When Joyce Grant’s son Bennett was five, he outgrew his froggy rainboots and was ready for a big-kid style. But the Toronto mom had a problem: “It’s impossible to find the clothes you’re looking for in season. You’re pretty much guaranteed the store won’t have the product, the size or the price you’re looking for.”
When Grant found a sale on Sorels for 60 percent off, she bought not one, but five pairs. Now eight, Bennett still has two pairs left. “They’re great boots,” says Grant, “and every time he puts them on, I think, Bargain!”
We may not all be so lucky, but here’s how you can make the most of a shopping season that seems as brief as the first warm afternoon in March.
Start in winter
“Adults shop for themselves closer to the season,” notes Vincent Power, director of corporate communications for Sears Canada, “but parents want to make sure their kids have their outerwear early.” Raincoats, jackets and splash pants show up in Sears stores in January (December in BC’s Lower Mainland), and real early birds can shop from the company’s spring catalogue during Boxing Week.
At other stores, spring items generally appear throughout February. “That’s when you’ll find the best selection, best sizes, new colours and patterns,” says Kevin Meloche, general merchandise manager for children’s wear at Zellers.
Most stores replenish stock until the end of March, and longer if the weather warrants it. Zellers stores on the east and west coasts stock splash pants and rubber boots year-round.
Wait for bargains
Serious price reductions usually begin in April or May as stores make room for summer items. The two weeks before Easter (April 4 this year) are among the best times to shop at Sears’ bricks-and-mortar stores for a good selection and savings, says Power.
But if there’s an item you really want, waiting for a bargain can be risky. “The popular items sell and are never marked down,” says Susan McKeown, corporate planner for the children’s clothing retailer Please Mum.
Best foot forward
Running shoes (and even sandals!) also hit the shelves in February or March, says Rita Cassano, owner of a Kiddie Kobbler in Hamilton, and many items are depleted by May. New sneakers won’t appear again until fall and once sandals are gone, they won’t be back till next year.
If you’re leery of buying shoes for growing feet months before they’re needed, Cassano suggests sizing the shoe slightly bigger to offer support with a little room to grow.
A web for all seasons
So what do you do if the raincoat that fit last week suddenly doesn’t and there’s not a slicker to be seen in stores? Go online. Sears (sears.ca), Please Mum (pleasemum.com), L.L. Bean (llbean.com), Gymboree (gymboree.com) and Lands’ End (landsend.com) often carry rainwear out of season. They may also have other spring items in sizes and colours that have sold out in local stores, as well as seasonal clearance sections. Be aware, however, that US sites may levy hefty shipping charges.
You can also go the “gently used” route. Used kids’ clothing stores, Value Village or a swap meet with other parents could also net you the gear you need.