skirt, and wear comfortable shoes you can slip out of easily. Why? Well, part of the sample sale experience is that there are no dressing rooms. Your skirt is your curtain.

Bring a big tote bag with you. Most of the stores don't have bags.

These sample sales are cash only, and things range from $5 up to about a hundred. I've heard that there are ATM's around, but since the area is not exactly great as far as security goes, I usually wouldn't want people to see how much money I've withdrawn. Besides, limiting the amount you bring with you will keep you from going overboard. $50-75 is a good amount, but plan on keeping the lid at $50. Use that "extra" cash only there's something that you *really* have to get. With the excellent prices, it's easy to go overboard, so the best way to prevent that from happening is to make cash your limiting factor.

Street parking is limited to an hour, and parking lots can get expensive. Either bring a shopping buddy along, suck it up and pay, or take public transportation. There's a DASH line E that runs through the heart of Downtown LA to the Fashion District. The Los Angeles/9th is the stop to get off at. The wait for the return trip really sucks, though, so bring some water and snacks in your purse.

Start at the top floors and make our way down. It's bad enough to wait for elevators; unless you want a workout, it's worse to wait multiple times or make it up the stairs. However, if there's a particular showroom with stuff that you like, hit that one first. In the New Mart lobby, there are handouts listing showrooms open for sales, but they aren't necessarily accurate. The list is now available online. Certain popular showrooms like Juicy often has long lines, so if you get there earlier, you'll have a better chance of scoring good deals.

Before you buy, check the garment for quality. Good proxies for quality are the seams, lack of holes, feel of the fabric, etc. Remember that "samples" mean "samples"--they are just models and often times they are inferior to the final product, but a lot of times they are good enough for $5, and the quality is probably still better than a $5 shirt you'd find at Wal-Mart. One major thing to look for is the word "sample" written or stamped onto the garment. A lot of times that's why it's $5; if it's visible, you probably wouldn't want to wear that out on the streets. If there are defects, you'll have to decide whether it's worth it, even if it's cheap. If the "sample" stamp isn't visible, sure, why not? If it's missing buttons, that's easy to fix. If there's a very small hole that's not readily visible to other people, you might be able to do something about that. However, there are also lots of obvious no-no's like tears in chiffons or sequins falling off, and unless you're really good with the sewing machine, just put it down and walk away. It'll probably cost you more to fix it than it's worth.

If you're buying multiple or expensive items, haggle. A lot of times they'll lower the price just a tad. If you need some moral encouragement, keep your ears open for the sounds of haggling. If someone else does it, you can follow up on their act. Look at it this way: if it doesn't work, fine, but when it does, at least those extra few bucks of savings covers parking/transportation. Don't be shy...what have you got to lose?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shopping strategy. I found your site on google in preparation for my trip. I went to the sample sale yesterday and used a lot of your advice. I came out with lots of loot! (But not as much as all the women rolling suitcases! oh man!) Thanks again. Keep up the good blogging.

Cynthia said...

Thanks so much for this post! I live in So Cal and I've always wanted to go to these Friday sales but never actually wanted to take the day off from work. I'm actually going to do it this coming Friday, and I'm going to memorize your tips!!

Sales Rack Raider said...

You're welcome! I hope you'll haul in some good stuff. Have a fun shopping trip.

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