If you’re into style (and I’ll assume you are, given you’re here!) then you, like me, probably have a small penchant for handbags. I read recently that Christies auction house now valued the global pre-owned luxury handbag market at £26m.
More of us, it seems, are looking to add a designer piece to our wardrobe.
Let’s face it, though, for most of us a luxury handbag purchase is not one made on casual whim, but a considered investment.
However, there are some smart ways to make a designer bag purchase, that could also save a few pennies.
Bag-onomics, if you will…
Let’s start with the second hand market, since it appears to have exploded in popularity. If you’re not particular about the condition of a bag, or whether it’s past season, the pre-owned market is a really good way to shop. Items are often priced based on visible signs of wear, and generally at a significant discount. Word to the wise, though. If you’re going down this route, make sure you’re buying from a reputable source. Online stores, such as Vestiaire Collective, have a strict policy on the pieces they’ll stock, so you can be sure of authenticity and condition.
Pre-owned is also typically the only way to find seasonal bags of past, so you may just find that Kusama X Louis Vuitton Speedy bag circa 2012, after all…
The airport is a great way to buy luxury handbags. You can check in advance which brands are located at the airport you’re travelling through, and very often can order specific items in advance to pick up on departure. The tax deduction from London will be based on your final destination, so worth bearing in mind.
Heathrow airport is great for most international brands, and Louis Vuitton opened its first – and only – airport boutique on the launch of Terminal 5. If you book in advance, Heathrow personal shopping will also take you to any of your preferred terminals to shop before your flight.
One thing to note, though, is that stock can be a curated version of the London boutiques. Chanel, for example, only stocks seasonal pieces in airport boutiques so you’ll never find the classic black 2.55.
Other brands, however, stock the entire collection. So, if you’re after the ultimate classic Mulberry Bayswater in oak leather, you’re likely to find it here – or have the option to get it ordered in.
If you’re not travelling, and perhaps not fully persuaded by the idea of a used handbag, some department stores also offer promotions through the year. Selfridges, for example, tends to offer 20% off in the run up to Christmas. Harrods and Liberty also hold similar 10% and 20% promotions for newsletter subscribers on selected weekends during the year.
Each promotion will differ from store to store, and year after year. For example, I bought a red Mulberry Alexa at 20% off at Selfridges, but the following year the brand wasn’t one included in the promotion.
Designer outlets are a great way to shop luxury handbags. Of course, collections will be past season’s, but outlets often offer significant discounts. Stock can also be hit and miss on the day and if you do make a purchase, make sure to ask whether the item is ‘Seconds’ (read: damaged), or ‘Outlet Only’, meaning the style never made it to main collections.
One of the best designer outlets is Bicester Village, housing brands from Prada and Gucci, to Chloe and Balenciaga. A recent expansion, and regular pop-ups means you’ll always find new brands to shop.
Sign up to the Bicester Village newsletter for private sale alerts, which typically offer an additional 20% off.
Finally, sample sales (cue visions of crazed shoppers, arms loaded to the elbow crooks with would-be purchases).
I’ve found the best way to keep up-to-date on sample sales is to follow individual brands on social media for details. You typically have to register to attend, and there is usually a small charity-donated entrance fee on arrival.
Expect queues at the door, a compulsory cloakroom check-in, and to shop sans all belongings bar your wallet.
What other smart ways are there to shop luxury?
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