Okay. I admit it. I am a shopaholic. Thankfully, I am also practical. Otherwise, it would be easy to go overboard. I made a shopping guide and critique for the four stores I frequent most often based on my experiences. With that said, your experience might be different. But I hope it helps! Warning: this is a very long post!
Shopping Free people:
Free Shipping over $100 (always)
Free People Me Community
Customer Service is amazing
Online Customer Service is also fantastic
Your birthday discount is good for any time in the entire year
Price adjustments within 14 days
Respect (I genuinely feel the people behind this store care about their customers)
They know their layering
Their clothing is cut beautifully to drape in a flattering way
30 day return policy (after being used to Anthropologie’s amazing no restrictions return policy, this took some getting used to.)
Other retailers sell a lot of their merchandise. Sometimes, it is much cheaper elsewhere.
First cuts on merchandise are often small
Do not have online additional % off sales (but do have in store)
No alternative sizing (petites and plus sizes)
This store has my whole entire heart. This is because they have the best customer service out there. If there is a problem with your order or item, they go above and beyond for you. An example: I received a dress. It sat in my closet for over a month unworn because I was waiting for the weather to change. It finally did, but when I went to put it on, I discovered a gaping hole in the seam. I had not noticed it before. The dress was sold out (exclusive). Even if I had wanted to return it (and I did not), Free People has a 30 day return window. I was out of it. I emailed them pictures of the item and explained that I would have to get it fixed, but I still loved it. They gave me 25% off the item. I took the dress to be fixed. It cost $8. It looks brand new. They more than compensated me for the fix and they made me feel good that they understood the inconvenience. They created a loyal customer for life in me with a simple act of understanding and generosity.
Another example of them wanting their shoppers to be part of their brand is their Free People Me category. Shoppers (like me) upload pictures of how they styled the item. It is helpful. It is fun. And for participating last year, they sent me the sweetest gift in the mail. It was a handmade “Free People Me” flag and a beautiful necklace.
They truly appreciate their customers.
With that said, I do have some shopping tips I stick to. If it is not “exclusive” (an item will say this in the description if it is. This means it is only sold through Free People), I always hold out. This is from experience. It will probably either go on clearance there or show up at Nordstrom Rack. I cannot tell you how many Free People items I have purchased for 60% off or more from other retailers that were still showing full price on Free People’s website.
I will say, though, if you love it, and it is an exclusive: The item will usually hold out much longer for sale or completely sell out. That is a dilemma you have to wage with yourself. The “waiting game.” I think exclusives tend to sell out at full price rather quickly. So play at your own risk.
I also think they have some fantastic pieces of clothing for under $100.
Free People does markdowns sporadically. I had thought they were usually on Saturdays (that I had noticed). But then they will do a random markdown and blow my theory. Usually they do not mark an item down as generously as Anthropologie does. It is typical for an item to just be marked down 20-25% at first.
I am not thrilled with them for not having alternative sizing. I think it is something they need to work on.
Shopping Nordstrom Rack:
Consistently amazing deals
Merchandise changes constantly
If you have a Nordstrom Debit or Credit Card: you earn points when you make purchases towards $20 Notes (store credit).
Free tailoring! ($100-300 worth of yearly alterations on clothes that did not have to be purchased there. Amount allowed depends on your rating. Your rating is based on how much you spend a year.)
Must make quick decisions
Strict 30 day return policy
Competing with resellers
You have to look and you have to compromise (check sizes not your own. I will repeat what I have said before: Oftentimes an item of clothing made it to sale because it was sized wrong. I just scored an amazing Free People top 61% off. It was an XS. It fits me like a dream. The XS gals had passed it up, because it was too large. Score for me! This has worked for me with larger sizes as well.)
They do not hold items
You need a lot of random luck
They do price adjustments, but it would be next to impossible to figure out if your one item got cut more (without being annoying and super persistent. I am guessing if you took your items in every 14 days, they could rescan them to check. But I have no idea. They are very crowded and very busy!)
A confession: when our Rack opened, I did not “get it.” It was overwhelming. Row upon row of, well, racks. Then a friend of mine took me shopping with her. And it has never been the same for me. She informed me that if you see a rack with tons of the same thing on it, it is not special. That is just Nordstrom’s brand of clothing. Yawn. Move along. A lot of times, things will hit sale. There are exceptions. Think my favorite: “Free People.”
