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High-End Haggling Is in Fashion

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Retailers are in big trouble. Especially the ritzy ones. But their pain may be your financial gain.


Want $160 off a cashmere sweater? $300 off some designer sunglasses? Two for one? The time is now to name your price.


Why now? Sales have been historically awful. So bad that shoppers now have unprecedented purchasing power. High-end retailers especially are cutting tags on the spot just to move merchandise and consumers are finding they can haggle on just about anything. From the Gap to Saks, there are bargains to be had.

Harleen Kahlon, General Manager of MainStreet.com, recently discovered that not all discounts are advertised when she was on the fence about keeping a $260 cashmere sweater at Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan.


“I said, ‘Actually, I’m going to pass on this. It’s not on sale, right?’ The sales lady said, ‘No, it’s not on sale but I can give you a discount,’” says Kahlon.


What came next is a testament to how desperate some retailers are right now:


“I said ‘I don’t want to pay more than $100,’” says Kahlon. “And she said ‘Okay, $100 it is.’” (For those keeping score: That’s $160 that stayed in Kahlon’s pocket.)

Another MainStreet staffer reports their girlfriend got a 60 percent discount on a $500 pair of sunglasses in New York City. Her secret to saving $300? Asking for a lower price.


Haggling 101
Here’s what you need to know to start saving:


Haggling Tip #1: Look them in the eye
There’s no reason to be passive when you walk into a store. Let them know that you’ve got money and you’re ready to spend it.


Haggling Tip #2: Know the competition
Convenience is great but you can get an Armani jacket anywhere, and probably at a better price. Retailers know this for a fact. Shoppers? Not so much. Do some research on your own to find out what the best prices are. If someone tells you different, let them know you’re willing to walk.


Haggling Tip #3: There are bargains in numbers
Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to save a buck. Don’t just get a single sweater. Pick up some slacks and maybe a pair of shoes. You’re not doing the retailer a favor if you purchase a single item. Get a few things and make the case for a discount. Your salesperson will thank you.


Haggling Tip #4: Chat up the salespeople
Retail is a job like any other, and after a few hours on their feet, salespeople are apt to dish about deals. Ask about merchandise in a friendly way. You’ve got nothing to lose and a hot piece of couture to gain.


Haggling Tip #5: Befriend the manager
Savvy hagglers know that a store manager can be a bargain-getting ally. Show them what you want and ask if they can make a deal. They can’t always help, but it’s good to have a sympathetic ear.


“We have a standing discount list for big spenders,” says one salesperson who specializes in super high-end home furnishings. “But they have to keep spending the big bucks to get it: When they don’t, they start screaming, they go talk to the president and they get the discount.”


So speak up, and share your shopping success stories here.


By Carl Winfield of MainStreet

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