Paul Galvin: Bargains and blues
It's hard to feel positive about January, but at least it's nearly over and you can still unleash your inner bounty hunter in the sales, says Paul Galvin -- just fill your boots carefully.
It's very hard to bat for January. It has few, if any, redeeming features. It's a bit like being forced to watch a very bad movie -- you just can't wait for it to end.
Either side of it there's cause for optimism. October has a bank holiday. November has my birthday. December has Christmas. February has... well, February is not a whole lot better, but at least it doesn't hang around as long.
To be fair, February has a few things going for it, such as the return of lots of sport on TV and my mate Scruff's birthday.
But January. Unless you're a teacher on holidays for the first week or two, January is a different story. A long and boring story in fact. Never ending, like the road to Bethlehem.
I often wondered how the three wise men got home again with no North Star to guide them. They had fierce bother getting there in the first place.
My guess is that they waited until it was bright and then took off in a mad rush to get home. No word spoken, each of them tearing off at their own speed, talking to themselves, trying to beat the other two home.
In fairness, they were the three wise men so they probably all found short cuts home.
I have a friend who buys a book to read every January just for something to do. He has no earthly interest in books or reading in general; he's just a smart guy who knows that the 31 days need to be filled up doing interesting stuff to ward off the boredom.
If it wasn't for the January sales, I'd be all for hibernation for the nation. We'll turn a blind eye to the fact that the January sales start in December these days and give January the benefit of the doubt.
Some people come alive at this time of year -- bargain or bounty hunters, shoppers; call them what you will.
The prospect of getting that LBD or that LCD, whatever it may be, for a fraction of the price brings out the animal in shoppers. Men and women. Well, mostly women.
Queues, times, manners, rules and regulations go out the window as people wait for the doors to open and the madness to commence.
Floods of people racing into stores to secure their targets is a regular scene in major shopping centres this time of year. And they're right.
Real designer quality can be had for a snip and you may as well go for some designer goods if you can. The sales are a time to make an investment -- don't blow your money on impulse buys you don't really want or that don't really fit just because it's a great bargain.
Retailers know the benefits of getting in early, too, catching the shoppers before other retailers. The Next store in Tralee opened at 5am on St Stephen's Day.
If retailers are clever, they are already e-tailing and have launched sales on their websites. Retailers without an online presence are suffering badly.
Online sales are worth €3.5bn to the Irish economy, according to experts. Unsold stock is a noose around their neck. Buyers don't want to see too much of their purchases still on the shelves in January when the numbers are being crunched.
Zara's business model is so efficient that only about 18pc of its stock goes on sale in January.
Overall, this is a great time for bargain hunters. The economic outlook is so bad for retailers today that the biggest sales for decades were predicted with up to 75-80pc off. So fill your boots. But be smart.
Pick up something worthwhile. It could be something as worthwhile as socks, jocks and a watch or something bigger, such as a sofa.
Of course, the sales aren't just restricted to material goods. People are on sale in January, too. The transfer window is open and managers in the Premiership are spying out of it, looking for their bargains.
I'm a United fan so forget the bargains. I'll have Casillas, Maicon, Piqué, Bale, Wilshire, Lampard and Ronaldo.
And I'll have that Bottega Veneta smoking jacket I saw in 'Esquire' too. Only €1,395?? Bargain. I'll have two please.