No sale!
Why shopping this month’s markdowns doesn’t make sense

Wednesday, January 9, 2008  


By Jill Radsken   |  |  Business & Markets

To hear Susan Redstone tell it, we should all view January sales as forbidden fruit.

Tempting, yes . . . but dangerous.

“The main reason is the haphazard merchandise,” said Redstone, author of “Just Try It On!” (Kensington, $15.95), a new little gem of a book that provides a month-by-month guide of what to buy when.

Redstone has been writing for publications such as Elle and Marie Claire for more than a decade, but the Brit’s strongest resume entry may be praise from Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York, who calls her “the Christiane Amanpour of shopping.”

“She should be given a Nobel prize,” Doonan is quoted as saying on the book’s cover.

Inside, Redstone reveals a brilliant fashion philosophy, based largely on the merchandising calendar from most stores. Most of the information follows logic - the best time to get a prom dress is February, March is the month for sunglasses - but each chapter goes into depth. Coats hit only once a year - in August. But savvy shoppers have two shots at jeans: They first arrive in February, followed by a second delivery in March.

What about those January deals screaming out from store windows from the Back Bay to the Burlington Mall? Redstone knows it’s hard to resist the advertised deals, but believes most women come home from a sale unhappy, empty-handed or, even worse, with a wrong purchase.

“It’s just not you,” she said. “Because it was $12,000 and now only $1,500, it’s not right for you, or for the planning of your closet.”

Amy Kropke has already made that mistake: She recently bought a white blouse on sale from Banana Republic, then discovered that it was too big.

“Why did I buy it?” Kropke, a lawyer who was looking for a classic white shirt for work, asked herself after trying it on at home. “It was a man’s blouse, and it was (only) $40.”

Though she had better luck with a pair of corduroys and a black sweater, she’s intrigued by Redstone’s criticism of sales. “It was sort of a feeding frenzy and there wasn’t tons (of merchandise),” Kropke said.

Knowing what you really need gives you the confidence to shop anywhere, Redstone said. She suggests you forget the January sales and spend the month deep in your closet, working on your “F.E.K.” (Fashion Emergency Kit). That’s a collection of essentials, from a comfortable pair of flats to a reliable white blouse and extra sweater.

“My whole mantra is ‘buy ahead of time,’ ” she said, suggesting that you organize what you have and list what you’ll need for the year ahead. That should keep you from buying unnecessary items, and save you plenty.

“The stores will hate me, but you will love me,” Redstone said. “And you’ll have more money to spend in February and beyond.”