The best thing I ever bought in the sales was a Sophie Hulme handbag. I got it for less than half-price, with same-day delivery, and wore it obsessively. To this day, it’s one of the best bags I’ve owned. The worst thing I ever bought was a trench coat by Preen. It was £180 down from five times that and completely gorgeous. “A bargain!” I hear you cry. Not when it’s two sizes too big and the sleeves reach your knees. I have had it for over a year and worn it twice – a terrible financial decision, whichever way you look at it. Why am I telling you this? Because the Christmas sales are already in full swing and, while there are fantastic bargains to be found, there are some clangers to dodge along the way. And to make sure you do dodge them, here is my comprehensive shopping guide.
Do buy: your yearly supply of underwear
In the rush for big-ticket items (coats, bags, boots) pants and bras tend not to get a look in, however, now is the perfect time to stock up (with fingers crossed you don't then get a load for Christmas). Discounts on underwear are among the best, and as they don’t follow the same seasonal trends as the rest of your clothes, styles never really go out of date. (Ditto swimwear, but if you can bring yourself to try on a bikini in January you are a braver woman than I.) Plus, there’s nothing lovelier than starting off the new year with some nice new pants. This year, Triumph, House of Fraser and Net-A-Porter have great sales on their smalls. I’m heading to the latter for 40% off Cosabella's pretty soft-cup bras and matching knicks.
DO BUY: JEWELLERY
Like underwear, jewellery designs are perennial so you’re much less likely to buy something now and go off it in four months. Plus, there’s the added bonus of not having to worry about whether it fits or not. This year, the best jewellery sales belong to Monica Vinader , Net-A-Porter and Wolf & Badger.
DO BUY: A NEW BAG
This is one big-ticket item that is definitely worth grabbing in the sales. The aim here is to get a great quality bag that will last you for the rest of the year and beyond. Have a look at Coach and Michael Kors (which both have 50% off) Mimi Berry and Matches.
Do buy: labels that are usually expensive
When talking to successful sales shoppers, there is one thing they all have in common – they all head straight for the spendy stuff. Rather than saving a fiver on a high-street top, one could argue that there is more value to be had in stalking the stuff you can’t usually afford that, thanks to a sizeable discount, suddenly becomes doable. I have friends who have this technique down to an art, with past triumphs including a Kenzo bag, Isabel Marant sandals and YMC jumpers. And, last year, I managed to bag a pair of Prada shoes and Celine sunglasses for a fraction of their original prices. As I'm newly engaged, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for any designer wedding dresses in the sales. My top sale destinations are Matches (up to 50% off with more items being added until the end of Jan), Farfetch (up to 50% off) and Net-A-Porter (also up to 50% off). The Pool’s Sam Baker recommends keeping an eye on Isabel Marant: “outrageously overpriced but worth picking up in the sale”. Last year, she scored a pair of leopard-print ankle boots, of which I continue to be very jealous. Also look out for Liberty, which has up to 50% off, including labels like Rixo and Ganni.
Do buy: the keepers
Staples, classics, capsule items – whatever you want to call them, when it comes to sale shopping, stick to the pieces you are going to get a lot of wear from. This might be a leather jacket or it might be a marabou boob-tube – it really depends on your style. World-famous sales shopper Stacey Duguid (not really, but she is very good) calls these the “eggs, flour and water of a woman’s wardrobe”, and for her include denim shirts, ankle boots and jumpers. “Look for keepers – stuff you’ll be able to wear into spring and save for next autumn,” she advises. Check out Chinti & Parker’s jumpers, which have 50% off and Whistles has up to 50% off coats. Boden has up to 50% off everything, which means midi dresses and coats galore.
If you fancy being really sensible, grab one of the zillions of discounted party dresses for any upcoming posh-frock emergencies. Warehouse has up to 50% off partywear, as does L.K. Bennett. Karen Millen has 60% off eveningwear.
Do buy: last-chance saloon purchases
I like to call these the sales dregs – the last pieces in the shop waiting to be snapped up. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are the undesirables; if you can stick it out until the last moment, you will benefit from the biggest discounts. Add the item of choice to your basket then check in regularly to see if the discount has increased. As soon as it drops to 70% off – BAM! One click and it’s all yours. If you are venturing into the sales IRL (seriously, though, why?) leaving it to the last minute also has its benefits; the stuff left on the rails is the stuff that’s been overlooked so you’re less likely to bump into someone else wearing it.
Don’t buy: when drunk
I know – how boring. If I had it my way, almost everything would be done with a wine in hand but, alas, responsibility calls. Due to heightened emotions and transacting money, sales shopping is probably best done sober. As Stacey explains: “wine is the sole reason for thinking you’ll get loads of wear out of a handbag that looks like a muppet”. Secure your sales buy, then hit the vino. How lovely.