First off, “cheap luxury” is an oxymoron. You can’t have cheap and luxury together. It just doesn’t exist. Perhaps you can call it “cheaper” luxury because that can exist.
Secondly, this might be a good time to think about why you’re looking for “cheap luxury goods”. Is it because you are :-
a) Trying to keep up with the Joneses? Your friends all have luxury items and you’d like to have it too so you “fit in”.
b) Trying to live up to a perceived ideal? Being successful = having luxury goods.
c) Can afford it but would like a bargain anyway? Looking to stretch your dollar further.
If you answered (a) or (b) it might be a good time to sit back and think about things for a bit. We don’t need luxury goods to be happy or successful. Yeah, its great to have them, but we could easily do as well with something more affordable, not necessarily branded or designer but well made and looking good; and more importantly, something that does not leave you eating bread and water or locally, instant noodles for the next 3 months or getting into credit card debt. That isn’t worth it. So think about that.
If you answered (c) well aren’t you a savvy shopper! And contrary to public opinion, you don’t always have to pay full price (or top dollar) for a luxury or designer item. How is that so? Read on
So where would you go about getting cheaper luxury goods? (bearing in mind that “cheap” is used in the relative sense) Here are a few places you can try:-
- At the boutiques: Wait for a sale – most luxury brands go on sale at least twice a year (exceptions are Louis Vuitton and Chanel that never do). Once in the middle of the year to clear past Fall/Winter collections and once at the end of the year to clear Spring/Summer collections. If the item you are eyeing is a seasonal colour or design, you might be able to get it on sale then. Most brands discount up to 30% max. Some have limited items at up to 60-70% off. You can get lucky and get something very nice for a very nice price.
- During warehouse sales run by the brands : Wait for a warehouse sale run by the brands or their distributors. Locally, they are usually held for 1-2 days. Stock might be defective or very old or scratched (if leather) or just plain ugly You could get lucky and snag a new design they are clearing out but be sure to check your items properly. Let me explain relative – at a recent Dior sale a red croc Lady Dior was going for RM30,000 (down from probably RM60k) so if you have deep pockets, its a “bargain” (hey a lady was actually hogging it!) Prices can otherwise range from 50-70% off retail. I’ve picked up a couple of nice pieces at drastically reduced prices during such sales.
- Outlet stores: This is more common overseas. They don’t usually have warehouse sales overseas so there is an outlet store where the brands send their out of season items. If you find something you like at a good price, you have struck gold. Prices can be discounted up to 70% off depending on design, age and condition. Friend picked me up a Coach wallet for a steal!
- When you travel: Look in duty free stores at the airport. You might be surprised at what you might find, especially when a sale is in progress. Also you save on taxes, which is nice because the price drops further. Items are also priced differently in each country depending on many factors and taxes imposed and currency exchange rates. So you could actually buy a similar item cheaper overseas at the actual boutique. Case in point: Longchamp le pliage is reportedly much cheaper in Europe than it is here (for whatever reasons)
- Thrift shops: You might just get lucky, who knows?! Luxury items or designer items might be very old but if it suits your style and you’re happy with it, go for it.
- Ebay: You know this one. The chances of getting a fake is very high but if you be very careful and do your research and ask all your questions, you could get lucky. I purchased a leather Coach bag once – it was all good and I saved a pretty penny. I haven’t bought anymore items since then.
- Parallel Import Stores, Blogshops or Online stores: This is a new phenomenon I’m seeing. Goods sold are usually stated to be authentic although there may be a waiting period and stocks are usually small. In many cases, the reason for the small stock level and waiting period is because the seller is waiting to get the goods from overseas. And why would their prices be lower than the retail price here? It comes down to relative pricing and where the goods come from. Some brands are cheaper in their home country e.g. Louis Vuitton in Paris is priced lower because they don’t have to factor in taxes and shipping costs. Also, once you leave the European Union, as a tourist, you get to claim back the VAT (Value Added Taxes) so you can save a lot there. At last calculation, I saved 30% so if someone sold you something at 20% off, they’re still making a profit. Goods could also come from outlet stores – commonly Coach and Gucci if coming from the USA. On the other hand, they could be selling fake goods. Always be smart and be aware and if possible, see if there’s a physical store where you can view the goods.
- Secondhand stores: There are some stores that sell used luxury goods. Sometimes the item may be hardly used. Its not exactly cheap but it will be lower than retail. Again beware fakes that might be mixed in among the real stuff.
If you are looking to buy designer branded goods (without going into credit card debt or living on bread and water for 3 months), just remember that most brands go on sale with the exception of Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Both these brands NEVER EVER go on sale anywhere in the world (don’t believe what people tell you about warehouses and private sales) and prices go up every year – sometimes twice a year. Ouches! (Edit: Yani notes that in Woodbury Commons USA there is a Chanel Premium Outlet that has seasonal collections on discount – eeks!)
If I’m planning to purchase a big ticket item, I make sure to do my homework first and see if there’s anyone I know travelling or if there are sales on (if its something that might go on sale). I don’t usually make my purchases by any other route because I do not want to live with the nagging fear of acquiring a fake item (for cheaper). I’d rather suck it up and pay for peace of mind since I’m prepared to pay for it anyway, but just looking for a “bargain”.
But you know what? That’s me
Dare you say if you fall into category (a), (b) or (c)? Where else have you found a deal on a luxury or designer item that you’d like to share?