Saturday 21 April 2018

How to get the best out of the January Sales

Sinead Ryan and Bairbre Power

Sinead Ryan and Bairbre Power with an expert guide to the big sales

It looks like it is going to be a bumper sales, writes Sinead Ryan, who has tips to make sure that you, the customer, remains king

Just over a week to the big day.  No not Christmas, sillies, but the SALES! Well, what’s the point in stocking up on all that booze and food if we can’t bemoan the fact as we try to squeeze into a size 10 in a communal changing room… it’s all part of the festive fun, right?

This year, retailers have announced they’re having a boom time.  Retail Ireland, a lobby group for shops says they expect their best Christmas since 2008 with tills ringing to the tune of €4.05bn this year and much of that last surge will come the week after the 25th as shops brace themselves for the annual influx.

But while consumers are gearing up to storm the shops, it’s worth taking a little time out in advance to plan and know your rights when it comes to sale shopping.

Did Granny give you yet another ‘funny’ Reindeer jumper or are you weighed down under the bath salts you don’t have a bath for?  Well, if you’re thinking of returning unwanted gifts, you need to know whether you can or if you’ll be stuck with them only to ‘re-gift’ to someone other unfortunate next year. Whether it’s a voucher to spend in your favourite shop or a dodgy Onesie which you daren’t wear even when you’re alone, it’s good to know your rights when it comes to returns and purchases during the sales.

The rules

In order to have a sale, retailers must meet certain conditions before slapping up the “50pc Off!” signs in the window.  For that reason, there are some unacceptable practices, which may, unfortunately, still exist.  These involve signage, enticements and downright illegal practices such as:

Sale signs

Signs that promote sale items sold at a discounted price must have been on sale at a higher price for a minimum of 28 days previously.  The price tag must show the higher, and discounted, price.  Some stores ‘buy in’ goods just for the sale, and this is frowned upon.

‘50pc Off!’

Signs that promote a discount offer prominently on a window or rail, must have a “reasonable quantity” for sale at that price.  It is not sufficient to entice a customer in only to find one item on the back of a rail at 50pc discount.

Bait advertising

This is where a low offer is prominently displayed to encourage customers into a store, but who are then told that the item is ‘sold out’.  This is not allowed. If a product is advertised it must be available for sale.

Bait & Switch

This is where a ‘special offer’ is indicated or promoted but there is no intention of selling, either because it doesn’t exist or it is sold out.  The customer is then offered another ‘similar’, but more expensive product instead.

‘No Refund or Exchange During Sale’

Signs like this are illegal.  Your rights are enshrined in consumer law (under the Sale of Goods and Services Act 1980), if they are faulty, not fit for purpose or not as described. You are entitled to repair, refund or replacement in such cases.  The fact that the item was bought in a sale, at a discounted price, is irrelevant. For this reason, these signs often carry the caveat “your consumer rights are not affected” underneath which is fine.

However, if you simply change your mind because that fetching Santa jumper really isn’t you, or you received a size 14 when you’re actually a 10 (ouch!), then the shop is NOT obliged to refund or exchange.  Many do, however, for the sake of goodwill.  It may be that you get a refund, or a credit note, but only at the sale price.  It’s up to you whether to accept.

“Proof of Purchase” may be demanded, but does not have to be the original receipt. A bank statement showing the transaction (date, store, amount) is acceptable.

If you bought online within the EU however, you are entitled to a change of mind refund within 14 days due to the ‘arms length’ nature of the transaction. You are responsible for postage.

When is a bargain not a bargain?

When buying in a sale, the same rules apply if you were to buy at full price.  In other words, is the item as described, in perfect condition and would you have wanted to buy it at full price?  It’s not a bargain unless these conditions are met.

Buying an item you may not use, or which wouldn’t have caught your eye at full price, shouldn’t be bought at sale price!


Do a wardrobe check in advance, make  a list, stay calm and focused and ditch the warm winter woollies on the day, writes fashion editor Bairbre Power

1 Is the price right?

Don’t be swayed by discounted prices or buy on a whim. Ask yourself: would you have wanted this in your wardrobe at full price? So why would you want it at 50pc off?

We have a tendency to be seduced by mouthwatering prices but remember when splurging on 70pc-off separates, that they are probably going to need another matching separate, or new shoes, to create an outfit — and that’s more money! Think like an accountant (or a husband!): is this really cost-efficient and remembering the cost-per-wear rule, will this newbie tick the box when it comes to the three-wear rule?

2 Make sure it fits

How many times have we bought things for the body we want to be? ‘Oh I will have slimmed down for that by the holidays’ does not always work for the pricey designer summer dress you are eyeing up after four days with your fingers in the box of Roses! On the flip side, it can be false economy to buy big and think ‘Oh I will get that winter coat altered and taken in’. Remember, alterations cost money. Do the mental math.

3 Feed yourself

Never, ever shop on an empty stomach so if you are heading for the 6am Next sale, be sure and have some breakfast first or bring a snack in your pocket. Research carried out by the University of Minnesota found that hungry shoppers spend more money compared to the non-hungry. Lack of sustenance could trigger horrible retail mistakes.

If you are feeling light-headed, chances are that you will get distracted, or even get competitive when you see a swarm of other shoppers buzzing around a pile ‘em high pyramid of designer handbags. You don’t want to go home with a ski jacket when you actually went in to buy swimwear.

4 It’s a no to text shopping

Take it handy and don’t get sales frisky. I’ve seen people try and shop for the entire family by texting them selfies or pics of bargains they’ve ‘discovered’ in the pile ’em high displays.

   Chances are they will text back a thumbs up emoji and roll over and go back to sleep but look horrified when you arrive back home with your ‘trophy’ buys. So who ends up bringing back the haul the next day?

5 Homework is good

Yes, absolutely, do your homework in advance, especially if you want to buy fashion. Check online, read your mailing list alerts and do some pre-sales swotting up on your smartphone as you go home on the bus/train.

Take a bricks ’n mortar approach and go into stores and check out what AW15 stock is left and if they have it in your size. Enjoy the comfort of trying on clothes to make sure they fit because on the opening day of the sale, that simply won’t be an option. 

However, on sale day, don’t expect to find things in exactly the same place as when you did your recce. Store managers like to move the rails around, and just like they bake bread at the front of the supermarket to whet your appetite, they will put the best bargains out the front to make sure you come through the doors.

6 Cash is king

Bring cash and don’t depend on the ATMs to be working or for your cards to perform, especially if you are not shopping on home ground and the country where the card was issued. I’ve experienced Irish cards being rejected by stores in Britain and there is nothing more frustrating, especially if you have loaded it up with credit in advance.

7 Wardrobe spread sheet

What are you low on, what do you really need? Fling open the doors and drawers and do an analysis of what would get lots of wear. Pink and blue are big colours next year. Do you already own them? What ‘bolt-ons’ could turn your existing piece into a great look? Are there holes in your boots? Then why are you are going out to buy a guna to impress on New Year’s Eve?

8 Lots of layers

Scarves, hats and gloves are great to buy for winter but don’t wear them to the sales, especially if they are really good ones and you will risk losing them in the rush. Shops get incredibly hot so remember to dress in layers and peel off as you go.

The fashion shopper with serious intent will wear a t-shirt with leggings or a light black dress and black tights so they don’t have to waste time with dressing rooms and they will have the perfect neutral canvas on which to view new buys. Think comfort and wear the comfy boots or trainers, even if you ultimately have your eye on acquiring a Little Black Dress because all the best stores have high shoes in the dressing rooms for you to try on.

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