Cash in on the January sales

22 December 2011

Battling to find a bargain in the sales can be stressful, and it's easy to pick out something you don't really need and waste your money.

So before you hit the shops, take note of these tips to make sure you take advantage of the best discounts.

1. Find out when the big sales start

Difficult economic times are seeing many high street shops holding more frequent sales, but typically the big stores open their doors to bargain hunters soon after Christmas.

Be prepared and make a note in your diary of when the sales start at your favourite retailers.

At, a sales information website, you can find when other clothing stores start their sales by signing up for alerts.

2. Get your timing right

It often pays to arrive as soon as the shops open to try to beat the crowds, particularly if you're after a popular item.

However, if you're not shopping for something specific but just hoping to bag a bargain, shopping out of peak times might be wiser. That way you'll have the added bonus of the sales assistants not being in a rush, and with fewer crowds you'll be more likely to find the best buys.

If you're not a fussy shopper and want, say, a TV but aren't bothered which brand it is, consider hitting the sales on the final day of the sale when stores are often desperate to offload stock.

3. Shop online

Using the internet to shop means you get the added benefit of the peace and quiet of your own home, rather than the stress of dealing with the scrum of bargain shoppers. It also gives you time to check the price you're paying is competitive by using one of the many price comparison sites.

You'll be able to focus on what you really need rather than become distracted by goodies on a shelf on the other side of the store. Even if you intend to hit the high street, search online first.

Zabetta Camilleri, co-founder of, says: "A lot of the high street brands may also have completely separate online sales for clothes, with an increasing number introducing an 'outlet' section that includes all the items they have on sale."

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4. Haggle

Don't forget to haggle. According to, it's not just for market stalls but it works on the high street too.

Sales shopping, in particular, lends itself to good haggling skills - especially if you're shopping towards the end of the sale or in a closing down sale. For example, if you spot an item of furniture such as a chair you like, you could offer to buy two if you can get one half price.

If you are prepared to buy odd items or those unlikely to prove popular with other shoppers you can secure some big bargains. No matter what the time of year you're sales shopping, you're always likely to get the best discounts on products that are out-of-season. A typical example is buying garden furniture in winter. So keep an eye out for items you'll be able to put to good use in a few months' time.

Look also for product flaws you can use to haggle down the price, and stress to the assistant how they will make it harder to sell the item. Don't forget to check out display items, either, as you are more likely to get a good deal on these or be able to offer a lower price.

Online research before going shopping can help, too, as you can create competition by stating what price the item is on sale at elsewhere. Become a knowledgeable shopper, and you'll bag some bargains.

10 tips to becoming a successful haggler

5. Scrutinise your purchases

Buying items you'll never use is one of the most common sales mistakes. Will you really wear that matching bobble hat and gloves, or use the Santa ornament with a wonky reindeer and missing sleigh?

Give yourself a few moments to take a breath before getting your wallet out, and ask if you're wasting your money.

Camilleri adds: "Check out exactly which retailers have the stuff you really want. Remember, there are many brands out there, so while one store might not have the bargains you want, another will."

6. Know your rights

Reduced prices don't mean reduced shopping rights. If the items you buy in the sales are faulty, you can return them (unless that's the reason they were reduced) - simple as that. The Sale of Goods Act clearly states that items must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. Therefore, you still have the right to claim a refund, replacement or repair on faulty sale goods.

However, if you find you simply don't want something you've bought, you may find the store imposes a reduced time period during which you can return the items, down to 14 days, say, from 28.

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