Several tour companies offer New York City shopping trips that include sample sales, including private access to merchandise before it's offered to the public. ShopGotham.com offers "Garment Center Insider Shopping Tours" Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., $64, and StyleRoom.com offers private sample sale "Shopping Tour Experiences" for $100.
Know before you go
Be prepared for long lines and crowds. "Waiting in line to get into a sample sale for three to four hours is not unheard of," said Lucky's Bryan Morgan.
Expect additional lines inside to check bags and coats, and for dressing rooms and cashiers.
Sometimes there are no dressing rooms, or "you may want to try something on" right on the floor, said Bryan Morgan. "Wear something you can slip things over -- a simple black bodysuit and leggings or a camisole." There may not even be mirrors; some shoppers bring a pal or send photos by cellphone to friends for feedback.
Some sample sales are cash only, some credit cards only. Some sales offer just women's clothing, others sell menswear, children's clothing or linens and home goods.
Often, as sales progress, additional price reductions are offered and new items are put out, so try to go more than once.
Sizes and quality
True designer sample garments are "tiny, typically size zero to size 4," Bryan Morgan said. But medium and large sizes may be available too, along with accessories like bags and scarves, where fit is irrelevant.
Quality is rarely an issue. "Designers want shoppers to remain interested in their lines," Bryan Morgan said. "They wouldn't put out stuff they're not proud of. It's not going to be the dregs."
But inspect for damage. Merchandise will be marked if it's irregular or was used in photo shoots. But sometimes clothes are torn by shoppers trying them on.
How to shop
"New York City shoppers can be quite aggressive," Bryan Morgan said. "If you see something that you like, don't leave it there and walk away. Chances are someone is going to snatch it up. I have literally had people come up and ask me while I'm holding something if I want it and practically grab it."
Finally, be sure items fit and work for your wardrobe. "You think, 'It's 75 percent off, I should buy it,' but then you get home and realize it's a sample sale mistake," Bryan Morgan said. "Just because it's on sale doesn't mean you have to buy it."