Viberg Sample Sale Guide
Anyone who is into boots knows that feeling. Maybe it’s an Instagram post, an email, or something you hear in conversation. Viberg is having a sample sale (or maybe they call it an archive sale), but it’s somewhere between a 4-hour drive and a 4-hour flight from where you live.
For years you’ve watched others go. You’ve seen the posts and the jealously is overwhelming. This time you’re determined to participate.
That being said, where do you start? How do you go from seeing the sale is happening to sitting at home in your new pair(s) of Viberg boots? This guide will help answer any questions that you may have so that you’re ready to go when the time comes.
When (and Where) is the Viberg Sample Sale?
Viberg doesn’t give too much in the way of a heads up about their Sample Sales. Often only a couple of weeks. I’m sure that much of this is to build up hype and excitement, but these type of events are hard to set too far out into the calendar.
There is no product specifically designed to be sold in a sale like this. Indeed, everything at the sale was originally intended to be sold somewhere else. Even Viberg likely won’t know when they have the appropriate level of inventory to hold a sale like this until they get close to having it.
In general, though, if you combine both the in-person and online sales, Viberg holds two to three sample sales each year.
The online sales are, obviously, online. They can be hosted anywhere in the world. Previous examples have shipped from Canada, the UK, and the U.S. In general, these are the easiest to buy from – just sit at your computer and shop. However, stock is generally fairly limited, and prices are much higher.
What most people think of with a sample sale is their in-person events in New York City. The exact address is different for each sale.
While there is no rule saying it needs to be in the Big Apple, New York City is large, wealthy, and close to other large and wealthy cities. A good place to sell expensive boots. This may change in the future, but historically this is where the sample sales will happen.
What Boots are Available at the Viberg Sample Sale?
The Viberg Sample Sale is where Viberg sells basically anything that wasn’t sold in a full size run. These generally fall into three categories.
First, the majority of the boots there are what is known as seconds. These are boots that have a flaw and would not be acceptable to sell at full price to customers. The issues can range from the very minor, such as some natural variation in the leather, to very severe, such as having an uneven number of eyelets. Ask me how I know about the second one (yes, those were mine). Sometimes these boots may have been worn as the problem didn’t become apparent until the first owner wore them.
Second, you may sometimes find a line of boots that simply didn’t sell as well as Viberg might have hoped. For example, at Viberg’s most recent sale, there were a number of nearly flawless Engineer Boots in an almost full-size run.
Finally, the real gems are one-off designs that were tried and never went into production. Ultra rare shell? New construction methods? New patterns or lasts? It’s all here. If you manage to find one of these, you will own a 1-of-1 pair. Unfortunately for most, these are pretty much only found in size 8.5 or 9.
It’s also worth saying that the less picky you are, the more luck you’ll have. If you go in thinking that you want a specific leather, on a specific outsole, built around a specific last, you’re almost certain to be disappointed. If you go in aiming for a brown, horsehide service boot, there is a good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for.
How Much Do Boots Cost at the Viberg Sample Sale?
To be clear, each Viberg Sample Sale follows its own rules. There is no set pattern, and nobody really knows what you will pay until the prices are posted the day before. That being said, there are a few good rules of thumb.
First, other than shell cordovan, each line is priced identically. Online, the Shinki Horsehide boots are nearly $200 more than the Chromexcel ones. At the sale? Exactly the same price. The same is true with Hikers, Sneakers, etc. The entire line is priced the same. Shell is the one exception, being price higher than others.
In general, the more “out there” a line is, the bigger the discount. Service Boots? They might be a few hundred dollars under retail. Hikers that have been discontinued? They might be half off (or more).
While you don’t know what the prices will be, they are typically very good. Well below what you would find on Black Friday.
Also, the prices are not static. Typically, though not always, Viberg will drop the price each day of the sale. At the very end, prices can get very, very low – well into Red Wing range – though you might not be left with the best options.
When to Arrive at the Viberg Sample Sale?
