Shopping Tips from a Former Retail Worker (Nine West, Estee Lauder, Claire's)

I was reading this article about Forever 21 Shopping Secrets today written by a former employee, and it made me think about my many years spent in retail when I was younger and what "secrets" I learned. They aren't QUITE as useful as the ones in the PopSugar article, but they could help! Here are the stores I worked at, and reasons why you should shop there too.


This was my first retail job at age 16. I grew up near a huge Tanger Outlet Center and as soon as I was old enough I went to my favorite store for a job. I don't have too many tips or secrets from this position--the prices are low and the merchandise is vast. There were so many small items squeezed into a small storefront and there was usually some kind of BOGO going on. The sale section had a lot of good stuff for super cheap--sometimes pennies. I believe we received shipments every day, so there was always new stuff. But don't ask if there's more stuff in the back; usually all merchandise is on the floor. As said in the Forever 21 article, the best time to shop at this store, and the ones below, are midday on a weekday.

Pepperidge Farm

For a grocery tip, I'd definitely advise going to Pepperidge Farm. Did you know that you don't have to eat bread and crackers by the sell-by date? The products are good for months afterward, and even longer if frozen. You can buy Goldfish and bread for much less than the grocery store, and some are marked even cheaper depending on the sell-by date. Bread is generally expensive and Pepperidge Farm Outlet sells it for much cheaper. They also have cookies, soups, crackers and frozen items. One secret: the store I worked at toasted bread sometimes to create a delicious smell in the store. They also have samples but please use the scoop--don't put your hands in the bin!

The Cosmetics Company Outlet (Estee Lauder)

This makeup store is definitely the place to shop at if you're looking for deeply discounted makeup from expensive brands like Estee Lauder, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Stila, Clinique and Prescriptives. It also carried discontinued makeup, so if the brand got rid of your favorite eyeshadow, it might be there. This store had the best employee discount of anywhere I worked, and I also got free makeup on my birthday. There was a lot of stock in the back, so if they don't have your product up front, ask if they have it elsewhere. We didn't offer makeovers like Sephora, and as with any makeup store I wouldn't advise trying samples on your face. A lot of people used the samples, and even though we cleaned products every day, you just never know. Best sellers: Clinique's Dramatically Different lotion and All About Eyes cream.

Nine West Outlet

I worked here the longest, enjoyed it the most and had a management position. Nine West Outlet is pretty different from the regular mall retail store--the outlet is self service and has a lot of merchandise on the floor. If you don't see your size, ask and it may be in the back. Shoes are arranged in order from smallest size to largest up the wall, and shipments came in once per week. Ask you local store what day they receive shipments and check in the following days for the best selection of shoes. I highly recommend this if you have a shoe size of 5, 11 or 12--the more rare smallest and largest sizes often come in with one only size per shoe style. By contrast, a shoe style may have a bunch of 7s, 8s and 9s in its shipment. If you find a shoe you like but it's not in stock, ask the sales associate to check the computer to see if it's at a nearby store and they can call and hold it for you for 24 hours. They also can ship shoes for a $10 flat rate (as of the mid 2000s when I worked there--it may cost more now). The discount was OK--but often shoes went on sale for lower than what we would get off the original price. Most of there time there was some kind of BOGO--Usually buy one get one half off. Sometimes when there was a really big percent off sale shoes would go back to their original pricing, so it's worth it to check and see what sale is going on. Always check to make sure you don't end up with two left shoes or mixed sizes from other customers putting the shoes back wrong. And seasons tends to start early--summer footwear begins being delivered as early as February and winter stuff arrives by mid-summer. If you want a deal though, wait until you're in the season for marked-down footwear as new stuff is brought out.

I hope these tips help! I haven't worked in retail for about 10 years so take my advice with a grain of salt, but if all else fails, make sure you're friendly to the associates! Not only will it make their day better, but the nicer you are, the more likely they will be to help you score the best deals!



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