The A&N annual spring shoe sale draws Imelda Marcos wannabes from all over the Lower Mainland to the Downtown Eastside in search of bargains. Normally A&N is best known as a discount store that's one step lower than Wal Mart and Zellers and located in a not-so-great neighbourhood. But once a year it becomes shoe mecca, and it doesn't just have cheap shoes, it has quality shoes from well-known labels at clearout prices: Buffalo by David Bitton, Michael Kors, Steve Madden, Paolo Corelli, Point Zero, etc. The thrill of the A&N shoe sale is the same sort of thrill you get from finding something cute, inexpensive, and possibly from a brand name label at Winners, but you do have to a bit of footwork (no pun intended).
I've heard that the best time to go is right in the morning because you get the greatest selection, although you also brave the biggest crowds (there's a lineup outside the store before doors open at 8am). I got there around 12 pm after my morning exam and could see women in business attire coming out of A&N with black-and-orange plastic bags stuffed full of shoes. Pretty fun way of taking an extended lunch break! The parking lot beside the store was completely full, and cars kept pulling up to the curb to drop women off as their husbands and boyfriends tried to find parking.
4 words for the scene in the A&N basement: WOMEN AND SHOES EVERYWHERE. Shopping baskets were all over the floor. Employees scurried about picking up discarded shoes and dragging big boxes of new inventory out. A constant clack-clack, clack-clack sounded as women picked shoes up off the metal shelves and plopped them back down.
I would describe the overall atmosphere as civilized chaos. Shoe stores and shoe sales are generally chaotic and busy, and women have the tendency to move through shoe stores like packs of wolves searching for a T-bone steak hidden among carrots on their quest for a cute pair. That was definitely going on today. Everyone grabbed as many pairs that caught their eye as possible, tried on and deliberated, then discarded the ones that weren't comfortable. I kept bumping into shoppers as I navigated the shelves, and tried my best not to hit anyone with my basket. At times I felt like I should've been more pushy, like when I sat down with my finds and tried to squish into a spot on the bench to try them on. At the same time, though, everyone seemed so nice. At the trying-on bench, one woman spoke up and warned everyone else to watch their purses carefully because someone's bag had been stolen. Shoppers kept pointing to other people's baskets and asking where they found a certain pair of ballet flats or boots. One girl kept an eye out for a coveted pair in a bigger size and snapped them up for her friend to try on.
Some of the women there were A&N shoe sale veterans giving advice to the rookies. I think I'd have to brave a couple more "first days of the shoe sale" for a couple more years before I can call myself a veteran, but i definitely learned a thing or two. For one, next time I go, I will not wear lace-up shoes because they take too long to do and undo...much better to wear a pair of flats or low heels that slip on and off easily, and no socks. (If I do that, though, it means I'll have to carry a pair of clean socks with me in my purse to try on shoes I intend to wear socks with, like sneakers and casuals.) Also, if I go later in the day, I'll wear a thin layer over a tee or tank that won't make me overheat, because after about 30 minutes the stuffy air in the basement is a little overwhelming.
When I came home and gleefully told my friends and fellow shoe-addicts about my finds, one friend said that I wouldn't have normally been able to find one pair of those for what I had paid for all three pairs today. Good point...and it made my finds today all the sweeter. I've already made plans to go back this weekend with a friend from Victoria who wears a size 5.5, although I'm not holding out much hope for finding more cute shoes in 6.
(Point Zero maryjanes)
(Ralph by Ralph Lauren flats)
(Paolo Corelli pumps)