As I mentioned above, Free People has its own large rack at our store. It is always in the same place (so if there is another designer that you love, look for that rack. You will always know where to look when going to the store. It will be less overwhelming). Sometimes there will be an additional rack of Free People dresses in the dress section. Right now, there is an additional rack stocked with Free People winter coats and sweaters. Free People items are generally marked 60% off or more at Nordstrom Rack.
If you like something, get it. It probably will not be there when you go back for it. I am always shocked how quickly things sell at Nordstrom Rack. There is such limited stock, it is next to impossible to play the sale guessing game. I went there last year and saw three displays of tall Hunter rain boots in a multitude of colors. I believe they were $75. They were awesome. I decided to go home and think about it. I realized I wanted a pair. I went back the next day, every single pair was gone. It was a great price and savvier shoppers (or eBay sellers) than me, knew that, too.
That’s right. Not only are you competing against other fashionistas, but you are also competing against resellers. And they know their stuff. And they will buy it. And they will sell it… For a profit.
Now, there have been many, many instances where I walk into Nordstrom Rack and there is absolutely nothing “good.” That’s okay. There are far too many times that they have awesome stuff.
They do not get new shipments in on Sundays and Mondays. They get new merchandise in every day Tuesday-Saturday. Once, they forgot to give me a dress I paid for (it fell out of the bag). I called when I got home. They held it for me. I went back five hours later. There were more items out on the floor. They are constantly pulling things from the back all day. Often there is just one of that item from a particular designer or franchise.
You have to be lucky.
Nordstrom Rack is an excellent place to purchase designer jeans. I got a pair of Mother’s jeans (my favorite) for 75% off. And some Paige corduroy skinnies for 50%. They consistently have Joe’s (which I have not had luck with for my body).
It is also a wonderful place to purchase designer sun glasses. I am always losing my sunglasses. It is just not something that I care to invest money in. But I want good ones for eye protection, especially as I get older. I have bought both pairs of my sunglasses here for $17 and $33 and they both retailed for over $130 a piece.
Fantastic home selection
Store displays are enchanting
Great sale prices
Amazing return policy
Wonderful in-store customer service
Price adjustments within 14 days
Used clothing can generally be resold for a decent price
It is hard to buy something full price, when you know it will almost always hit sale.
Shipping prices are outrageous
Online and phone customer service have not been good for me
Items are frequently cancelled after ordering (so do not get your hopes up. Do not expect sympathy or an apology either.)
Long wait for shipping
Competing with resellers
No plus sizes and lower stock of larger sizes
Their website needs some work
Anthropologie is magical. It is wonderful. Their merchandise is like noone elses. And neither are their sales.
Anthropologie has a sale almost every Monday. Sunday night, Roxy of Effortless Anthropologie plays a Sales Guessing game with her readers. Everyone (other girls who also love the brand) waits up Sunday night to snag the first of the deals. It is usually 12:00 a.m. for west coasters and 3:00 a.m. for east coasters (although lately they have been an hour and a half early).
I think most of Anthropologie’s items I have watched have made it to sale. The exception to this for me was the Ping Maxi Skirt. I purchased it with a discount (thankfully) and it had sold out in my size long before it hit 50% off. 50% off is generally what the item goes immediately to on sale. This is called first cut. The next cut would take it to 50% off of the sale price. This is called second cut. And then it goes is 50% off that price. This is the rare third cut. Pieces almost always get marked to this. But by that time, the item has usually all ready sold out. Items can even get as low as $9.99 and $19.99. Add that to their additional % sales and you can score big savings.
This is when having a GIGANTIC wishlist pays off. I have a 10 page wishlist on Anthropologie’s website. I check it daily. People return items every day. You can sometimes get things from your wishlist for amazing prices. I got a cardigan a couple of months ago for $8. Normally $89. And I just snagged a shirt I had been watching for months for $20, originally $120. Roxy also does a post on this once a week called “Friday Popbacks.” Awesome readers post the finds that do not fit them or they do not want from their wishlist with a link. This allows someone in the “community” to grab it.
Sound easy? Well, it is! Not to mention thrilling.
