If you've ever read any of my weekly Kohl's articles here at Slickdeals, you can probably tell that I love shopping in general, but clothes shopping is my absolute favorite. I'm a bit of a tightwad when it comes to my money, and I'm really picky about what I buy. It has to be easy to care for, flattering, versatile, cute (of course) and priced right -- and that combination can be ridiculously hard to find. That being said, the store I've had the most luck at is Ann Taylor LOFT. I'm a long time LOFT customer, so I'm pretty familiar with how to make the most of the store's promotions and deals. I'm offering up tricks I've learned as well as giving the Slickdeals community an inside glimpse at my most recent LOFT shopping trip so that you can judge me accordingly. (Gulp.)
Most people are familiar with Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor LOFT, but it's important to know that they're two totally separate stores that simply fall under the same company. In other words, you can't return LOFT clothes to Ann Taylor, nor can Ann Taylor clothes be returned at LOFT. You also can't use their promo codes and coupons interchangeably.
Ann Taylor is largely associated with women's work attire, and it has a sophisticated and professional aesthetic. Ann Taylor LOFT clothing, on the other hand, is more business casual in comparison, and the store features an excellent selection of specialty sizes to fit you like a glove.
I'm 5'3" (and a half), and it took me a while to realize that I can't just buy clothing off the rack if I want items that actually fit my body. When I first started looking into petite sizes online, I kept hearing people rave about Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor LOFT petite clothes.
Unlike other stores with limited petite sizes (or none at all), these two companies offer practically every single design in both a petite and tall fit with sizes that range from XXS to XXL. The store even offers a petite-sized line of Ann Taylor LOFT maternity clothes. Additionally, I've shopped at LOFT enough to say that their sizing is very consistent. Once you know your size at LOFT, you can order online with confidence. And if something doesn't work, LOFT has a generous 45-day return policy.
As for whether Ann Taylor LOFT clothes run big or small, I'd say they're ever-so-slightly vanity sized. Almost everything is machine washable, and the clothes hold up pretty well in my experience. I've never had any Ann Taylor LOFT clothes shrink in the wash, either. Overall, the quality is pretty good for the price.
Sales and Promotions
I've heard a lot of bloggers insist that if you're not shopping at LOFT during a sale, then you're not doing it right. Truer words were never spoken. The store is almost always running a good promotion, and it regularly features savings of 40% to 50% off sitewide.
Many times, sale items are an extra 60% to 70% off with limited-time LOFT promo codes. If there's no code needed for the discount, then you can search for a secondary coupon to make the deal even better. The store offers $25 off $75 codes all the time when you haven't shopped in a while (generally within a month from my experience), and those can be stacked with extra sitewide savings if the sale doesn't require a coupon code at checkout.
Waiting for a sale at LOFT isn't a problem; the real trick is recognizing a good one. I would recommend shopping only during 40%-off or higher promotions -- they happen fairly frequently and oftentimes in tandem with LOFT Cash Card events. (More on those in a bit.) These major sales typically kick off on Thursdays and last through the weekend.
Of course, shopping around specific holidays is always a good idea, and I've found that the store normally runs a better sale on Cyber Monday than it does on Black Friday. (Last year's even included free shipping, which is great considering that most Slickdealers' biggest pet peeve when it comes to shopping at LOFT is its $8.95 shipping fee on orders under $125.)
If you're into the clothing that LOFT sells, then I highly recommend taking advantage of its cardholder perks. Just for the record, I'm not someone who likes opening up store credit cards, and I avoided getting a LOFT card for a couple of years. But a sales associate finally convinced me when she recognized how often I shopped there (guilty as charged?) and pointed out that I could take a 50%-off sale into 65%-off territory just by applying. I was making a fairly big purchase that day, so I went for it.
Here's the rundown. There are two types of store cards to choose from: the regular LOVELOFT card and the LOVELOFT MasterCard. They're practically the same, except the MasterCard gives you a little more earning potential when it comes to rewards.
With either card, you'll receive a $20 reward for every 2,000 points you earn (or $400 you spend). You can rack these up faster with the MasterCard because you'll also earn points anywhere MasterCard is accepted. How many, you ask? You'll get one point for every dollar spent in general, or two points for every dollar spent at gas and grocery stores.
Even better, LOFT regularly features double-points events where you'll earn that $20 reward for every $200 you spend. Cardholders also receive a $15 birthday gift on top of the standard $10 birthday gift given to email subscribers, and this reward can be redeemed alongside any storewide offer. Plus, cardholders enjoy the benefit of viewing new arrivals 24 hours before anyone else, and these first looks are usually accompanied with a 40%-off promotion.
If you're a LOFT cardholder, you'll want to download the LOFT app to manage your credit card account, check out with your digital card, and also track and redeem your rewards. Plus, it makes it easy to pay your bill and view your account information anytime you need.
Back to those LOFT Cash Card events. A few times per year, LOFT gives its customers a $25 LOFT Cash Card for every $50 they spend. These cards are good for future purchases of $50 or more during a two-week period shortly thereafter. There will always be accompanying promotions going on during these earning periods (like 30% of 40% off storewide), and at some point during the event, the store will raise the stakes by giving customers two $25 LOFT Cash Cards for every $50 spent. Have patience and wait for that moment to arrive.
