Sales fever

Christmas is almost upon us. While we are all getting ready to celebrate this special occasion and enjoy some quality time with family and friends at the back of some of our minds are thoughts of the next major event in the festive calendar - the Christmas sales.

Despite the fact that we shopped till we dropped (albeit on a tight budget ) right up to Christmas Eve and vowed we would never set foot inside a store or elbow jostle our way through the crowds again we somehow manage to summon up sufficient enthusiasm and stamina to hit the shops not long after the turkey and plum pudding has passed our lips.

With the recession biting deeper and consumers keen to shake off the prevailing mood of doom and gloom (even momentarily ) the lure of an injection of retail therapy is stronger than ever. Shops, especially eager in the current financial climate to attract customers, are offering major discounts on many items.

The sales give us an opportunity to make good fashion investments, to target quality outfits which we have had our eye on all season and are now hopefully being reduced to giveaway prices.

To get the most from the sales you need to have a clear sales strategy as it is all too easy to rush in and snap up cut price items only to rue your impulse buying later.

Here are some tips to help get you started:-

1. Shop with an open mind. This is one of the secrets of successful shopping. It is probably also the downfall of those of us who find shopping irresistible.

2. Start out early. Avoid shopping with your partner, overly sensible friends or small children.

3. Dress to suit the occasion. If you intend to spend the day going from shop to shop you will need comfortable shoes. Wear clothes that are easy to get in and out of otherwise you will waste valuable shopping time lacing up boots and buttoning up jackets. It is worthwhile making an effort with your appearance too because it will give you a better picture of how your new outfits will look on you

4. Visit as many shops as possible. Compare prices, selection and incentives (some shops will allow you to return items and get a refund if you change your mind. Others offer loyalty bonuses. ) The larger department stores are ofen the best targets for serious bargain hunters. However, small shops and exclusive boutiques can also offer big discounts on quality items.

5. Try everything on. Some clothes have hanger appeal, others do not but may look great when worn. You could be by-passing the bargain of the century if you do not take time to find out if it is the perfect garment for you.

6. Be prepared to buy brands you have never heard of before. Broaden your vision and be ready to take calculated risks.

7. Look for quality items. The best bargains are classic fashions, such as coats and suits. Choose colours for all seasons instead of high fashion shades or styles which date very quickly. For coats, French navy, black and camel are wise colour choices. Do not buy anything that cannot be co-ordinated with at least two other garments you already own

8. If you see something you like, snap it up. Otherwise, some other dedicated follower of fashion will. If you are unsure about an item, pick it up and carry it around the shop with you as you deliberate whether it’s worth spending your hard earned cash on.

9. Buy a complete look. This is easier than buying bits and pieces because it will eliminate the effort of co-ordinating garments. A well cut black dress will work well with a number of looks and will take you from day to evening with maximum impact. For men, a tailored suit or trousers and jackets are good buys.

10. Stock up on basics if you are putting a new wardrobe together. If you have just landed your first job, look out for colourful tops to mix and match, jackets, classic trousers and bags. Buy some of the latest lines if they suit you and are kind to your pocket.

11. Buy one season ahead. Outlets tend to sell summer stock in winter and vice versa. An unexpectly mild winter or cold summer can leave retailers with huge amounts of clothing to shift which they then need to get rid of rapdily.

12. Double check sizing. Increasingly, stock is being labelled in European sizing which can be confusing. Never rely on what the label says. Sizes vary with style and brand.

13. Visit the shops often. Stores change stock frequently and often slash prices on reduced items daily.

14. Know your colours. Start with a few neutral colours which suit you and then build around these. The most versatile neutral bases are navy, grey, black and beige. You can then add additional colours to give these a lift. Most people can wear most colours, it is the shade and intensity of these which determine whether they will work for you.

15. Look out for accessories. These are often reduced in price and are an ideal way to update and expand your wardrobe. Jewellery, bags, belts, scarves and hats are good bets. They can change an entire look, disguise figure flaws, take an outfit from day to evening or update last year’s favourites.

16. Give yourself time. We tend to make mistakes when we are tired and rushed. Avoid shopping at peak times or when you are feeling below par because your judgment may be impaired then.

17. Check the finish of the item, both inside and out. Examine seams, buttons and zips. These are a good guide to overall quality.

18. Know your consumer rights. If the coat you bought falls apart at the seams within days of buying it you are entitled to a refund or a replacement. Under the Sale of Goods Act items must be of merchantable quality and be fit for their purpose.

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