Thursday 23 January 2020

How to survive the post-Christmas sales by our fashion editor who has shopped them all

Fashion editor Bairbre Power is a veteran of the Christmas sales rush. Here, she shares her top 25 tips for surviving the frantic festive bargain hunt

A shopper carries her bags on Oxford Street in central London on December 21, 2019 on the last Saturday before Christmas. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
A shopper carries her bags on Oxford Street in central London on December 21, 2019 on the last Saturday before Christmas. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

Sales are like Marmite.

You either loathe them with a passion or totally love the cut and thrust of the retail chase. The number of people I know who will be heading out the door at first light on St Stephen's Day is a testament to that very particular festive blend of cabin fever, retail-therapy habits and a lustful desire to bag that luxury kimono or those designer trainers at all costs.

So what camp are you in? Begrudger? Enthusiastic bargain hunter? Or maybe you're just curious onlooker who wants to get away from the couch and the tin of Roses, and wouldn't mind scooping a natty pair of Church's brogues or a super-luxe, thick-pile dressing gown for lounging around in that life you want to lead in 2020.

I'm a hardcore sales-goer. I've covered them for years for this newspaper and have met those steely bargain hunters who would forgo their Christmas dinner to sit outside stores on fold-up chairs in order to scoop a cut-price sitting-room suite or a bag of golf clubs. Ah, those were the days of those hardcore few who braved the elements to land their quarry. Nowadays things have changed utterly. There isn't the same almightly festive sprint on December 26 because goods are slashed from Black Friday and if they are not marked, you can always ask. This sea change in sales and bargains is but a click of the mouse away but whether we are shopping digitally or queueing up outside the stores, there are still a few pointers to keep in mind.

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1 Sign up with brand, store and shopping-centre websites, and download store apps to avail of alerts on forthcoming deals. Insider knowledge is key.

2 If you'll be sales shopping online, get ready now by logging discount codes. Now's the time to track prices, compile your 'wishlist' and save down the product numbers so you will be ready to go.

3 Online retail-cart culture differs and some stores will empty your cart if you do not trigger a sale within a certain amount of time. Meanwhile others will be watching your indecision and may even go so far as to offer you a further discount in order to get you to spend with them.

4 If you are planning on buying electrical equipment, now is the time to read reviews so you will know which model to pounce on. Shop assistants are usually on cash-till duty during the sales, so for big-ticket buys you need to arm yourself with the information beforehand.

5 Watch the clock. The high-street shops traditionally wait until after breakfast on December 26 to open their doors, but online deals have the Cinderella factor and go live at midnight on the 26th - so set an alarm if you think you run the risk of being in a turkey coma.

6 Avoid shopping against the clock. There's nothing more unsettling than watching the decreasing stopwatch on the screen as you frantically scan to find your size, colour and shape. This kind of added pressure only leads to silly mistakes, so don't fall for it.

7 Make a list and check it twice. I'm a big fan of lists and I highly recommend having a plan of campaign starting with the 'hero' pieces you REALLY want to bag, then work down from there. I like to target items that will enhance my life 365 days of the year, so for me that's a good pair of sunglasses (which I will have tried on in advance to check the fit) followed by a new duck-down topper and some bed linen with a high thread count that I wouldn't normally be able to afford at somewhere like The White Company or Francis Brennan The Collection at Dunnes Stores.

8 Give yourself a budget and stick to it. That kind of financial clarity will help banish any last-minute guilt pangs. Be your own bank manager and give yourself permission to spend 'X amount' - that way, you won't panic at the final hurdle and ditch the designer number at the till.

9 Your physical wellbeing and mental state are important so, in order to stay focused and be on your 'A' sales game, it's crucial to stay hydrated. Whatever you do, don't hit the sales with a hangover or show up sleep-deprived after a night on the tiles.

10 Don't shop on an empty tummy either. Being hungry only ramps up your desire to acquire things. If you get tired, the danger is that your focus dips and you veer off course and into the realm of unmarshalled aspirational buying. The clever ones bring a few squares of dark chocolate for an instant sugar hit.

