Guide to Clothes Sales Shopping


Along with champagne, Auld Lang Syne, countdowns and resolutions, there is one year-end tradition that is known and loved: the sales. Yes, try as they might to make people purchase throughout the year through multi million-pound marketing and try as they might to make fashion more affordable for everyone, the fact is that the populous loves cut price goods. It’s a matter of self-satisfaction. It’s rather like cheating the system in a legitimate way and people are prepared to put up with extraordinary queues, imperfect goods, incredible rudeness, frustration and no end of temporary misery to hold their purchase high when they are warmly ensconced in their own homes once more, like a trophy kill from the day’s battle.

There is certainly much to recommend sales. However, price reductions have a marked effect on even self-professed ‘rational’ purchasers; they can make them buy things they never even wanted. When the price to pay is so little, and the possible use to gain is so great, you might think buying six or seven things, which you had no notion of considering an hour beforehand, harmless. You might be looking forward to a hefty Christmas bonus. Generous relatives might have lavished cash on you for a secure New Year. However, even those with money to burn can waste resources on unwanted items. Here is some field advice when entering the sales battleground.

Know what you want

It’s very important to set yourself targets when sale shopping. As with all target-setting, it’s wise to be realistic; don’t expect to find exquisite suits for £50. Imagine the worst case scenario vis-à-vis price and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised. Secondly, be open to alternatives. You’re likely to be very disappointed if you set out to find a few coveted items only to find the sizes are inappropriate or they have simply sold out, so if you’re looking for, as an example, skinny grey denim, do some research. Pencil in visiting several contending shops for the item, and you’re more likely to strike it lucky.

Don’t wait too long

Reductions: we get them, but then we want more. It’s a very risky game waiting until the latter half of the sale period, hoping the jacket we’ve seen will be reduced further and will still be available in our size. I’ve learned my lesson on this score. In the end, just to save a measly £20, I missed out on a wonderful blazer, with a very individual pattern, that I could have bought at a, retrospectively, very reasonable discount. If it’s smart and classic, and your size is common, do not wait; you are likely to be disappointed.

What to buy/not to buy

I could fill an entire wardrobe with items I have rarely worn because their appeal did not last beyond a couple of months. Very ‘trendy’ items, with little substance, are generally a waste of money in the sale period. The best items to choose are the standards; two-button jackets, classically shaped denim, ties, shirts and underwear. Suits are also great purchases come sale time, and it’s sad when I see wonderfully cut suits densely piled onto creaking racks in unpopular and uncared for retailers.
A suit that cost £500+ new, if it fits well enough (it can always be altered a little), if it’s reduced by up to 50%, is an absolute steal and yet I see masses of the things come late January, still there, dusty, being offered at a price cut of 75%. A suit, properly made, will never go out of fashion and buy a good enough model and it should last you a good number of years.

Another good purchase is footwear. Well-made shoes are costly, and most specialised shoe shops will not offer reductions at any other time of year than mid-summer and January. Expect reductions to remain fairly rigid, but comparatively generous; spending £175 on £250 shoes is money very well spent.

Avoid budgeting

Though prima facie, this looks like terrible advice, what I actually mean is, do not set out to spend all the money you have set aside for the sales. If there is some dosh left over, and you haven’t found something else you really want, avoid wasting it on an irrelevance. It’s far better to save it, and add it to next month’s clothing or grooming budget and buy something you really need instead.


Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at