Le Creuset knows its audience.

A bartender was ready to serve wine and mixed drinks, the DJ played upbeat music, including Abba's "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme," which seemed appropriate. The aisles were wide and the markdowns plentiful, and people came to shop, giggling at the length of their receipts. It wasn't just a sale, it was an event.

If you were able to get tickets to this weekend's sold-out affair, the first time the high-end cookware maker brought its famous factory-to-table sale to the Twin Cities, you won't be disappointed. But there are some tips worth noting both for this year and for (hopefully) next time.

Find your way: The sale is in Hall E, which is at the far end of the Minneapolis Convention Center. Depending on where you park, it could be a good hike (if there's room in the 3rd Avenue ramp, that's the easiest). Directions to the hall were not marked well inside the convention center during Thursday's VIP sale. Be sure to have your ticket ready as you approach the entrance.

Check for daily specials: The center aisles have special sales with limited quantities. What's available differs each day, but it is the best deal in the room. Ask one of the many helpful workers if you can't find the right aisle.

Shop the perimeter: Workers advised us to start with the perimeter of the room before scoping out the center tables. The room isn't set up with aisles like a grocery store, it's more like clusters of tables, and it can be daunting.

What's available: What isn't available? Cookware, bakeware, grilling accessories, dishes, bowls, salt and pepper shakers, dog dishes, tea pots, dishes, oven mitts, spatulas — and so much more.

Are the prices worth it? Definitely. Markdowns hovered in the 40% to 50% range. Prices are clearly marked, and there are sheets everywhere that help you calculate the sale price. Shoppers on a budget might want to have a calculator handy to keep a running total of purchases — it adds up fast — but giving yourself an early Christmas present is perfectly appropriate.

Don't be deterred by the lines: The longest line when we went was for the checkout lanes, but it moved fast. Warning: Just like magazines and candy at the grocery store checkout lanes, there are tempting (but necessary!) doodads along the way.

What's with those mystery boxes? Shoppers could buy tickets for a Thursday presale VIP event that included the chance to buy a "mystery box" for $50. If the sale comes around again, definitely try to buy a VIP ticket (it was $25). Our mystery boxes contained hundreds of dollars of cookware. You don't get to choose the box, and you cannot open them on site. The colors of the cookware in the box will match, although they might not be your cup of tea (mine matched perfectly), but the value is unbeatable. What you don't want would make a great gift. It's all out of the original packaging, so there may be some scratches and imperfections.

Easy pickup: For those using "I don't want to haul this all the way back to the car" as an excuse to not buy as much, sorry. The highly efficient checkout lanes will spill you and your overflowing cart out to a loading dock, and you can drive up to pick up your purchases. The cashiers will give you directions on getting to the loading dock, and it's well marked outside, too. Workers also are on hand to help load your car. If that's not appealing, other shoppers brought wagons.

Questions about the sales, returns, issues, the FAQ on Le Creuset's website is very thorough.