Rule #1: Cultivate relationships.
Treat your favorite boutique's salesperson like a friend, and visit her often. Even if it costs a little bit more to pick up a last-minute item there, do it: The store that knows you is the store that will alert you when they have a trunk show coming up or when the new collection arrives.
Rule #2: Shop a different city.
Women in Seattle, Atlanta, and Dallas tend to prefer a more classic look, so some edgy must-haves are more likely to sit longer on a shelf there than they would in New York City or L.A. Call department stores around the country to see if they stock the item you're after, or ask your local salesperson to do it for you.
Rule #3: Be flexible.
Most women want the exact item they've seen in a fashion magazine. So check with your friendly salesperson: Do those Manolos come in both a flat and a heel? Is the black Fendi bag also available in brown? A little bit of flexibility goes a long way.
Rule #4: Sales mean new arrivals.
If your favorite store is offering 50-percent off certain items, that means the hot new items for next season are in the back waiting to be unpacked. Ask to take a peek!