Rolling the dice at LUCKY SHOPS 2007

The announcement rang loud and clear, but no one seemed to believe it.

All Balenciaga shoes, the mostly female crowd was informed, would be marked down from $800 to $50 a pair.

Fifty – as in five-zero?!

Surreal discounts were the astonishing norm at the LUCKY SHOPS 2007 event in New York City. Following an evening VIP Party co-hosted by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jessica Seinfeld, and a “First Dibs Friday” for those who couldn’t wait an extra day to get their hands on discounted designer pieces, intrepid shoppers spent a marathon Saturday hunting for deals at the annual charity event, with proceeds from ticket and clothing sales benefiting Baby Buggy, a non-profit organization that provides goods to needy infants and children.

Shopping events are becoming more plentiful in a city long accustomed to competition in even the smallest of errands. Whether it be waiting in line at 6 a.m. for the latest limited-edition collection to hit H&M or buying a designer’s wares on Target’s Web site before they even have a chance to hit stores, New Yorkers know that if they wait even a minute, that coveted item can be sold out. That novelty, however, wears off after the first day when less-obsessed mortals – gasp! – have access to the goods for weeks on end. So, to up the demand and the adrenaline, companies are promoting exclusivity by charging an admission fee, providing swag and an open bar, and best of all, dangling the tangible possibility of that ticket paying for itself with severe markdowns on unique goods.

Shecky’s rolled out its seasonal “Girls Night Out” events in New York a few years ago and has since expanded to a number of cities nationwide. But the Big Apple events, once known for featuring up-and-coming independent designers, have become more corporate and less edgy. Billion Dollar Babes promises perks to paying VIP members, but the price tags at their public weekend sales, well, live up to their own organization’s name.

Enter LUCKY Magazine, whose newsstand presence has gradually shifted from initial criticisms as a glorified catalog to becoming a must-have book featuring such articles as how to create multiple looks with one article of clothing, shopping guides in various cities, reader-only discounts and the benefits of specific ingredients in beauty products. The magazine cheerfully embraces mass consumerism, and now runs an event that trumps all the wannabe shopping parties by a mile.

Fourty-four high-profile vendors, including Tracy Reese, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney, offered discounted pieces at what was advertised as up to 70 percent off retail prices, but ended up being far more in many cases. The calculations were daunting enough, but where to even begin in the sea of organized chaos was quite another. Aside from a denim jeans bar that offered a dressing room (and free hemming, with seamstresses standing by), full-length mirrors with no curtains dotted the vast single-floor space at the Metropolitan Pavilion, leaving at least one shopper to rue the fact that she should have worn a tank top with leggings.

Aside from finding ways to try on clothes without causing wardrobe malfunctions, there was the added challenge of adopting a shopping strategy that went from Point A to Point B in as straight a line as possible. Typically, the success of finding the right piece culminates in a straightforward transaction. Not at LUCKY SHOPS. The internal debate of whether to buy that See by Chloé shirt should be over when you decide to hand said shirt to the vendor to hold in a bag (for up to an hour before it hits the floors again). You anticipate a receipt to take to one of the cashiers to pay, when all of a sudden, another announcement blares:

“Everything in the Love, Recycled booth is now $25!”

That’s when it hits you. You could drop what you’re doing and rush to the booth before someone else snatches the vintage-Diane-von-Furstenberg-dress-you-didn’t-know-existed-but-would-definitely-buy-if-they-had-your-size. Or you could snag the receipt and take the risk that you may just so happen to find that same See by Chloé shirt later after it gets marked down even further…provided that there are any left?

Shopping was never so stressful and yet, so exhilarating. eBay may claim that you can “shop victoriously,” but who needs to auction up when the powers-that-be are auctioning down for you? Why focus on the price when you can focus on the clothes?

After scoring a Charlotte Ronson bolero, two Marc Jacobs shirts and a Michelle Jonas dress – the total cost falling in the double-digit range – it was time to head out before things got too out-of-hand in the final few hours. As I stepped out the door, another announcement was made:

“Everything at the Geren Ford booth is now 50 percent off!”

On second thought…

You’ll have to wait until next year to head to the LUCKY SHOPS event, but this year’s sale is still going on at