I will admit that I very rarely buy an item not on sale at this store. My exception is something unique or something I think is going to sell out. Like the Sketchbook Shirt Dress or the Toadstool Blouse. I splurged on both of these with the 15% discount (I never wore the first two I purchased and returned them). They were both so unique and whimsical, it was worth the splurge for me. An example of something I am holding out on would be the Wonderland Tunic. I am waiting for sale on this. And I think it will sell out before it hits sale in my size. We will see! But on this, I am holding firm.
I will also splurge on things that do not have a high price tag to begin with like two of the Creature Feature Tops. Sure, they are spendy for a t-shirt. But I will get so much wear out of them for the small amount of difference between the sale price that it will eventually go to and the starting point. It is not worth it to me to wait.
If something hits sale and it is not on my wishlist, I always ignore it. If I did not like it at full price, I will not even look at it on sale. I always stick to my wishlist. My exception to this are pants and jeans. There are just so many of them. I could not possibly put them all on my wishlist. Last week I scored three pairs of JBrand Moto Zipped Crops (2 for me and 1 for my daughter). They retailed for $242 each. I scooped them up at $19.99 a piece.
This does not mean I purchase everything on my wishlist. Today a dress “popped back” on my wishlist. It retailed for $188. It was now $29.99. I just did not want it any more. This happens quite often. I would say I end of purchasing 10-15% of the items I save in my wishlist. I am fickle. And I like to gamble. I like to play “how low will it go?” The house usually wins. And I move along.
Anthropologie has an amazing home section. To me, this is their strongest asset above the other stores. Their items end up in fashion magazines and home magazines. The home pieces are amazing. So quirky, fun and beautiful. I could spend hours in their home section.
Also, I am not petite, but I am ecstatic that not only does Anthropologie offer petite sizing in many items now, but that they are also opening petite stores. Good for them!
However, Anthropologie’s lack of understanding in regards to the larger-than-average sized girl is high on my peeves. Anthropologie frequently sells out of size XL and size 14-16 first. Plus sized gals almost always have to buy things full price from Anthropologie (I know from experience. Waiting for sale seemed so odd and wonderful to me when I started shopping for smaller sizes). Usually the larger sizes will not hit sale. There is not enough inventory. It is not fair. Anthropologie has not “gotten it” yet. See my Modcloth review to learn how a company does it right.
I love the quirky items at this store. Sometimes they can be a bit too quirky for me. I have found I do not wear my items from this store as often as I do items from other stores. This leads me to not shop here very often. But when I do, there are things I have learned.
Unique, fun pieces of clothing
FREE SHIPPING AND RETURNS OVER $50! Sorry to shout. But that is so fantastic. Again they know their customer and they respect them.
Clothing arrives in a whimsical blue printed box with some sort of product sample (eg: Tom’s toothpaste).
The bad (very few. It really is a great company):
I sometimes find the quality is not on point with the price of an item.
Very rarely will an item make it to sale from my wishlist (good for them!)
30 day return policy
One of my main reasons for supporting Modcloth is their respect for women of all sizes. I can not express how much it irks me that other franchises do not respect the larger girl. Think the petite line at Anthropologie (which is so great for petites, but sizes should also go the other way). As a former plus size wearer, I feel so much gratitude towards this company for “getting it.” Women come in all forms. I love that they embrace this. They always show beautiful plus sized models along with the petite and average models. I realize this is rather long. But it is something that is very close to my heart.
Modcloth stocks XS-3X in many items of clothing. For the petite gals, there are many pieces from Europe that are sized for smaller bodies. And for the plus size there are exclusives. I love this!
They also do a fun thing called “Stylish Surprise.” For $15 they will pick out an article of clothing (it could literally be anything) for you. The item you receive is guaranteed to be priced at $29.99 or more. It is not returnable. Think “mystery bag.” I read one girl got an amazing winter coat! I am not very brave. I have only done this once. I got an amazing dress that I love. These surprises happen every couple of months throughout the year.
There are so many things that I adore about all of these stores. And some things I would love to see changed. I strive to be honest with my opinions and my tips. I hope my long post helped! I want people to score amazing deals. What is the best deal you have gotten? What is your favorite store to shop at? Do you have additional tips to share? Feel free to comment.