Shop Talk: 30 Dirty Little (Shopping!) Secrets

Where Philly’s fashionistas go for the best deals around town

IT CAN BE hard to ignore that Impulse Buying Gene, if you’ve got it: When we want something, we want it now, without the hassle of research or the delay of waiting for a sale. But as any hard-core shopper knows, the only thing more thrilling than finding what you want is finding what you want at a discount. So tuck this shopping list in your wallet the next time you’re about to overspend on designer loot, and remember the three cardinal rules of bargain shopping: If you think it looks cheap, it does; never buy something just because it’s on sale; and no one ever needs to know what — or where — you really paid for your goodies. (Your secrets are safe with us.) Happy shopping!

For: Jewelry
Head to: Out of the Vault
Where: Down the Shore

Bernie Robbins doesn’t do discount racks. Instead, the superlatively glittery jewelry store does an entire discount shop, just a few doors down from its Somers Point flagship. Discounts are deep — 30 to 70 ­percent — on Tag Heuer and Baume & Mercier, hefty rope bangles and oversize amethyst cocktail rings by David Yurman, irresistibly princess-like chandelier earrings by Anthony Nak, not to mention an entire case of engagement rings and settings. And because of the surprising location — nestled among a mix of strip-mall stores — your purchases end up feeling, truly, like treasures found. Groveland Center, 501 New Road, Somers Point; 609-927-5056.

For: Shoes
Head to: Head Start
Where: Center City

Head Start continually wins Best of Philly awards for its designer boots, heels, wedges and sandals. But what often go unmentioned are its two best-kept sale secrets: the annual four-week end-of-season sale in January and February, and the extensive private-label collection of shoes. Owner George Patti explains that the private-collection shoes are made in the same factories that turn out high-end lines like Dries Van Noten and have the same great workmanship and style — but without the designer label, they have a steeply reduced price. Add to the equation the fact that the private collection is often marked down by as much as 40 percent online and at the store, and you’re looking at some serious justifications for that shoe fetish of yours. 126 South 17th Street, 215-567-3247; headstartshoes.com.

For: Men’s Suits
Head to: Off 5th,
Saks fifth Avenue Outlet
Where: The Northeast

Hickey Freeman, Calvin Klein, Alfred Dunhill, Ted Baker … all the Big Designer Boys can be found hanging on the racks at Off 5th. Sample discounts: Michael Kors down from $595 to $174; Alfred Dunhill down from $1,395 to $499; John Bartlett for just $499 from $995. Best of all, there are multiples of almost everything, and a range of sizes. And pssst: Occasionally — though less frequently than in years past — Saks gets designer tuxes, too, like a recent batch of Hugo Boss ones, marked down from $795 to $499. 1618 Franklin Mills Circle, 215-632-5600; franklinmills.com.
For: Lilly Pulitzer
Head to: SYMS
Where: Berwyn

Save yourself the anxiety — the lines, the crowds — of those Lilly Pulitzer sample sales, and head to Syms, where an entire rack is now filled with all the dizzying Lilly a girl can handle, from signature pink-and-green animal-print skirts (for $50, down from $125) and floral dresses ($79, down from $170) to more mellow black shorts ($35, down from $78) and cable-knit sweaters (just $79, down from $168). 100 Swedesford Road, 610-644-2000; syms.com.

For: Workout Clothes
Head To: Nordstrom Rack And Marshalls
Where: King of Prussia

If you’re anything like us, you need all the motivation you can get to haul your heinie to the gym. So while any ol’ sports bra or mesh short from Target will, admittedly, do the job, you want all the tricked-out designer gear. That’s where Nordstrom Rack and Marshalls come in. At the former, you can find Stella McCartney-designed Adidas pants marked down from $130 to $21 and Puma jackets at half off, plus dry-wicking tops and fleece jackets for guys; at Marshalls, you’ll find Under Armour and Nike, plus an endless sea of dry-wicking socks. Nordstrom Rack, 310 Goddard Boulevard, King of Prussia, 610-205-8717, nordstrom.com; Marshalls, 160 West DeKalb Pike, King of Prussia, 610-337-2346; marshallsonline.com.

For: Designer Kids’ Clothes
Head to: Tj Maxx
Where: St. Davids

The little ones’ department here is a gem: Expect Polo by Ralph Lauren cotton pique belted dresses, Juicy Couture girls’ warm-ups, and tons of Nike, Calvin Klein and Tommy ­Hilfiger — all marked down as much as 80 percent. You’ll find yourself, like us, shopping for three winters from now, just to take advantage of steals like a $7 down-filled, fleece-lined official Nike/NHL hooded onesie (with separate booties) — originally $40. And you’ll find plenty (read: entire 12-foot-long racks) of classic Carter’s, Osh-Kosh and Winnie-the-Pooh-emblazoned gear, too. St. Davids Square, 550 East Lancaster Avenue, St. Davids, 610-989-9545; tjmaxx.com.

