Hitting the sales today? The insiders' guide to getting the best deals
Fancy a post-Christmas splurge but don't know where to start? Regina Lavelle talks to the experts about their tried and tested methods of how to bag the best bargain amid the sales hysteria
It's the season of joy, and giving - to oneself. After the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future have rattled off, we're free to look at our wardrobes and our gadget cupboards and think, "Sod Tiny Tim, it's time for a treat."
Remember kids, Santa is only for Christmas, a designer coat from BTs is for life.
Retail Ireland predicts €4.65bn will be spent across Ireland this Christmas, and some of that is inevitably destined for the sales.
But while some of us take a trigger-happy sales approach, the smart money-holders always hit their target.
Irish Independent consumer expert Sinead Ryan says she avoids "impulse purchases, even in the sales. I like local boutiques best - a much nicer shopping experience than big department stores and the service is always excellent.
"If I have my eye on something, I'll tend to know what it costs before the sale and pounce afterwards."
So at a time when we are ever more anaesthetised to the sight of a sales tag, how do you savvy-shop the sales? Here's the insiders' guide on doing it like a pro.
Fashion: Prepare for battle
"This is warfare," says stylist Cathy O'Connor, "so dress for it. Dressing rooms are always so full that they're hard to access. Wear a camisole and tights so you can change in front of a mirror.
"Don't carry a handbag, carry a cross-body, your hands need to be free."
O'Connor's advice is echoed by fellow stylist Marietta Doran, who says, "Get on a pair of runners and leggings, wear a cross-body bag. Do a recce in advance and take pictures with the price tag."
The stylists differ when it comes to reduction strategies.
O'Connor is a "70pc off shopper", "because I already have a lot of clothes."
When Doran is shopping for clients, she looks for items that will sell out early on.
"There's a beautiful Maje coat at 20pc off but I don't know if it will survive. You could take a punt and hope it might go down to 30pc, but then you might lose it.
"A good coat is an investment piece and you'll get value from accessories and lingerie. You won't build up a closet of Spanx and Chantelle bras overnight so stock up in sales.
O'Connor admits she falls prey to sales "fever" and now asks herself, "when am I going to wear this and what am I going to wear it with?
"If you cannot answer those questions, step away from the till.
"It's about the perceived value of things - the perceived value of an item at 70pc off is more than when it's full price, but if you're not going to wear it it's still a waste of money."
Both women are "bricks and mortar" shoppers and both advocate supporting high streets.
Doran will be scouting Kimono in Newcastle West "for Irish designer Roisin Linnane" and & Other Stories.
O'Connor, too, mentions & Other Stories and "the mothership, Brown Thomas".
Tech: Use a price comparison site
No home is now complete without a suite of Apple products, a smart TV and a home assistant but when devices are in constant demand, how do you get a bargain?
"My advice is always to go online, which is a problem all in its own," says Jim O'Brien, founder of techbuzz.ie.
"I look out for smart watches, SIM-free high-end phones from Samsung, Sony or Motorola, high-end speakers. There should be bargains this year on Internet of Things devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
"Smart TVs should be reduced, but look for models that will integrate with your phone so you don't need to buy additional services.
"This is the best time to buy TVs and mobile phones as new models will be released at CES in January [the Consumer Electronics Show, a colossal trade event where new products are presented to market], so you could get as much as €300 off.
"But always, always check the price against a comparison site, no matter where you shop."
White goods: Think about the added costs
"White goods aren't impulse items; you don't 'treat' yourself to a washing machine," says David Meehan of Decwell's DIY.
"So shop around ahead of the sales to assess prices. Choose whether you want an A-rated, energy-efficient item that will have a longer lifespan, but will cost more, or a cheaper model that will need to be replaced in three years' time. For high-spec I would go Bosch, all of their appliances are good quality."
Meehan is not a sales shopper himself, as he says, "the days of big mark-ups are over, unless you want to buy the latest models where you'll see bigger reductions.
"Always consider the warranties on models, especially if the warranty offers to replace parts as that can be an added expense you might not have considered."
Interiors: Aim for longevity
"January are the only sales offering real value now, I feel," says Sarah O'Dea of bespoke lighting designers, Shady And The Lamp.
"Interiors-wise, I would shop for the big ticket items - mattress, bed, sofa and bed linen."
But how to buy a big-ticket interiors item that won't date as soon as the newest spring trends comes around?
O'Dea says interiors trends for 2019 continue to be "velvet and fringing - quite stylised but quite effective. Green and pink aren't going anywhere, pink especially as the Pantone colour next year is Living Coral, which has some pink undertone. It also lights really well, especially against grey or navy.
"Colours are monotone rather than printed, as we've seen a big over-saturation in some of the prints so that trend looks set to fade next year, the exception being florals, which hold their value.
"Trend forecasters are noting what they call 'Conscientious Purchasing', which is more investment buying, spending more on individual items.
"Disposability is leaving the market, so whether it's sofas or chairs, or an antique, people are more value-aware when they're spending their money and looking for individuality."