The price is right
When most of us hit the January sales we're searching for a post-Christmas bargain from our favourite shop. Is it the lure of getting new clothes for a fraction of the price or has the recession turned us into more savvy shoppers?
In the first week of January, Cabot Circus estimates that around half a million eager bargain hunters will hit its shops, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds.
According to centre director Kevin Duffy, the economic climate is one of the factors that is leading to more and better deals for shoppers.
He says: "Consumers are looking closely at what they're spending and want to make sure they're getting the most for their money. In particular, some of the most coveted items are the designer labels and brands – shoppers still want luxurious brands and this is where some serious savings can be made.
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"Unlike many other retailers, Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser do not go into sales until the traditional Boxing Day, when discounts of up to 50 per cent are on offer on brands such as Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Biba and Paul Smith.
"We expect these two stores in particular to be very busy, as shoppers aim to snap up those designer bargains."
But why is it that as a nation, the post-Christmas sales always cause so much excitement?
Kevin suggests that it is also the buzz and thrill of the chase that many of us love when it comes to the sales.
"Sometimes nothing beats the excitement of snapping up that perfect dress or bag that you've had your eye on, at a fraction of the price," he says.
Savvy fashion fans are more strategic in their purchases, and this is the best way to make the most of the sales and ensure you're not returning a host of items back to the shops mid-way through January.
Kevin adds: "During the sales the prospect of getting a bargain can take over and detract our thinking away from the value of a particular item. To make the right buying decisions, it's a good idea to think about what you want in advance, come early to beat the crowds, and arrive ready with a clear plan in your mind to really make the most of the sales. Scouting the shops before the sales start can really help with this."
Once you've thought ahead about what you want, the sales offer the perfect chance to build up your wardrobe for the year ahead for less – whether you're looking to create a perfect party outfit, snap up those designer shoes you've been coveting or stock up on spring and summer trends.
"It's also worth talking to the sales staff and asking for their help to find the best bargains. And don't forget that stock is regularly replenished and reduced further throughout the sales, so keep checking to make sure you don't miss those deals."
Many people look forward to the January sales and finding a bargain, but the motto Be Prepared is key. Clem Fraser, store manager at House of Fraser, Cabot Circus, has pulled together her top five tips to ensure you grab yourself a bargain this new year and avoid those fashion disasters.
1. Before you hit the shops try to do a bit of research: It always helps to think about what you would like to buy and then head straight to that department.
2. Look for classic pieces that are going to stand the test of time, as they usually end up being the best investments.
3. Make sure you buy clothes that are suited to your shape and don't be tempted to buy things that don't quite fit, as they usually end up unworn and a waste of money.
4. Visit stores first thing in the morning or at the end of the day when it's quieter – you're more likely to spend time to find that perfect item when comfortable in your surroundings.
5. If it's impossible for you to get to the sales, think about buying online or using services such as House of Fraser's Buy and Collect offer.