For: Designer Jeans
Head to: First Impressions
Where: Lafayette Hill

If you’re not a regular, you might be intimidated by the racks of clothes converging on you. But just ask a staffer how to get upstairs — through the unmarked door in the back that looks like the entry to a supply closet — and take a deep breath. You’ve made it: Against the wall in the back room are designer jeans (Seven, Marlow, David Kahn and more) marked way down. To figure out just how much off your new baby blues are, check the posted sale chart: Items originally priced up to $89 are $25; $90 to $189 are $50; and $190 and up are $75 — which makes those $230 True Religions you’ve been eyeing an affordable $75. Yes! 470 Germantown Pike, 610-828-6775; shopfirstimpressions.com.

For: Men’s Pants
Head to: Last Call, Neiman Marcus Outlet
Where: The Northeast

We realize it’s sexist, but, sorry — men just don’t look as sexy/cute/sophisticated as the ladies do in denim. So stick with pants — flat-front ones, in a thick cotton or textured wool — and start combing the racks at Last Call for the best of Paul Smith ($106, marked down from $265) and Armani Collezioni ($130, marked down from $325). 1634 Franklin Mills Circle, 215-637-5900; franklinmills.com.

For: Electronics
Head to: The State Of Delaware (Seriously)

If you keep using your kid’s student ID to buy yourself new Mac gear, eventually you’re going to get caught, you know. Instead, make like the tech gurus we know and hook up at the Apple store in the Christiana Mall (308 Christiana Mall, space 1547, Newark, 302-292-3201; thechristianamall.com). Then stop by Costco (900 Center Boulevard, Newark, 302-894-0979; costco.com) for a great deal on a flat-screen TV (made even greater by, again, the lack of tax), and Circuit City (700 Center Boulevard, Newark, 302-738-7003; circuitcity.com) for your digital camera. If you crunch the numbers (as we, dorkily, have), you’ll see it’s worth the price of gas and the stress of I-95.
For: Vintage finds
Head to: Blendo
Where: Center City

The back rack at Blendo is small. And cramped. But it’s where too many trendsetters to name have found, say, their favorite wool dress or warm coat, or the dressiest, most head-turning summer dresses ever. 1002 Pine Street; 215-351-9260.

For: Designer Bathing Suits
Head to: Loehmann’s
Where: South Jersey

This year’s search for beach attire leads us here, for all our favorites: Calvin Klein, Juicy Couture, Lucky, Shoshanna and Ralph Lauren — many for cheaper than half price, like a too-cute Lucky bikini top and bottom for $14.99 each, down from $48 and $38, respectively. Best of all, tops and bottoms are sold separately, so every shape can find the right fit. Of course, this can also make it hard to find a match, so check back often; deliveries come two or three times weekly. East Gate Shopping Center, 1349 Nixon Drive, Moorestown, 856-866-9200; loehmanns.com.

For: Men’s Shoes
Head to: Benjamin Lovell
Where: South Street

Whether your shoe M.O. tends to sporty Nikes, laid-back Vans or preppy Cole Haans, there’s a pair for every guy, for cheap, in the back room of Lovell’s South Street location. With shoes piled on top of one another — but, thankfully, arranged by size — the hunt is part of the experience here. Rumor has it this is where sale items from all area Lovells get deposited, making for some spectacular finds on a recent trip: $79 Frye boots marked down from $250, and $49 Kenneth Cole dress shoes down from $185. 318 South Street, 215-238-1969; benjaminlovell.com.

For: Casual Dresses
Head to: Anthropologie
Where: City & ’Burbs

We love Anthropologie’s shirts, skirts, housewares and more — and our love grows stronger when said items get moved to the glorious sale room. The very best of the closeouts are the gorgeous ­casual dresses — from comfy-for-work cotton pieces to light, strapless ­sundresses — often marked down to half price, like a gorgeous terra-cotta-red eyelet Viola dress, down to $99.95 from $188. Insider tip: Floor items are moved to the sale room on Tuesday mornings, so go Tuesday afternoon for the best pickings. Or, for an even deeper sale collection, check anthropologie.com. Multiple locations; anthropologie.com.

