10 Tips to Snag a Deal on Designer Handbags

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The fuchsia handbag by Parisian designer Hermès was stitched from crocodile skin and finished with a diamond-studded 18-karat white gold clasp.

It sold for $221,844 at Christie’s Hong Kong salesroom earlier this month, making it the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction, the Wall Street Journal reported.

You can snag from dozens to hundreds of designer handbags with that much money — if you know what to look for and where to find them, that is. Follow these 10 tips to discover your dream designer bag for less.

1. Learn how to spot a fake

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Research prospective purchases online, or visit one of the designer’s boutiques to familiarize yourself with the characteristics that set a designer’s handbags apart from counterfeits.

First, check a designer’s own website. Some, like that of Coach, educate consumers on how to tell real deals from impostors. They also inform shoppers about which third-party retailers are authorized to sell the designer’s goods.

Failing that, hone in on tips from reputable publications such as Forbes, Glamour and Who What Wear, a fashion website founded by former Elle editors.

2. Weigh the importance of quality

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This decision can impact how much you’ll spend on a designer bag. If you are willing to sacrifice a little quality, you will save a lot of money.

Take outlets and factory stores, for example. Some sell goods that simply failed to sell at designer boutiques or luxury department stores.

Others sell goods designed to sell for less than retail value.

Meanwhile, some of these stores sell both, according Consumer Reports’ guide to outlet shopping:

Outlets sell a mixed bag of goods, and every manufacturer has a different philosophy. …

Goods made specifically for outlets are designed to sell for less than those at retail counterparts, so it’s reasonable to assume they’re not exact copies. When Consumer Reports analyzed clothing and accessories made for the outlets and similar items manufactured for distribution at regular retail stores, we confirmed that the outlet items were tweaked.

3. Sign up for emails

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All of the following types of online retailers generally offer an email or newsletter sign-up option on their websites and notify subscribers of discounts and sales:

  • Designers’ own stores
  • Discount retailers
  • International retailers
  • Luxury secondhand stores
  • Luxury department stores

4. Look for coupons and promo codes

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Use a search engine to check for coupons or promotion codes that retailers might not advertise on their websites.

Enter the name of the retailer from whom you want to make a purchase (for example, “Bloomingdale’s”) and the word “coupons.” Repeat the search with the retailer’s name and the phrase “promo codes.” Also search using the name of the type of bag you plan to purchase, or the brand name of the designer who makes it.

You can also surf directly to coupon websites such as Retail Me Not, which has a section devoted to designer handbag coupons and promo codes.

5. Haggle

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Sure, salespeople on the floor of a designer’s retail store might look at you funny. But at least try haggling, especially at secondhand stores. You have nothing to lose.

For pointers, check out Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson’s classic story “Confessions of a Serial Haggler.”

6. Check discount stores

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Brick-and-mortar discount stores can be great places to find deals on handbags. Options include:

  • DSW
  • The TJX Companies’ Marshalls and T.J. Maxx
  • Luxury department store outlets like Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off 5th
  • United Apparel Liquidators

7. Check discount online retailers

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E-commerce sites that might offer great deals on handbags include:

  • 6pm.com
  • Amazon.com’s “Designer Shoes & Handbags” department
  • Bluefly.com
  • DSW.com
  • eBags.com
  • Last Call by Neiman Marcus
  • Loehmann’s
  • T.J. Maxx
  • Overstock.com’s “Designer Store”
  • Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off 5th
  • yoox.com
  • Zappos.com

8. Choose your designer wisely

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Photo by Flickr user banyan_tree

Designer handbags are often considered investment pieces because, with proper care, they generally will last a lifetime and resell well. But some brands hold their value better than others.

Last year, when online luxury consignment store The RealReal analyzed its database of more than 500 designers and more than 500,000 purchases, it found that resale values ranged from 10 percent to 90 percent of original retail prices.

The brands that held their resale value longest were:

  • Cartier
  • Chanel
  • Christian Louboutin
  • David Yurman (does not sell handbags)
  • Van Cleef & Arpels (does not sell handbags)

9. Join flash-sale sites

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Members-only online resellers like these offer steep discounts on designer duds during brief sales, or flash sales, which members are notified of via email:

  • Gilt
  • HauteLook
  • Rue La La

Membership is free — just register on their websites.

10. Consider luxury secondhand stores

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Resellers — and buyers — of used designer handbags that have gone through an authentication process (to prove they are not knockoffs) include:

  • Fashionphile (online, three stores in California)
  • LuxeDH (online only)
  • The RealReal (online only)

What’s your favorite way to snag designer bags for less? Share your thoughts with in the “Comments & discussion” section below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.