/ Shopping

Why I’m avoiding the January sales

Sale sign in shop window

With some online sales starting on Christmas Day and shoppers queuing through the night to get into stores first, the sales are certainly silly this year. But can you really bag a bargain, or do sales just stress you out?

In January the frantic scrabble for last-minute bargains can put off even a hardened shopper. So this year, I’ve made a resolution to avoid shopping in January. The empty post-Christmas bank account and stress of competing for discounts is far too much for me.

But am I missing out on some amazing bargains? So far, January seems to have been filled with friends’ tales of 70% discounts, bargain gadgets, and bulk-buys that sound far too good to be true. Don’t even get me started on my Mum’s bargain £45 suit (which, despite raving about it for hours on New Year’s Eve, she will definitely never ever wear).

Being frugal and avoiding fights

The main reason I’m avoiding the sales is because, ironically, I just can’t afford them. I was a bit over-generous this Christmas, and the combination of a lot of presents for others and a lot of drinks for myself means that my wallet is completely empty until payday. Even the biggest bargains still cost something!

But I think I’m also a bit wearied by the act of sales shopping itself. Queuing outside a shop, pushing with others to get in, then having a battle of wills at the trouser rack when you see someone else eye the last pair in your size: it’s exhausting.

Not to mention the panic that hits when you realise you want to return something. Top tip from our Which? Consumer Rights section: your right to return faulty goods doesn’t disappear just because you’ve bought something in a sale.

Tightening belts in 2011

I suspect I’m not the only one who’ll be avoiding the January sales. The VAT rise won’t be helping shops shift their stock, and public sector cuts and job losses mean that many will be anticipating a leaner year in 2011.

I’m not sure if there’s a name for a post-Christmas Scrooge, but I am one – sitting at home in my Christmas jumper for the foreseeable future rather than venturing out. Will you be doing the same, or have you already hit the silly sales season and bagged some bargains?


Is there really such thing as a bargain? Huge post-Christmas demand for ‘sales’ (i.e. ‘just shopping’) = rick pickings for savvy retailers. Add to that the **** most retailers put out in their sales – take Next, why anyone would shop there at the best times is beyond me, but why anyone would want to shop there for stuff they had on the hangers more than 10 years ago I simply cannot imagine.

I suspect there are a few bargains to be had – but they probably are few and far between. Everything else is just reduced from an overhyped original price.

I know what you mean, I couldn’t believe that people were queuing from 2.30am to get into the Next sale – they must be insane! Not only was it freezing, are the offers inside really that worthwhile? If I get anything in the sale, it’s usually by accident when I go into a shop right at the end of the sale and they have a few items left. I can’t be bothered to push and shove and scramble for tat!

I suspect retailers love sales, otherwise why would they have them? Thousands of ready shoppers who have all lost sense of reality, ripe for being conditioned by salespeople and display signs into believing they’re grabbing a bargain.

And a great opportunity of getting rid of huge amounts of old stock that cannot be returned.

Brilliant. For the retailer.

Retailers love sales because – skilfully run – they boost income, empty older stocks and advertise the Brand name.

For the individual a sale can net you an item at say 50% of it’s previous price.

The snag is the Internet has shown that the 50% ‘bargain’ can be obtained elsewhere just as easily at other times.

Reminds me of years ago when the vast majority had no idea of the difference between Retail and Wholesale prices – I used to buy the vast majority of non food items at wholesale (then usually 33% below retail) and pocket the difference. I have a feeling that High Street stores will slowly disappear if on-line mailing improves as it is doing.

Jezza says:
9 January 2011

1) Most on-line retailers are still having to advertise at the same level as ‘bricks & mortar’ retailers. This means that their overhead costs are not substanially below those of high street retailers – therefore the major cost advantage for e-tailers is lack of staff and costs associated with high street retailing (rent, rates etc.) while having to charge carriage costs. this means that there will never be a huge difference in internet v high street costs unless one or other is prepared to accept lower margins. In addition you have to programme in the dis/advantage of instant access to goods in shops contra the internet – especially as in this winter with very adverse weather conditions.

2) RRP – most retailers use them. THEY MEAN NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you think you are saving 50, 60 70 or even 80% against an RRP think again – they are an artificial invention. Only ever judge your saving against a previous price. Oh, and the very worst perpertrators of artificial higher prices are…………………….. yes, the BIG Supermarkets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When i was 19 i got a job in a Jewellers and two days a year we’d have a two-thirds-off-everything sale and it was absolute chaos. Ques of people over 50 strong queing down the street, some waiting so long it boosted the nearby sandwich shops trade as thats where the end of the que was. The stuff was still expensive, 13 years ago now in times of low gold price, but people just lost their marbles. It was incredible. I actually had flu over the previous weekend but drugged up to my eyeballs just to go into work for the commission alone.