The catch with these cash cards is that if you earn more than one $25 reward, you're almost forced into redeeming your LOFT Cash in a store for two reasons. First, shopping in the store lets you use unlimited LOFT Cash (as opposed to just one $25 cash card per online order). Second, you can stack LOFT Cash with current sales inside LOFT stores, while you're usually limited to choosing a single promotion online. It all comes back to the fact that LOFT's website only allows one promo code per order, and LOFT Cash is redeemed through -- you guessed it -- promo codes.
In other words, if you want to use your LOFT Cash online, you'd have to do multiple orders to utilize all your rewards, and that means multiple $8.95 shipping charges. You can stack your LOFT Cash Cards without visiting a store, but you have to call customer service at 1-888-563-8444 in order to do so. And there's a catch: You can't combine those unlimited cash cards with current sales and promotions like you can inside a store (like online orders, phone orders are limited to a single promotion.) Stacking multiple deals is the main incentive of in-store shopping.
If you do shop during a LOFT Cash Card event, here's a helpful trick that I've learned the hard way: Have the cashier staple your cash cards onto your receipt. When you eventually redeem your LOFT Cash, the cashier will ask you for the original receipts in which you acquired the rewards (something that I think is pretty ridiculous, but that's just me.) They can look up the previous transaction on your LOFT charge card or through any other credit card used, but it's time-consuming and a bit of a pain. Just something to keep in mind. (I know. I don't like it either.)
If you love online shopping, you're in for some disappointing news: You typically get the best deal at LOFT by shopping in store. Take it from Slickdealer BitterYouth, who recommends skipping the online experience because "you can get way better deals in Loft stores and in outlets." If you live two hours away from a store like I do, it's a major inconvenience. Otherwise, it's not so bad.
Of course, there are times when you'll want to skip the store and shop from home. Some LOFT items are sold exclusively online. Also, specialty sizes run out fast, so you may want to go ahead and grab a certain style as soon as it appears on the website if you know your size is prone to selling out. The best time to shop online at LOFT is when you can stack two deals at once, which happens somewhat often. The store will do 40% to 50% off with no promo code needed, and usually there's another coupon code you can add to it. Occasionally, shipping is also waived with no minimum order.
It's also fine to shop online during a LOFT Cash Card earning event. You'll receive your cash cards in the mail with your order, and you can then redeem the rewards in store and make any necessary returns (ahem, like something you bought just to get free shipping). Items marked "final sale" are sometimes just a few dollars, and you can usually find a range of styles for $10 or less. (Check out the expired deal threads below for price references.)
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Shopping In Store
First, shop during a LOFT Cash Card event to earn two $25 cash cards for every $50 you spend. Then, wait for a 40%-off+ sale to take place during the cash card redemption period. The cashier will take the storewide discount off first, and then he or she will apply your LOFT Cash toward your total. It's like taking 40% off and then following it up with an extra 50% off. I think a lot of people get confused by LOFT coupons in general, because they usually state that they're only valid on full-price merchandise. If the whole store is on sale for 40% off, though, it's considered a stackable promotion. You just can't use the coupon on previously-reduced sale and clearance items. The best thing to do when you're confused is to bring all of your coupons with you and let the associate confirm which ones can be applied.
There are lots of perks to shopping inside LOFT stores. For starters, if you're an educator, you'll reap the benefits of the "LOFT Loves Teachers" program, which allows teachers to take an extra 15% off every time they make an in-store purchase. Surprisingly enough, another great thing about shopping in stores is item availability. If you can't find an item you're looking for or the store doesn't have your size, an associate can order it for you and have it shipped to your home for free while applying all of the in-store discounts to your purchase.
I recently shopped at LOFT in nearby Lexington, Ky., for my birthday during a LOFT Cash Card event, so I was able to redeem my $15 birthday gift along with my $20 cardholder rewards. I scored two $25 LOFT Cash Cards for every $50 I spent, ending up with 11 $25 cash cards total. I then redeemed them with my mom's help during last week's 40%-off sale. (Cardholders can combine purchases with a shopping buddy to earn those rewards points faster; I always bring my mom, who happily splits the rewards with me.) Together, we got 20 new items for fall for $338 before tax. Overall, we saved $677.40.
Other Ways to Buy LOFT
If you hate the idea of traveling to a store and refuse to pay online shipping, you have a couple of other options. You can buy Amazon LOFT clothes or shop through eBay, but the prices are typically not much better than when you shop directly from LOFT itself during a savings promotion. One site that does offer LOFT clothes at hard-to-beat prices is thredUP. This second-hand store often features brand-new LOFT clothing with the tags still attached for around $5 to $25 with free shipping on orders over $79, so I recommend checking it out frequently to see what's in stock. (Use our coupon codes to take 40% off your first order, too!)
I'm all set for fall now with my LOFT drop-waist dress and Kohl's leopard-print shoes, which I collectively purchased for just $34.99 (77% off the total retail price).
LOFT Fireworks Drop Waist Shirtdress, $89.50 (I paid $28.24)
Kohl's Candie's Women's Dress Heels, $23.99 (I paid $6.75, plus it shipped free)
Do you shop at LOFT on the regular, or do you have questions about how the store's promotions work? Share your feedback in the comments!
Images courtesy of LOFT.
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