The Retail Race

Let me be clear – I am a shopaholic. Confessions of a Shopaholic? Yes, that brilliant idea visited me in my sleep before it jumped the pond and landed in Sophie Kinsella’s brain to be developed into the Shopaholic franchise. (I will discuss this more when I review Big Magic… once I finish reading it) And to fuel this addiction, I spent many a year in specialty women’s retail (fancy name for LOFT & Chico’s) … mostly for the discounts.

But, because I have spent many years in retail, I understand the game they play with us. I understand the trickle down effect fashion has on the retail industry. Point in case, Fashion Week shows us the newest and hottest trends about a year in advance. By the time our local stores get on the trends, it is almost a year later. What’s worse, their marketing campaigns serve to make women feel as if they need a brand new wardrobe every season! I don’t know about you, but I sure cannot afford that (although I shop as if I can).

I follow A LOT of fashion bloggers on Instagram because I admire their style and their fearless fashion sense. But I also believe that many of them are sporting sponsored duds. I cannot believe anyone purchases new clothing that much and then just wears it to take pictures. I mean, why buy something if you don’t intend to wear it numerous times? Why spend the time to find items you truly love?

But as I write that, I am reminded that I spent a great deal of money in high school and my early years of college purchasing items because I loved them in the moment but then never actually wore them, or wore them only once. I understand and again – I don’t do this anymore. Instead, I have developed a returning issue. Meaning, I return probably 10% of what I purchase on a regular basis. Usually 15-45 days after I purchased it. Hey! I really liked it! I just realized I don’t a) have the proper additional items to pull of the look b) hadn’t eaten any food when I purchased it and now, after eating breakfast, it looks terrible on me or c) it no longer speaks to me.

This is the part that probably truly betrays the depth of my addiction to shopping and clothing… the items speak to me! They say to me “Buy me,” “I will make you happy,” or “I will emphasise all those squats you have been doing.” And I fall into it every time! However, I have found a compromise for myself. I only buy items I love, I don’t rush out and wear them right away, and I utilize the Cluise app, (no this isn’t sponsored, I actually really use the app). Basically the app is a digital closet. It can assemble outfits for you based on weather and event, but I rarely use this feature. Instead, I take pics of everything I purchase, (and am slowly adding everything I currently own), and add them to my digital closet. Then I construct outfits with what I have. Honestly, I don’t generally stick to these outfits, (because I am not an outfit girl, I am a separates girl), but it really helps me see what I have and how the new pieces with incorporate into my current wardrobe. Bonus: I can “see” my closet when I am in a store debating whether or not to buy that super trendy piece. And that is my coping secret.

I have also made an effort to limit my shopping at places like Forever 21, Hollister Co. and Tilly’s. I have realized that I purchase the items at seemingly cheaper prices, just to find the items don’t last and really don’t look good after you wear them once. Of course, it is quick fashion and is meant to only satisfy the season’s trends. And that is great for many women. However, I have found that I can find better fitting and higher quality pieces on sale for the same or less than the items sold by stores such as Forever 21. Such retailers? Madewell – they don’t always have a sale, but they do sometimes. And when they do, (such as an additional percentage off sale items), I shop heavy. I also use my student ID because they offer 15% off for teachers and students all the time, on everything, (don’t quote me, they may exclude third party merchandise). So, top was $68, marked down to $50, additional 50% off that AND THEN an additional 15%? That top is now about $21… And the top at Forever 21? $28.80? No return and may self destruct after first wear? No thank you!

Being a more full-figured woman, (a healthy 12/14, L/XL), fit and quality really matters to me. But I am also basically skating by financially so I really don’t have the room to purchase things at full price. So I try and do my due diligence and follow sales. For instance, Ann Taylor LOFT, (whom I worked for in the past), allows for price adjusting. When I began building my professional wardrobe, I did purchase some items at full or near full price. (Caveat, if you do shop there regularly, you really should have the credit card. Rewards system is fan-freaking-tastic!) So, I watched for when the items went on 40%. Sure enough, they did.I went and price adjusted. (My sister and her boyfriend went with me and had a cow… It was a process) In the end, I ended picking up double what I purchased initially AND I walked out with $1.25 in my pocket! I had a $300 budget and I ended up with nearly 1k in merchandise at ticket value. I should say, I used Cash Cards as well, and that helped quite a bit. But moral of the story, if you do your due diligence, you can really win and make out like a bandit.

Anyways, the point of all this. I think retailers put too much pressure on women to buy new things and to buy them immediately. Obviously, they have sales goals every single day that compound into month, quarterly and annual goals – I get that. But so do we. We have school, new tires, kid’s baseball fees, whatever it may be that we need to prepare for as well. And, I will admit that seeing women with their brand new Chanel, Louis Vuittons and Hermes bags on Instagram sometimes makes me feel inadequate. But, that is okay! I am so thrilled that those bloggers have reached that level of success. But I have reached my own level of success and you have to! So be proud of it and rock your new and old wardrobe staples and show the world that you are feeling good in your duds! And please, be smart about your shopping. The retailers give you the tools, you just need to use them!

In case you are curious, or follow my Instagram, I frequent Ann Taylor LOFT, Madewell, Free People (generally sale online), Banana Republic (by far the best credit rewards system I have seen) and JJill. 

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