Much like the British television costume drama “The Paradise” indicates, department stores truly are a form of paradise. Now, I’m not talking about the general mass retailer or discount department store, which nowadays incorporates groceries and pharmaceuticals into its shopping experience. I’m talking about the more refined retail destination that normally anchors your favorite shopping mall. You know the ones – the ones where you hear angels sing the moment you step inside.
Some say that the first department store opened in the 18th Century in London (of course), but the true growth of the department store concept occurred at the turn of the 19th Century. I grew up in Texas, and back then, the communities I lived in were all about Dillard’s. If you were going to shop a department store, that was the one to shop. When someone complimented your shoes, you felt proud saying, “I got them at Dillard’s.” It was the hot spot to shop. And because of this, to this day, it’s still a favorite!
Today, department stores focus on developing the awareness and reputation of their own brand, making it just as important to the consumer as the brands they carry inside their walls. The department store where you shop often is a representation of your lifestyle, which is why you should develop the right set of skills to shop there. Otherwise, you wind up buying more than you need and spending more than you should all to satiate a craving and lust. It’s easy to go overboard in a department store. It’s a massive area of sensory overload, especially if you’re a shopaholic like I am.
So, how do you shop a department store without going off the deep end? First thing first, have a plan. Some experts have their department store shopping advice, but here’s how I like to do it:
- Make a list. Look, if I could, each time I walked into Dillard’s, I would buy everything I see! But, I can’t do that, and you probably shouldn’t either. Before you step one foot into the store, know what it is you’re shopping for and remain focused on that list.
- Dress for your excursion. Now, I totally believe in wearing a stylish outfit when I go shopping. One, I love to dress cute, let’s face it. Two, if I’m already wearing a super-cute outfit, then I’m less likely to be tempted to buy more cute things, especially if I’m there to shop for a gift for someone else or simply replace a couple of bras. I mean, if I’m looking so chic that the associates are complimenting my outfit, I feel pretty good about myself and am less likely to buy things I don’t need. But you also have to be a little practical, too. For instance, if you’re shopping for holiday gifts, you had better wear some comfortable (but cute) shoes, because you’re probably going to be on your feet all day. And if you’re shopping for dresses, which means you’ll be trying them on, wear an outfit that’s easy to remove. Like, if I know I’m going to be spending time in the dressing room, I stay away from wearing jeans. They’re just so annoying to pull on and off over and over again.
- Know the layout of the department store and stick to the departments on your list. Here’s how the general layout of a department store works: men’s fashion, shoes, cosmetics, accessories, and jewelry are usually on Level One. Level Two is where you’ll find ladies, juniors, children’s wear, and home decor. If there is a Level Three, children’s and home decor may be on that level instead. But on Level One, you’ll find a map near the escalator or elevator. With your list in hand, look at that map. Find your departments and stick with those. Trust me on this one. If you’re shopping for your niece’s sixth birthday, the last thing you want to do is wander around Cosmetics, because you will be tempted to by some perfume and eye shadow. Even the strongest among us fall weak to makeup.
- Check the sales rack first. I always believe in searching for my item in the sales area first, especially if it’s something common, like a black dress or a sweater. I mean, if you can get it at 25% off, why wouldn’t you?
- Make friends with the sales associates. The typical customer is afraid of department store employees. There’s a general misnomer that since most sales associates work on commission, their only interest is in selling you anything and everything. That isn’t the case. Sales associates want to make you satisfied. Yes, they want to sell you something, but they want to sell you something that you will be happy with and solves your problems. They don’t want you to be unsatisfied, because then you’ll return what they sold you, and a return does count against their commission. So, trust the smiling associate who offers to help you. He/she knows the store and product lines better than you do. As for fashion sales associates, these people are stylists-in-the-making! Take full advantage of their talents.
- Try it on! It may look amazing on the hanger, but that doesn’t mean it will look amazing on you. Believe me. It happens. So try it before you buy it. That’s what dressing rooms are for.
- Make sure the security tag is removed before you leave the store. It’s happened to all of us, and it’s so annoying! As you check out, make sure all security tags have been taken off your items. Go through your bag yourself before you leave that department.
- Know the return policy. Every department store has its own policies. You can usually find it on the back of the receipt, but it couldn’t hurt to ask the sales associate, too, during the checkout process.
- Get on the email list. And while you’re at, like the department store on Facebook and follow it on Twitter and Instagram. This way, you’ll be privy to sales, coupons, shopping events, and special offers. Having inside information will make you quite the savvy shopper.
- Memorize when sales happen. Dillard’s has the BEST end-of-season sales ever. I mean, a lot of times you can find great stuff at 40% off, sometimes more. Other department stores may have half-yearly sales, or one-day sales. Keep up with the sale pattern of your favorite department stores, and watch your savings add up!