The great January sales con

29 December 2010

I like shopping - I'm female it's near enough a given, right? But I don't like it to the point that, having been out on Christmas eve trawling the shops for the last few presents, I'm ready to hit the high street again just over a day later.

A few hardcore shoppers gave up their Christmas day board games, cold buffet and the Eastenders Christmas day special, to queue up from around midnight on 25 December, (no doubt a turkey sarnie and slice of yule log from miseed buffet packed to keep them going) to be first at the sales at Selfridges in London. By the time the store opened its doors at 11am, 8,000 keen shoppers were raring to go and news footage showed queuers leaping and whooping with joy across the shop's threshold. Really?

Are they forgetting what January sales shopping is like? Any sense of order disappears, you go to the 'tall section' and find only jeans for petite people - in shades of lime green and magenta. You find a pair of shoes you love but the right foot is two sizes bigger than the left. Then there's the diappointment: for example the digital radio you spy, price slashed in half, is no longer available, even though it looks like there are still boxes piled high in store.

And finally there's the fear. Christmas has definitely been and gone and 'tis no longer the season of goodwill. Shoppers seem more aggressive: for example they are a lot less willing to let you pass by in case you discover a great sales find before them. And woe betide the innocent bystander who is standing in the way of another shopper's coveted item. Sales shopping is certainly not for browsers.

On top of the increased stress levels and required ability to detangle multiple coathangers from one another - and fellow shoppers, January sales in recent years have also lost extra gloss thanks to pre-Christmas sales offering pretty good deals now too. However, this year sees the dreaded VAT increase on 4 January from 17.5% to 20%. A 2.5% increase doesn't sound that impressive and to put it into perspective a packard bell laptop, priced at £499.99, would cost an extra £10.63.

If we've already got certain things to buy, it's sensible to make our purchases before 4 January but I for one know that when I go sales shopping I'm anything but sensible. Instead of looking at how much I've spent, I focus on the supposedly fantastic savings I've made: 'but Nathalie those unusual shade of green jeans don't even reach your ankles...' 'Yes shopping conscience I know but they were £50, reduced to £20 and I can wear them like pedal pushers.' Hmmm.

It's true to say that in the long run, the VAT hikes will have a more significant effect on my earnings - tax freedom day is three days later in 2011, but I'm going to try and adopt the 'look how much I've spent' approach instead of the 'look how much I've saved' to get me through the January sales without making any unwise buys.