How to shop discount designer stores like a pro

Nikia Jefferson
Tribune Content Agency

As a shopper that refuses to pay retail for most items, I practically live in designer discount stores. On my lunch break or on the weekends, you can find me at any given T.J. Maxx, Nordstrom Rack or Neiman Marcus Last Call store within a 30-mile radius. Even when I travel, I try to visit the nearest T.J. Maxx before heading back home.

For some, these stores can be a bit overwhelming simply because, unlike department stores and boutiques, every section is not always organized by designer or color. Although, it takes patience to go through the many racks and shelves, I guarantee that finding a designer gem at a fraction of retail makes it all worth it.

Here are just a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years, on how to tackle discount designer stores like a pro.

■Start on the displays: Begin your journey with the displays located in the front of the store and on the outskirts of each section. These displays are typically organized by designer and size to help ease you into what I like to call “digging in the racks.”

■Pay attention to the “compare at” value on the tag: Not only will this make you even more excited about the bargain you are receiving, this will also help when reasoning with the spouse on how much damage you did. Works like a charm every time.

■Buy now, think later: Due to the high turnover and limited quantities at these stores, leaving an item in the store pretty much means it will be gone the next day, or even in the same day. If you like it, buy it. And if you happen to change your mind, take advantage of the 30-day (or in Nordstrom Rack’s case, 90-day) return policy

■Visit often and befriend the store manager. Discount designer stores receive thousands of items on a weekly basis. Thus, the importance of paying your local store a visit at least twice a month to check out the not-so-picked-over goods. And if you connect with the store manager, find out when those weekly shipments arrive and plan your visits on the day after delivery day (to give the employees time to restock the inventory).

■Peruse the online stores. Thanks to the wonderful world of technology, you can now shop for designer discounts online. The search engines on the sites are top-notch and allow for you to filter by size, price, color, etc. Shopping online will definitely remove some of the anxiety that comes with tackling these stores in person. However, keep in mind that everything doesn’t always make its way onto the site. Plus, nothing beats the thrill of finding a pair of marked down Jimmy Choo shoes hidden inside of a Franco Sarto shoe box (#truestory).

■Enjoy yourself! A shopping trip that requires a bit of strategic hunting is hardly ever quick. With so many great items for women, men, children and home, set aside some time to simply enjoy yourself. That’s how all the best treasures are found. Just make sure you leave some of the good stuff for me. OK?