This Wednesday I have a very special, holiday shopping themed interview for you all. Some of you may remember my little “Black Friday” rant last week where I mentioned my traumatic experience during the absolutely insane Saks holiday sale of 2008. If you need a refresher, you can read this NY Times article here– but it was essentially when Saks, facing huge cash flow issues in the recession of 08, decided to suddenly slash prices by 70% for its holiday sale.
2008 was also the year when, influenced by excessive viewing of Sex and the City, I decided that my lifestyle working in Silicon Valley and trawling around Target on the weekends dictated the need for lots and lots of designer high heel shoes. I had a very nice sales associate at Saks who helped me with most of my purchases, and before the sales hit in 2008, she pre-sold a sweet selection of shoes for me at 70% off.
Saks shoe rack during the 08 sales, image via NYT
The day after Christmas, I drove to Saks and walked into the shoe department, only to be hit by absolutely freaking PANDEMONIUM was I entered. It literally looked like a war zone, with women pushing each other and attempting to shove their feet into various shoes strewn around the floor. The sales associates were all walking around with a glazed look in their eyes, kind of like in Terminator when the machines finally take over. I fought my way to the front and managed to pick up the bag with my shoes in it – only to have two women attempt to snatch away the shoes that I had already paid for out of my hands when I was trying them on. Being a coward of the highest degree, I grabbed my shopping bag and dashed out the door while one of them was still bellowing out, “Hey where’d you get those shoes frommmmmmm???”
After last Friday’s blog post where I alluded to the story above, a very kind reader, Lindsay, mentioned that she was a former Saks employee, and had been at Saks for that fateful sale of 2008. I’m always super curious about these things and Lindsay was gracious enough to be interviewed on this very event, and some other topics as well. I’m sure that you will all find that she is gracious, well spoken, and beautiful to boot. My apologies for the long, long winded intro – now, please meet Lindsay!
First things first – who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I’m Lindsay, am 25 years old, and live in Brooklyn by way of Indiana. I am a student at FIT, a fiance, a blogger, and I help plan events at a cancer hospital. I’m a busy gal and always have been! I like it best that way!
Can you give a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Saks in 2008 working in accessories?
I always knew I wanted to work in retail. I started right before college at Aldo and Express. I took a brief hiatus to start school and then began working at Sunglass Hut (formerly Sole Mio). I quickly gained a knack for finding the perfect sunglass for customers’ face shapes and became Assistant Manager. I stayed there a little over two years, but knew I wanted more experience and was drawn to Sak’s client based selling. I became the Accessory Lead there and actually was the top salesperson for Tiffany’s sunglasses in the country when they first came out!
What were your favorite and least favorite aspects about working at Saks?
Each Saks is different, but working there is a dream! Who wouldn’t love working around such beautiful items all of the time? The discount is a given plus too. It was great because they also let me intern in visual merchandising as well, so I basically lived at the store. I was able to help coordinate fashion shows, meet great clientele, and make lots of lifelong friends. And if you had a date night planned, the makeup counter would always hook you up with some smokey eyes!
I would say the only downside was the stress for making quotas. It was at a point when the economy was slowing, yet the benchmark was still as high as when the economy was thriving. I understand the big picture, but it was difficult at the time.
Okay let’s get into the logistics of the famous 2008 sale. Did you guys get a warning about how deep discounts were going to be? Were you prepared for the onslaught? Were you surprised by the behavior of customers?
Usually we would get warning of when the sales and promotions would be. Generally only the management knew how deep they would go. However, for Saks cardholders, sometimes there would be perks like trunk shows, preview sales, and exclusive merchandise that all of the staff would know about. Also because of my extensive retail (and shopping) experience, I could take a good guess and always alert my clients. Generally the craziest times would be during “Spend Some, Get Some” events and after holiday promotions. I was surprised that people would be so ruthless in Saks, but it happened. Even in high-end stores, bags fly and voices get loud!
Saks in 2008 – image via Racked
What were the worst horror stories that you heard/experienced during that mad sale?
During the Christmas sale, there was a mother and daughter versus another young woman. The young woman was a sales woman in the mall and had been watching a bag during all of her lunch breaks. The mother and daughter said some pretty mean things in order to get the bag. Luckily, they ended up returning it and the sales woman got it in the end, and at the sale price!
What were some the of craziest discounts that you think will prob not happen again? I know Saks got into trouble with some of their brands for making such deep cuts..
I personally remember the infamous Christmas of 70% discounts. I wasn’t working at Saks at the time, but I went to the flagship 5th Avenue store. I saw fur stoles for less than $100, Bulgari sunglasses for $75 (regular retail at $600+), and Gucci shoes at less than $200. It was a madhouse! It looked like the place was being looted because everyone had their arms full of merchandise. I can’t see that happening ever again.
Lindsay getting inked
Having worked in that kind of retail environment and seeing how much things cost, and how much they get discounted – what would you never pay full price for, again?
At first it was really hard. I actually went on to work in buying once I moved to New York, which meant I could continue to get merchandise at a discount. In the end, I am still a smart shopper. I Froogle everything, search for discount codes, and wait for sales. If I really love an item and know I’ll wear it frequently though, I’ll buy it full price.
What are some sale shopping tips that you can want to pass onto readers?
A great tip is to actually bookmark a piece you like and randomly go back to check the price. I actually just got a pair of boots 40% because I did that! If you are into luxury, find a great sales person. They will alert you when items come in and go on sale. You’re as valuable to them as they are to you. I remember that I had a client that lived 3 hours away. She was a loyal client, but didn’t get the chance to come to the store often. She was a huge Gucci fan and when a bag was returned that was marked down, I called her and she purchased it over the phone since she knew the model.
I’m not a huge fan of credit cards, but Saks really has a great one. You get points that add up to a gift card at the end of the year, free shipping on all orders, and exclusive deals that other shoppers don’t get. So if there is a store you like, check out what they have to offer. As long as you pay your balance off within the same month, you’re getting a ton of great benefits!
Her beautiful engagement ring
What are some of your personal valued possessions?
Other than my engagement ring, I would say that I only have two other pieces that I treasure. One is a ring from my grandma and grandpa. It’s a gold ring with a cluster of opals, which was given to me for graduation. It’s absolutely stunning and very delicate. The other is my Prada bag. It’s a nylon quilted bowler with a thick gold chain. It was my first luxury bag purchase and I don’t think I will ever part with it!
And finally, please share something surprising about yourself!
I am a certified scuba diver! I hope one day to actually be able to teach. It’s quite an amazing experience all while living out my Little Mermaid fantasies!
Wasn’t Lindsay absolutely fantastic and so informative? Her experiences are so fascinating, and she has such an infectious smile. Thank you again Lindsay for taking the time to do this interview and share your experiences with us. For more of Lindsay, please check out her blog, here.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody – and shop well!