Bargain Shopping 2.0: The New Rules for Scoring Deals

Anna Williams

salesDiscount shopping. There was a time when that phrase conjured images of obsessive coupon clipping and digging through sad-looking—and jam-packed—sales racks.

But if you’re to believe Mark Ellwood, who spent two years researching his new book, “Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World,” those rules no longer apply to modern-day bargain shopping.

According to the author, not only have the amount of promotional sales being offered rapidly spiked in the past 10 years, but thanks to high-end flash sales hosted by the likes of online discounters Gilt Groupe and One King’s Lane, the types of items that you can snag at a discount are far more luxurious and upscale nowadays.

So what are the new rules that consumers need to know before they hit these plum sales? That’s the question we posed to Ellwood, who shared his top tips for conquering today’s brave new (discounted) shopping world.

LearnVest: What are the biggest differences about bargain shopping today?

Ellwood: The total mindset has changed: The new normal is that anyone who pays full price feels ripped off. Ten years ago, retailers put about 10%-15% of their products on sale. Now, between 40% and 45% of inventory sells at some kind of promotional price, so the number of items on sale has more than doubled in a decade.

Also, in the past, something that was on sale was usually seen as inferior. Now slashing prices is a tool of even the most upscale retailers. Look at sites like Rue La La, which have made high-end shopping at a low price very chic. And retailers like T.J. Maxx are bursting with high-end designer labels, so it’s no longer embarrassing to say, “I got this on sale!”

I recently saw a study saying that, in the past few years, the biggest uptick of people who only buy clothes on sale has been among those who earn $150,000 or more. Bottom line: Looking for discounts isn’t about being rich or not. It’s about being smart. And everyone wants to be smart.

RELATED: Couponing 2.0: How the Wealthy Use Them to Save

  • Terri

    Doesn’t this also tell you that the “original” price was probably inflated to begin with, so that the item can be sold at a “discount” and give the retailer the same/similar margin?

  • mornia

    I have a part-time job with a high-end retailer. These sorts of articles are my nightmare. I hate when people walk in and demand discounts on every little thing — we sincerely have no power to give you one. Sometimes there are promotions available via e-mail, and we’ll gladly extend it you, even if you aren’t signed up. Otherwise, talk to the manager, but don’t demand. Stating things like, “I’m in here all the time” or “I’m from {insert posh city}” won’t work in your favor.

  • Lara

    I don’t understand where all of the advice about online shopping (like ebay for virtually anything, Poshmark for clothes, big and tuck for high end designer clothes without the use of actual money, Etsy for vintage spins in coveted contemporary styles) is – this article is one that I as a bargain shopper received no insight from, other than maybe to bargain with my local cashier next time i am shopping