For: Furniture For Your Starter Apartment
Head to: West Elm
Where: Center City

When Ikea Fatigue sets in — and it will — turn to West Elm for trendy furniture, bedding and home accents. Mixed and matched with vintage finds and the occasional family heirloom, pieces like the “Parsons” desk, with drawers in aqua ($279), and an “X-base” buffet ($799) have an instant richness that defies their below-Crate & Barrel prices. 1330 Chestnut Street, 215-731-0184; westelm.com.

For: Women’s Casual Clothes
Head to: Knit Wit Outlet
Where: The Northeast

Knit Wit Outlet doesn’t just get — and mark down — clothes and accessories that didn’t get sold at Knit Wit’s Center City, Margate and Bryn Mawr boutiques; it also scores pre-season samples of items that haven’t even hit those stores yet. Which means that if you don’t mind a dress with, say, the label sewn in upside down, you can get a Central Park West silk dress for $75, marked down from $196, or deals on designer labels from Robert Rodriguez to Three Dots. 1600 Grant Avenue, 215-464-2393; knitwitonline.com.
For: Facials
Head to: Saks
Where: Bala Cynwyd

It’s a shared secret among Ladies Who Lunch that on most days, Saks offers free 30-minute facials in the comfort of its private beauty suite. And even if you neither Lunch nor consider yourself much of a Lady, you can get in on the action: Call your favorite makeup counter — Chanel, Clarins, YSL — to find out when its next sessions will be held, schedule an appointment, and prepare to be pampered using products from your requested makeup line only. Sessions don’t include extractions, but they’re the perfect complement to the rest of your more rigorous skin-care regimen. 2 Bala Plaza, Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-1550; saksfifthavenue.com.

For: High-End Modern Furniture
Head to: Minima
Where: Old City

For the past seven years, Old City’s Minima has saved Philadelphians from trekking to NYC for modern designer pieces. But now you don’t even have to hike over to 3rd Street — or get out of your PJs, for that matter — to get great deals on Minima’s stylish wares. Just check out the “floor sample” section of Minima’s website (minima.us/floor_sample.html) to score several of the same sleek pieces, but discounted. On a recent visit, we couldn’t believe the Piero Lissoni “Box” sofa was going for $3,111, down from $5,185. 118 North 3rd Street, 215-922-2002; minima.us.

For: Rugs
Head to: Brandon
Where: King of Prussia

A trip to Brandon is like walking onto the set of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids — you’ll feel Lilliputian among the massive headboards and tables and armoires. But even if you don’t have a home that’s the size of Texas, you’ll love the insane deals on imported rugs, like 50-percent-plus markdowns on $10,000 pieces for your living room. Plus, the staff is extra-friendly, and doesn’t mind explaining the coded price tags or sharing in your super-sale glee. 555 South Henderson Road, King of Prussia, 610-768-9222; brandonhomefurnishings.com.

For: Fur
Head to: The Fur Vault At Macy’s
Where: Center City

If you missed it this year, mark Macy’s fur sale on your 2008 calendar now. (It’ll probably be the last two weeks of February and the first in March.) Whether your style leans to lynx, mink or lamb, Macy’s end-of-season racks carry everything from modern cropped jackets by Mary McFadden Couture to classic floor-length coats and wildly dyed numbers, all at 60 to 80 percent off. This year’s sale yielded lynx marked down from $14,995 to $5,995, and mink for $2,000 from $7,000. 1300 Market Street, 215-241-9000; macys.com.

For: Haircuts
Head to: Virtually Everywhere — On Hopecuts Day

We realize you probably can’t wait seven months for your next haircut. But if you’ve been looking to see another stylist (without the guilt of feeling you’re committing hair-adultery) and have always wondered whether the city’s designer salons are really any better than the $10-a-cut chop shop you’ve been going to since 1984, then Philly’s annual HopeCuts day is perfect for you: Sometime this fall, around 200 salons in the area will be offering their services — haircuts are generally $20 to $25 — with all proceeds from the day’s cuts going to City of Hope to benefit leading research and treatment centers for cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases. Think of it as an opportunity for you to look good — and feel even better. cityofhope.org/Hopecuts/find.htm.

