How to Shop Department Stores

Department stores are the ultimate one-stop shop for budget fashionista needs. Filled with all the designer brands we know and love at promotional prices, these stores offer fashion, beauty and home goods in one convenient, but often over-sized location. To quickly sift through the overwhelming amount of merchandise packed into these power houses, follow The Budget Fashionista’s tips and tricks to shopping department stores.

Between personal shoppers and Bloomies online services, this department store has nearly eliminated the need to drop into the store altogether, but bringing home that iconic big brown bag is half the fun. Utilize the countless look books, wish list features, and behind the scenes videos available through the brand’s great in-store customer service and online presence, to lock down gifts for friends, family, or yourself.

While this top tier department store may not be the biggest fan of promotional pricing, budget fashionistas can still find refuge in great sale and clearance sections. Like with any designer purchase, stick to searching for classic pieces at NM  that can carry over from season to season. Keep tabs on pieces you fall in love with by checking online and Last Call sale stock.

The easiest way to shop a department store giant like Saks, is to shop by designer or brand, searching through favorite styles and fits first. Instead of stock product snapshots, Saks has video alongside the stills so shoppers can see how garments fit and fabric’s move in motion. With thousands of items on sale at a time, it’s surprisingly easy to snag a good deal at this luxury department store. But if some must-haves are just a bit too steep, snap a pic or keep a running list of items and check back to Off Fifth locations for a better deal after the season.

Other than the infamous Anniversary and Half Yearly sales, you won’t find much of a bargain at Nordstrom on anything but the mark-down racks. For moderately priced merchandise and accessories check the Brass Plum and POV departments for trend and basic pieces, respectively. Like other retailers with outlet and last call centers, check back to Nordies Rack for designer items you can’t live without and remarkably better prices. Be sure to use your Nordstrom credit card or Nordstrom Visa to make your purchases so you can score a Nordstrom Note to redeem on more merchandise after a few shopping trips.

The offerings of a Macy’s  differ by zip code. If you’re looking for higher end, mini-shops, you’ll have to head to a location in a more affluent neighborhood. But let’s be honest, put that gas money towards better use and shop online for the widest selection of merchandise and sizing. Signing up for Macy’s emails can score you free gifts and shipping on top of already great prices.

With revamped brands from Nicole Miller, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Mango, JCP has proven themselves as a mainstay amongst department store competitors. Many stores have also joined forces with Sephora to expand their beauty departments, in addition to optical, portrait, salon, and home decorating divisions.

A discount shopper’s paradise, Kohls is quickly making its way to the top of the department store charts. Thanks in part to Elle, Vera Wang, and Lauren Conrad collaborations, this out-of-mall department store is one of the first stops for fashionistas on a budget. Between in-store promotions and power hours, ad and online coupons, and Rewards Cash, experienced Kohls shoppers know they never have to pay full price for the latest trends.


Melissa is creative communications professional with 9+ years of experience writing for the beauty and fashion industries.