Shop savvy in the January sales

Shiny sale baubles
Some shiny baubles, yesterday
"The sales are a great place to pick up seasonal items like swimwear and barbecues very cheaply"
  • | by Rachel England

The January sales can mean big bargains, especially in the clothing and electrical sectors.

However, nearly half (48%) of UK shoppers admit to owning a sales item that they’ve never worn or used. Why?

Sloppy sales shopping skills is why. With that in mind, behold our top tips to ensure you return from the shops victorious...

Know what you want and need

Before entering the bargains battleground, think about the things you could actually do with and make a list, especially where clothing is concerned.

The sales are a good opportunity to get decent staple items – black jackets, boots, good quality white shirts, and so on – so having an idea of what you’re after will stop you being bombarded with options and returning with a pile of soon-to-be clutter.

Do your research

If you get the opportunity, visit your target shops before the sales start to try on items or have a demonstration of a particular item you have your eye on.

You might find that it’s not for you after all, which will save you valuable time, effort and money come sales day.

Go early and be prepared

Crowds are at their worst around the middle of the day and late afternoon, so get up early to beat the queues.Wear comfortable shoes, make sure you’re well-fed and carry a bottle of water with you.

If you’ve made a definitive list of must-buys, hit the relevant stores first before initiating ‘browse mode’, lest you miss out.

Think ahead

It’s freezing outside and with a good extra couple of pounds around your waist (thanks, mince pies) you’re not likely to be thinking about your summer holidays just yet.

However, the sales are a great place to pick up seasonal items like swimwear and barbecues very cheaply, so thinking ahead could save you a pretty penny in the future (not to mention huge reductions on Crimbo-related items that can be squirreled away until next December).


The main purpose of the January sales is to shift surplus and leftover stock – shops mark their items down so they disappear out the door and are no longer their responsibility. There’s no harm, then, in a spot of haggling, especially if the item is still relatively expensive (electricals, for example).

But choose your attack time wisely – you won’t have much luck on the first day of the sales while other punters are happy to pay the advertised price.

The last day of a sale, or as staff are closing up, are good times to strike a deal.

Take a shopping buddy

Taking a friend along with you can be invaluable: they can give you an honest appraisal of that bright orange strapless dress, provide light relief during particularly crowded moments and serve as an extra search party for that particular item in a big store.

However, make sure your relationship is strong enough to withstand what can be a hugely stressful experience – partners in particular should be left at home.

Take a moment to reflect

Shopping can create a rush of endorphins in the brain, especially if we think we’re getting a bargain, so once you’ve found something that takes your fancy keep hold of it for a while and consider whether you really want the item, or are just attracted to the price cut.

It doesn’t matter how cheap it is, if it’s just going to gather dust then it’ll be a waste of money.

Know when to say no

Beware sales assistants trying to flog you ‘complementary’ items for a reduced price; a scarf to go with the gloves, season two to go with season one of that TV series, and so on.

Similarly, approach ‘buy one get one half price’ deals with caution. They’re great if you genuinely want a second item, but if you don’t need it then, again, it’s just a waste of money.

Think about the internet 

Online retailers often have generous January sales too – sometimes even better than their high street counterparts – and after all the mania of the festive season there’s no shame in kicking back with pile of leftover mince pies and a virtual shopping centre instead of the real (considerably more stressful) thing.

Of course, that lull between Christmas and the New Year is an ideal time to review stuff like your car insurance, home insurance, savings, credit cards and so forth. Pour yourself a cup of tea, make yourself a nice leftover turkey sandwich and fire up You could end up saving a packet...