Have a sales cycle strategy to snag best discounts

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Have a sales cycle strategy to snag best discounts

For fashion aficionados, nothing is more exhilarating than finding great items on sale.

But that isn't always easy. You go into a store expecting everything to be marked down and leave feeling that the sale announcements were simply bait to lure customers in the door.

Understanding the nature of sales can help you get the best bargains. First and foremost, sales in Asia aren't the same as sales in the West.

Most Western department and chain stores hold major sales twice a year, in January and August, that are known as their winter and summer sales. These usually have deep discounts, sometimes up to 90 percent off merchandise from previous seasons. The January sale, for example, often has items from the previous summer, fall and winter. Toward the end of seasonal sales, Western stores begin to display new merchandise.

In Korea and elsewhere in Asia, department stores hold different types of sales, mainly because department stores operate their businesses like real-estate agencies: Stores rent out their space to distributors of name-brand merchandise.

Korean department stores hold regular or jeonggi sales four times a year: January, April, July and October.

Most brands participate in these sales, in order to clear their stock, but their discounts are usually only 10 to 30 percent off retail prices. About half the labels also hold their own "Brand" sales before the jeonggi sale. The items marked down during the jeonggi sales include a mix of new and old stock; discounts are as much as 30 percent.

"Because department stores hold frequent sales, we can't offer deep discounts like stores in foreign countries," says Yang Kyung-wook, a manager at the Hyundai Department Store's main office. To find big bargains, Mr. Yang suggests that shoppers watch for "Special" sales. This is when individual brands or department stores sell their old inventory at discounts of up to 70 percent.

Wherever you're shopping, it pays to prepare for a sale. Check out the season's new merchandise when the stock arrives, but try to wait until the next sale before you buy.

Of course, some items will be sold out. But if you've asked how many items are in stock and what stores they're in and you've jotted down the SKU number on the sales tag, you can have a salesman check on the items. That's one reason that it's worthwhile to make friends with the sales staff, who will pass along useful information.

If you don't have the time, simply look for "New Arrival" or "Brand" sales at the start of the season. Spring clothes arrive as early as the end of January, and the sale starts in February. Discounts range from 5 to 30 percent. Prices will be raised to normal by the middle or end of February.

Smaller boutiques often have sales a little later than department stores do because their distribution cycle is different. Their discounts are different and up to store policy.

Be sure to ask friends in the business ?buyers and distributors ?about new developments. They know what's happening around town, and are the first to know if a store is going out of business and holding a liquidation sale.

Then there are the outlet stores, which sell leftover goods with their tags removed or cut to indicate they're discounted. They can be worth a peek.

In shopping, knowledge is power. Look for designs that are considered classic or that can last more than a few seasons. Avoid ad campaign items, since they stand out.

Check labels to ensure the items are genuine and made from high-quality materials. Look for flaws or damage. And be sure to ask sales assistants why the items are being sold at a discount and whether they are refundable or exchangeable.

by Ines Cho
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