Rewind: Alexandria Sample Sale

We visited one of the area’s most popular sales in Alexandria over the weekend.

Very few things drag a woman willingly from bed before 8 AM on a Saturday, but promises of designer merchandise at deep discounts is generally one of them. More than 1,000 Washington shoppers gathered at the George Mason Masonic Memorial Temple for the fourth annual Alexandria Warehouse Sale, where boutiques such as Hysteria, the Shoe Hive, Treat, the Little Monogram Shop, and more gathered to sell fall and winter merchandise for as much as 90 percent off.

The earliest buyers arrived just before 8 AM. “There were people here before me!” says Elizabeth Todd, owner of the Shoe Hive and one of the event’s coordinators.

By 8:30, about 100 eager shoppers had already gathered in the snakelike line, hoping, as one eager bargain hunter put it, to find “treasures under $200.”

Savvy bargain hunters were in luck—Diane von Furstenberg dresses for less than $100, Tory Burch “Reva” flats for $75, and for those willing to shell out just a little more . . . vintage diamond rings for 40 percent off.

An unofficial poll of women in line (we counted five men at the entire event, not counting husbands) suggests that women weren’t necessarily looking to buy specific items but rather hunting for the best bargains of any type.

Despite the tough economy, Jen Donohue, owner of Treat, says she had a surprisingly good fall season. Still, she added generous markdowns to her sale merchandise: “I thought about what I’d want to pay [when marking the items]. I wanted to give my clients a fair deal.” And fair it was—merchandise ranged from $25 to $100 and included items from Nanette Lepore, Tracey Reese, and Seychelles.

Several new stores joined the sale for its fourth iteration, including the Christmas Shop, which sold the popular Caroler collectibles for 75 percent off, and the home design shop Red Barn Mercantile, which had an attractive array of candles, pillows, frames, and furniture; one woman was seen carrying a white armchair proudly to her vehicle around 10. Disappointing many shoppers, Tickled Pink, the Lily Pulitzer boutique, didn’t return.

Many shoppers claimed to be newbies to the event, drawn by local press and the hint of bargains. One woman traveled down from New Jersey for the occasion.

Even those who didn’t find clothes lucked out with bargains—monogrammed coffee mugs from Fornash were a mere $12, flip-flops from the Little Monogram Shop $10, and headbands from Top it Off just $5.

By 10, most of the early shoppers were rounding out their purchases. But those waiting to get in were still facing lines out the door and waiting on a one-in/one-out basis, looking longingly at those smiling faces loaded down with bags.

We hope they found great bargains, or at least learned a valuable lesson: Never, ever be late to a sample sale.

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