Insider Tips: Store owners share how, when and where to shop

Know when shelves will be stocked, what apps are worth exploring and the sorts of stores that boast major savings.

© Olivier Le Moal /

“Get the best bargains and items from friends, family, neighbors and people they know, and it’s free. If you express interest in things, in a delicate way, when they are ready to part with them they will come to you.” –S. Pierre Paret, Acme Mid-Century + Modern

“There are lots of shopping and price comparison apps you can use to check the place you’d get the best deal on an item. I do this if I’m in the market for a particular piece, and it’s easy to get an alert when it goes on sale.  Also, I shop consignment wherever I go now—and very seldom do retail stores unless they are having major sales.” –Cindy McCartney, Diva Designer Consignment

“Take your time. Look for quarterly and yearly sales. Build wardrobe based on timeless pieces. You won’t find something every time you shop. Patience.” –Grant Harris, Image Granted

“Beware of the word style. When dealers use style it usually means it is a replica. The phrasing ‘attributed to’ usually means the dealer is pretty sure it is authentic but not certain.” –Paret

“Northern Virginia is a hidden little gem for shoppers. Checking out each area’s online site is a great way to start finding out what local organizations put on for any given month. Take for example, here in Old Town, we have the OTBD (Old Town boutique district). A variety of local businesses come together to host events, trunk shows, stylist parties, you name it–we are celebrating! You can also find out from these organizations when boutiques are having special sales, which is always a great time to shop.” –Katie Newell, The Hive

“When shopping at small businesses, keep an open mind about what outfit you may find. Often in consignment and vintage shops, the merchandise may be very broad [across] designers, eras, colors and materials. The beauty of small shops is that there will be unusual mixes of clothing, jewelry and accessories, since the aesthetic is varied according to the roster of the consignors’ lifestyles and travels, as well as the aesthetic of the shop owner.” –Elinor Coleman, owner of Vintage Mirage

“When on eBay, if you are a registered user, search completed listings because it shows past sales. The price in green, that is what someone actually paid for the piece.” –Paret

“I would caution people who are going into vintage and consignment stores [looking for high-end designer pieces] and ask them if they sell fake. If they do, be cautious of even the items they say are authentic, are real.” –Christina Crawford, Chic Envy

Boutique Shopping Calendars

Stocking happens throughout the week, with most of the new merchandise hitting the floors on Thursdays in time for the big weekend rush.

“The fashion world moves a little faster than the weather and calendar,” says Catherine Sullivan of Monkee’s of Fredericksburg. And other local boutique owners agree.

Keep these seasonal tips in mind before you hit the racks:

  • Winter items are stocked in late fall.
  • Spring items are stocked as early as January.
  • Fall items are stocked in July and August.
  • Markdowns on the seasonal items usually come at the end of that season.

Major Local Shopping Days

February: Alexandria Warehouse Sale

August: Old Town Alexandria Sidewalk Sale, Middleburg Sidewalk Sale

October: Gilt DC Sample Sale

© Vividz Foto /

Favorite Apps and Online Sites is what I use the most. And if you go into a store, most of the time the store will honor an online code. They want your business. I also use Belly, and a lot of retail businesses use it. It is an aggregate membership. Chic Envy just signed up with it. Those rewards will get them email sales and at different stores they will get perks. For example, at Chic Envy they check in with their app and before they checkout they get rewards for their points. They can cash those points in for a percentage off an item. Every store has their own specials. Liv Local is another app, where members get those perks, but it is like having the entertainment coupon book and they work with those companies, but instead of buying one book for your zip code or region, it applies anywhere in the United States. It’s like Groupon but you don’t have to pay for it.” –Christina Crawford, Chic Envy

Etsy and eBay are OK but are better used as a resource. Everyone can see and bid but you don’t get bargains anymore. Estate sales are the best bet for furniture and household goods. But look with a keen eye. Some items are overpriced, but some are underpriced.” S. Pierre Paret, Acme Mid-Century + Modern

“If I am shopping online I use the Honey app to find coupons. It’s an app you install on your browser and coupons will pop up for whatever site you are on. It’s like free money. And works almost every time.” –Katie Newell, The Hive

“For price comparisons, I like ShopStyle, Polyvore and Mr. Rebates.” –Cindy McCartney, Diva Designer Consignment

(Shopping Deals 2017December 2017)