I lived in Asheville for two years before I found out about the J.Crew Warehouse sales. I can't really come to terms with this fact. It boggles my mind to consider all the clothes I've missed out on.
I probably shouldn't be blogging about it, either. The reason I, the self-proclaimed "queen of the sales", didn't find out about it for two years is because the tight-lipped ladies of Western North Carolina knew they had a good thing going. Spreading the word would only water down the deals and increase the competition. Sort of a quasi-fight club kind of thing.
I shouldn't be blogging about this. But I can't help it. For several reasons:
- It's too good to keep secret
- and I've never, ever, ever been good at keeping my big mouth shut
If you google info about the sale, you're lucky to find a few bread crumbs here and there, and it takes some serious digging to get the hard details. So here we go, I'm about to tell-all.
There's a J.Crew distribution center in Arden, North Carolina. About 5-10 miles out of Asheville. Here's the address:
1 Clifford Way
Arden, NC 28704
They have a clearance center store with regular hours:
Monday - Sat 10-8pm
It's pretty great. Not a huge selection, but about 50% off retail. Quite a few formal dress and shoes when I was there, but the stock probably changes often.
This is not what I'm talking about, though. The Warehouse Sale is when they pull out the big guns. Once a month they have a huge, crazy discounts, digging-through-boxes-on-the-floor kind of sale. And it is glorious. You have to call them for the dates and times. Here's the number:
It was surprisingly hard to find that number. Use it well.
I've been to three sales now, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert - or at least seasoned. Here's how it goes down.
- The doors open at (usually) 10am. There will be a huge line snaked around the parking lot. They allow a certain number of people in the sale room at one time. If you want to be in the first group, (and trust me- you do want to be in the first group,) you should arrive at about 8am just to be safe.
- I am fairly certain that they allow employees, friends, and family to shop early at 9am. I think they get 20% off their total purchase too, which is insane. If you can make friends with an employee - do it. If there are any employees out there that want to be friends with me, give me a call. I give good back rubs and I'll bring you Starbucks.
- The sale runs Saturday and Sunday, but there's really no point in going on Sunday. Unless you're a guy, that is. All the ladies clothes are picked over by then but there is usually a decent selection of guy's clothes left.
Once you are inside the main waiting area...
- You will be given a garbage bag and a price list. The bag is to stuff your clothes into, the list tells you how much everything costs by type of clothing. Here's a sample list from the last sale (click on the image to enlarge)
But there are some things you should know:
- Most of the sizes are sample sizes: 4, 6, and 8. I did find a good range above and below those numbers, but the majority of the clothes fit into the sample range. I personally fall into the outer limits of those number and I find it a great motivation to stay in shape.
- I find that J.Crew is a little generous with their sizing, and a medium cardigan will fit a variety of different body types and sizes. So if you're not skinny, don't despair. I'm not skinny. Give the sale a chance.
- Also, you won't find a lot in the way of petite or tall. I'm a definite "tall", so this is a bit of a bummer. However, I have found a few tall jeans and pants there (and I pretty much screamed with joy when I snagged them), otherwise I'll buy normal slacks and wear them like capris. (Yes, I have freakishly long legs.)
- Selection-wise, it's pretty random. I never have seen much outerwear, but I'm assuming that the coats get snatched up lightning-fast, so I may just be missing them. Last time, there were tons of shoes and bathing suits. At each of the sales there were plenty of sweaters and cardigans, and HUGE piles of Madewell brand jeans for $2 a pair. I'm not familiar with that brand, but I see they are quite pricey online. These jeans don't look that amazing but for $2, who cares?
- I have yet to delve in to the men's clothes, but I have seen guys there and it seemed like they were making out like bandits. Not as much too look at in the way of volume, but much less in the way of competition. There is also a row or two of J.Crew kids clothes. I didn't dig much into them because they seems to stop around size 6 and my son is 8 years old.
- A note on quality: these items are not "seconds" or damaged goods. They are samples, so most of them have strange sample tags inside and the small J.Crew label is either missing or marked through with a red pen. Some of the cardigans I bought had "sample" written in marker on the fabric inside the garment. My husband removed it for me easily with rubbing alcohol or acetone. A small price to pay for $20 cashmere.
- The seasons and years were all over the place. Lots of current-season clothes and many going 2-3 years back. Most of them are labeled with a sample tag that has the year, clothing name, fabric type and color - which makes it super-fun and easy to research when you get home!
So, you've got your garbage bag, price list ready, and your about to be released into the jungle. Here's what you can expect:
Rows upon rows of folding tables and boxes of loosely organized clothes, shoes, accessories and more. There are a few racks with hanging formal dresses, but most everything is in boxes. People are buzzing about, trying on clothes over their running pants, sitting on the floor sorting through piles, and frantically digging in boxes. It's OK to be in shock for a minute after you walk in, I usually am. Once you come-to and are ready to dive in, here are a few more tips:
- Leave your purse in your car. You'll want both hands free. If you forget, shove your purse into your garbage bag. Lots of gals tied the bag to their belt loop and sort of drug it around behind them to keep their hands free.
- Now is not the time to leisurely browse or hem and haw over a particular garment. If you see something that has potential, shove it in your bag and move on. You can sort, weed out, and try on clothes later.
- Since there are no changing rooms, be prepared to try on clothes over your clothes. Many people wear tight running gear to make this easier. I try to avoid physical activity and I don't own running pants, so I usually just do the best I can and eyeball it. It helps to know your J.Crew size ahead of time. In the summer, a skirt over tight leggings would be probably work just as well. All the sales I've visited so far have been in the winter and it was just too cold to stand in line outside for two hours in a skirt.
- Be sure to dig through other peoples "discard" piles. Even though the deals are great, often our eyes are bigger than our wallets and a few good finds have to be returned to the heap.
- Give your items a good, hard look over before you check out. I did spot a few flaws, lost buttons, holes, etc. Better safe than sorry.
- Stop when you feel ready. It's way too easy to get caught up in the chaos and just keep going, and going, thinking, "..but what if I missed something?!" Let it go.
When it's time to check out, you will get in line to have your items sorted by a friendly employee. They will mark every piece on your price sheet and then your bag is sealed up and you take the price sheet to a cashier to pay. They take cash and credit cards. These lines can get long if there is a bottleneck of people checking out. Plan to spend several hours at the sale, including the wait time in line. I saw many a poor gal wait for 2 hours in line to get in, only to leave just inches from the door because the had an appointment, or work, etc.
I wish I had documented all the clothes I bought so far! The best part is going online when you get home and looking up the retail value of what you purchased. My sister found a cardigan for $20 that was selling for over $200 on ebay. Over the course of the three sales I've visited, I probably spent about $275 all together but I have an entire new wardrobe, no joke: 8-10 pair of pants, several skirts, 6-8 cardigans some of them cashmere, about 4 tops, a few socks, pajamas, several bathing suits, and a faux sherpa hoodie. Plus more that I can't even remember. If you shop retail J.Crew, you know that $275 will get you about 2 pair of jeans and tank top, if you're lucky.
Really, the warehouse sales are that good. You should check them out. (But don't tell anyone I sent you.)
The next sale is February 26th and you better believe I'll be there with bells on. I plan to document the sale a little more in-depth this time, and I'l be sure to post the before and after on the blog. Fashion show? Yes, I think so.