If you want the best selection, try to arrive at least an hour or two before the doors open. People will travel far and wide to attend these sales and don’t want to miss it. Some people will even get hotel rooms and, with nothing else to do, will head to line right after breakfast. Expect at least 50-100 people when the doors open.
I should point out, though, that there are generally a lot of boots. As long as you don’t need to get the absolute best pair at the sale, being one of the first few people in isn’t a huge deal. Besides, Viberg doesn’t put out everything immediately. They refill the tables throughout the first day or two, so you might end up seeing something the first group didn’t.
If you want the best deals, try to arrive early on the last day. Prices are changed overnight, so there is no difference between getting in at 10 AM or at 5:30 PM on the last day of the sale. In other words, there is no end-of-show blow out where they will take anything. Pairs that are not sold the last day are boxed up for the next Sample Sale.
Unlike the first couple of days where they restock, on the last day what is out there is what is out there. The people who want to score the absolute lowest price will be there early and pick up the best options.
What to do Once You’re Inside the Viberg Sample Sale?
Once you’ve waited in line and made it inside, you’ll find a couple dozen tables set up with a piece of paper taped to the front. These pieces of paper represent the size of the boots, though sometimes a specific style may have all the sizes put on a single table.
Near the back, you’ll find a few chairs set up where you can try on boots. Don’t worry, nobody will give you grief if you try on a pair to make sure they fit. While the boots are displayed without laces, there will be a pile of laces in the back you can use when you try them on.
It can be overwhelming, but the Viberg staff are there to help. Brett Viberg himself attends the sample sales. He can tell you what type of leather each boot is made from, what last, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.
There is no limit on the number of pairs you can buy at a time, and there is no limit on the number of times you can leave and come back in (other than time in line). When it does come time to buy, they are credit card only. No cash here.
Check the Boots Carefully
This is extremely important. Once you’re in you’ll no doubt be excited. You’ve been tracking the emails and Instagram posts. Maybe you’ve traveled a long way. You waited in line. Now you’re there. You can smell the leather. There they are! The pair you’ve wanted for years – in your size! You grab them and head to the check out.
Take a breath. Remember that the majority of the boots at the sale are there because they did not pass Viberg’s quality control checks. Take a moment to look over the boots – the outsole, the eyelets, the stitching.
Pick up the pair and walk around with it for a couple of minutes, and then look at it again.
More than likely, whatever you pick up will have some issue. Maybe more than one. You should expect flaws, just make sure it’s something you can live with. Everything there is final sale. Buyer beware, caveat emptor – pick your warning but follow it.
Not everyone can make it to the sale in person. Indeed, for almost everyone, the cost of travel, lodging, etc. will end up costing you way more than you’ll save. Even if you buy multiple pairs. If this sounds like you, you’re not out of luck – you just need a proxy.
A proxy is someone who is already going to the sale, and is willing to buy a pair for you. That is, as long as you’re willing to pay the proxy fee. The fees depend on who you use.
The Two Ways to Proxy
There is a well-known “proxy group” that is regularly posted on reddit. They know the Viberg team, and because of that get into the sale early to scope out what is there. They have the proxy system down to a science. Though, these connections mean they will be the highest price. This proxy group works with an extremely large group chat where interesting pairs are posted, and people can claim them.
Alternatively, plenty of people on forums will offer to proxy to offset some of their own cost. Going this way is generally about half the price of the larger group, but is much less formalized. Instead, expect to give a bit of information on what you’re looking for to your proxy, and they will send you pictures. You need to act quickly with this one, as the person is unlikely to be at the sale for more than 20 minutes or so.
No matter which you pick, all the same rules above apply. If you want the best selection, make sure your proxy is there early. If you want the best deals, make sure your proxy is there on the last day. And, again, make sure you take a good look at the pictures. In my experience, I’ve never seen any proxy try to hide flaws, but it falls on the buyer to make sure. All sales are final.
While it can seem a bit overwhelming at first, the Viberg Sample Sale offers a great way to get a discount on some interesting boots, while also meeting other shoe-nerds in the process. If you get the chance to go in person I highly recommend it.
Anything I didn’t cover, or questions that you may have? Let me know in the comments below.