For: Pet Stuff
Head to: Target
Where: City & ’Burbs

Most days, we actually don’t drink the Target Kool-Aid or think this place is especially discounted, so much as simply priced right. But we gotta give Target props for its extensive selection of pet food and accessories, like the perfectly perfect “Bone Jovi” rocker tees for $20, and a hot pink raincoat for $30 that’s way cuter than Burberry’s stuffy $225 doggie trench anyway. Multiple locations; target.com.
For: College-Girl Wardrobes
Head to: Nordstrom
Where: King of Prussia

You thought we were going to say H&M, or Urban’s sale rack, didn’t you? Well, those might be the obvious standbys for fashionistas on campus, but Nordstrom’s junior department has an even more extensive selection — from cocktail dresses to coats, swimwear to sweaters — plus a value-priced BP private-label line, and a website section at nordstrom.com with “under $30” deals. Plus, the return policy here has no time limit, so if your kid’s only chance to shop is during visits back home, she can buy something on spring break and return it (unworn, of course) if she changes her mind by the time summer rolls around. The Plaza at King of Prussia, 610-265-6111; nordstrom.com.

For: Children’s Gifts
Head to: Daffy’s
Where: Center City

These days, kids’ toys can cost more than your first car — a real shame, considering how quickly they’re outgrown. But on the second floor at Daffy’s Center City location, you’ll find an entire section of playthings that never go out of style — like trucks, dress-up kits, paint sets and puzzles — plus walkie-talkies and other electronic gadgets. None will break the bank, and most won’t even require you to break a $20. 1700 Chestnut Street, 215-963-9996; daffys.com.

For: Party Supplies
Head to: Chinatown
Where: Center City

Colorful guests you may not always have, but funky party-ware you can ensure: Just make a morning of walking along 10th Street between Race and Arch to find the best of Chinatown’s inexpensive pottery (check out Shanghai Bazaar, 1016 Race Street; 215-629-8398), decorative fabrics that do double duty as tablecloths, and rainbow-colored lanterns, like those meant to be strung at backyard BBQs, for just $10 at Chung May. 1017 Race Street; 215-625-8883.

For: Designer Linens
Head to: Kellijane
Where: Center City

You may already know about Kellijane’s twice-yearly 50-to-60-percent-off white sales. (They run in January and February to make room for the new spring lines, and in July and August before the fall collections arrive.) But what you probably don’t know is that getting yourself on Kellijane’s client list will get you invited to more exclusive trunk shows, charity events, designer debuts — and insider sales. To be added to the list, simply call or shoot them an e-mail and ask, or earn your “client” status and stop by. 1721 Spruce Street, 215-790-0233; kellijane.com.

For: Lingerie
Head to: Bloomingdale’s
Where: King of Prussia

When variety, quality and fit are what we’re after in a great lingerie sale, Bloomingdale’s is where we turn: As the seasons change, Bloomie’s slashes prices on designer lines like Calvin Klein, On-­Gossamer and Juicy Couture by 30 percent. If you don’t already have one, signing up for a Bloomie’s credit card will, many days, earn you an additional discount (usually another 15 percent). The Court at King of Prussia, 610-337-6300; bloomingdales.com.
For: Luggage
Head to: Robinson Luggage
Where: City & ’Burbs

With everything from Tumi carry-ons to JanSport backpacks, and Victorinox garment bags to Kenneth Cole attachés, family-owned Robinson has long been the region’s go-to place for stuff to put your stuff in (and have said stuff-carrier monogrammed for free!). The deals get even sweeter during the storewide sales on May 5th and 6th, with nearly everything discounted 20 to 60 percent. 201 South Broad Street, 215-735-9859; for other locations, see robinsonluggage.net.

For: Sunglasses
Head to: Loehmann’s
Where: Center City

Amidst chunky, funky plastic styles from Escada and Paul Frank, you can also score sleek Michael Kors frames for as little as $75 (marked down from $225). Which means that when you sit on/lose/scratch them — as, sigh, everyone seems to do with sunglasses — you won’t have to kick yourself for dropping a coupla Benjamins. 1528 Chestnut Street, 215-665-1109; loeh-manns.com.

For: Kitchen Stuff
Head to: Williams-Sonoma
Where: City & ’Burbs

You don’t have to pretend to be getting married to score big-ticket bridal-registry-worthy gifts. Instead, make like a savvy VIP we know who treats herself to pots and pans and mixers and more at up to 70 percent off during WS’s annual post-­holiday sale in January. Multiple locations; williams-sonoma.com.

For: Guys’ Funky Sneakers
Head to: Urban Outfitters
Where: City & ’Burbs

They may not make you run faster or jump higher, but Urban’s range of street sneaks by Vans, Nike, Adidas and Puma will make you look cool. And something’s always on sale at urbanoutfitters.com, where you’ll also find special “online only” designs, like Nike’s limited-edition “Considered Humara” style for guys ($80, marked down from $120). Multiple locations; urbanoutfitters.com.

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