Capitalize on luxury sector's problems

With luxury retailers in a major slump, this is a great time to find deals on luxury handbags, apparel and accessories. Here are five ways to capitalize on the luxury sector's woes.

1. ONLINE SAMPLE SALES. Sample sales in out-of-the-way locations have been fixtures in New York and other cities where designers are based for years. Now, as unsold luxury goods pile up, they've gone online. At, Gilt Groupe Inc. gives members access to designer clothing at discounts up to 70 percent. offers bargains on items ranging from Gucci to Waterford. searches Web sites of high-end stores such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue for its subscribers and e-mails them when products, brands and sizes they specify are on sale.

2. OUTLET STORES. Luxury brands' factory and outlet stores are going back to their roots and selling unsold higher-end inventory in addition to cheaper merchandise made specifically for outlets. This lets luxury makers such as Coach Inc. avoid lowering prices at retail locations quite as far as they might.

3. DEPARTMENT STORE DEALS. Among the worst-performing retailers during the recession have been luxury department stores, while 70 percent off sales may be a thing of the past, there are still deals to be found, particularly on clearance. David Wolfe, creative director at The Doneger Group Inc., which advises stores on apparel buying, says finding deals on luxury items at department stores depends on comparison shopping and seeking quality — not just discounts. "The trick to that is buy things that are classically designed, not the hot item of the season," he said.

4. HOLD OFF. Wolfe also says patience may pay off this year in lower prices for high-end luxury apparel and accessories. "There are reports that some designers are lowering their prices 20 to 30 percent this season," he said, which will show up in stores in a few months.

5. SHOP CONSIGNMENT STORES. The stigma is definitely off used clothing and items that have been previously owned but never worn. As consumers rethink purchases and look for cash in their closets, there has been an influx of goods at consignment stores, where luxury goods sell for a fraction of their retail price. Some consigned goods are available online, too, at sites such as, but the competition is tough.

"Now it's not just respectable, it's almost like a sport," Wolfe said.

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