My general rule is to never buy anything at full retail price if I can help it. Most things make it to sale, but to be take advantage of this, you’ll need to invest a little effort up front.
E-mail newsletters: Sign up for retailers’ newsletters so that you’re notified when there are new sales or coupon codes. You can filter through these on Gmail by creating a filter for each retailer’s email address and have Gmail tag them with a label (ie: “Clothes”). This way you can just click the “Clothes” label and see all the messages you received from retailers.
Daily deals & flash sales: There are a bunch of sites buying overstock and samples, and selling them to consumers for discounted prices. Here are a few you can start with:
- Gilt Man: This is one of the more popular ones, so things sell out quickly.
- Rue La La: Mostly women’s stuff, but they do have menswear items almost daily now. In the past they’ve had Rugby and Brooks Brothers.
- JackThreads: This is from Thrillist. They have a real mixture of styles.
- PLNDR: If you’re into streetwear, then this is going to be of interest to you. They also carry good casual footwear brands such as Sebago.
- Belle & Clive: A newcomer that’s just started out, focusing mostly on high-end brands such as Brunello Cucinelli.
- MyHabit: Amazon’s fashion flash-sale site. Relatively new, not a whole lot of amazing inventory just yet.
A word of caution: Sometimes, you may see a package deal from a local tailor on one of these sites (or sites such as Groupon and its clones). A suitmaker, for example, might offer a suit, two shirts, and a tie as a package for 50% off. I would recommend you not use these unless you’ve had previous experience with the company (or at least very reliable information about them). These custom garments aren’t returnable after you’ve purchased them, so you want to be sure you know what you’re getting. You also don’t want to rush into large purchases like that.
Facebook & Twitter: Follow retailers and brands on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll get notices about their sales and exclusive coupon codes (often ones that they don’t send out via e-mail).
Sales intelligence: This is probably the hardest to obtain, as the information doesn’t come from any one source. The best information often pops up on StyleForum, usually on this thread.
Over time, you’ll also get a sense of when things go on sale. Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren have their biggest sales around the same time every season, and Lands’ End has a 30-40% off any one item at least once a month. Sales often follow holidays, as well, such as Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
The key here is to have a bit of patience and know when to shop. If you think a sale might start soon, figure out which items you want to buy so that you don’t waste time during the actual sale. In the days coming up to the sale, you can also ask a sales associate to put something on hold for you until a sale starts; they’re often glad to. This way, you won’t risk having your size and preferred style sell out.