11 Check delivery costs because they can take the good out of an online purchase. If are shopping for a New Year's Eve outfit but are worried you might miss the postman over Christmas, sign up for a Parcel Motel account at parcelmotel.com.

12 If you want to buy from a UK or US website or store but it doesn't deliver here, check out An Post's AddressPal service (addresspal.anpost.ie), which allows you to create a UK or US virtual delivery address for the purposes of online shopping. They will deliver to your door or you can collect your items at your local post office.

13 Click & Collect is a great asset for time-poor shoppers. If you are buying clothes, don't just grab the box and take it home. Be sure to try on the item in the store in case it's the wrong fit and needs to be returned.

14 Sales shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores is my favourite. If I'm serious about a piece, I will walk the store on December 23 or 24 and do reconnaissance to see what rail my future Dries Van Noten coat is residing on and where exactly it is positioned. That way, I can get to it quickly on December 26. Veteran bargain-hunters know to watch out for colour-coded stickers going on swing tags. That means the items will be reduced come sale day.

15 Dress for the sales. I'm not saying 'dress up' here - I'm recommending thin layers that can be peeled off and pulled on as you go from freezing pavement to overheated store.

16 Dressing rooms slow you down! Be savvy and avoid having to use changing rooms by dressing from the inside out. By that I mean wear neutrals such as black jeans/leggings and a tee so you can pull on clothes without wasting time queuing for the fitting rooms.

17 Wear a cross-body bag. It will free up your hands to dig out those bargains.

18 Choose which bank cards you use carefully. Credit cards offer better consumer protection through warranties and fraud protection - but they are costlier.

19 Cash is king, so bring it. ATMs will be empty by lunchtime on December 26 - and what happens to your sales list if a IT glitch affects online and mobile-app banking services?

20 Shop alone. Don't bring the kids for a family day out. They will only slow you down.

21 Put those receipts away carefully and don't let the shop assistant pop them into the paper bag.

22 Charge your phone the night before but if you forget, there's a handy locker service where you can charge your phone in Arnotts and also one in Dundrum Town Centre. Did you know there are five bus stops with #SmarterLiving charger points around Dublin where you can charge you phone? See electricireland.ie

23 Apart from the all-important bottle of water, your sales kit should include a tape measure and a list of measurements if you are buying for your house. It would be a pity if that giant TV screen was too big for the alcove.

24 Resist temptation and ask yourself: would you really buy it if it wasn't reduced'? The biggest hurdle is to avoid being seduced by posh brands that you wouldn't normally afford to buy. Remember this sales advice: it's not a bargain if you are not going to use it. I always apply my 'rule of three'. Will it go with three pieces in my existing wardrobe? If so, it can come home with me.

25 Shop for your size now, not the one that you want to be in a year's time. Will it still be a bargain if you have to spend a small fortune getting it significantly altered?

* Savvy fashionistas will shop with an eye on upcoming trends for spring/summer 2020. You can bank on the colour white being huge along with frills, bralets, Victorian sleeves, faux leathers and shorts

So what are your rights at sales time?

When you buy something at a reduced price in a sale, you have exactly the same rights and protections as if you had purchased it at full price.

You have entered into a contract with the retailer and your rights are set out in the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act of 1980, which states that goods purchased must be of merchantable quality, fit for their intended purpose and as described.

You will need to provide proof of purchase, which may be a shop receipt, a credit or debit-card statement or other documentation that proves the item was bought in that specific shop or chain.

It is best to avoid impulse shopping because if buyer's remorse sets in and you decide that you do not need - or even like - the item, you may not be able to bring it back and claim a refund.

If you change your mind about a purchase, you have no rights under consumer law and the retailer has no obligation to take back an item that is not faulty.

Many retailers offer exchanges or refunds once you have a receipt and the item is returned within a certain amount of time in a saleable condition with all the original labels, tags and packaging.

However, this is store policy and represents a gesture of goodwill - it is not a legal requirement. Moreover, the shop's policy may be to issue such refunds in the form of a credit note or a gift voucher for the store.

So make sure that the item is something you really want before you hand over your money.

In addition, keep in mind that shops are entirely within their rights to change their returns policy during sales periods, so always check the policy with them before you make any purchase.

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