Take a walk down the main shopping street in any major city and you’ll notice that several of your favorite department store brands, like Coach, Juicy Couture, and Ellen Tracy, have begun to develop their own stores. 

Wait a sec before you get ideas of terry cloth jump suit heaven. Brands are creating boutiques not just as a direct route to customers , but to help monitor their brands and to reign in the massive discounts budget shoppers like ourselves find when shopping at a good end of the season department store sale. According to a New York Post article two weeks ago, “By opening their own stores, these labels hope to better control their image, rein in discounts, and avoid, margin-eroding negotiations over markdown money.”

So what does this mean for us?  It means that we will truly become a slave to brands and it will become more difficult to find truly designer lines in our local department stores, making offline comparison-shopping nearly impossible. However, all is not lost. We bargain shoppers still have the Internet and can use it to comparison shop for bargains. Here’s how,  using Coach handbags as an example.

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new Coach bag. You head into the Coach boutique and find the bag you like. At this point you should write down the SKU (the numbers below the barcode), name, color, style and price of the bag. If you have a digital camera take a picture as well. Then head home, juicy up the computer and enter the SKU number and/or bag style into google. You can also use comparison-shopping tools like Pricegrabber and Shopzilla or search on eBay. Also check with Coach outlet stores. I recently purchased a white leather bag for a client at the outlet in Naples, Florida and saw the same purse, two days later for $100 more at the Coach boutique off 5th Ave in New York.  Gather the information from the store, outlet store, and sites and compare the prices to ensure you get the best deal.  This can be done with practically ANY piece of clothing.

Time consuming? Yes. 
Money Saving? Yes.

(Originally posted on April 13, 2006)