Ever since Primark and its wannabe high street rivals started offering popular items at laughably low prices, the thrill of picking up a bargain has diminished. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t compelling reasons for some savvy shopping as the mark-downs begin, with top designer brands and high street prices slashed by up to 50 per cent.
There are two rules for successful sales buying: the first is the same as successful non-sale buying: really love it or really need it. If you are about to purchase something only because it seems too good a bargain to pass up, step away from the rail now. The second is to take an audit of your wardrobe before you leave home, define the gaps and make a list, so you are clear about what really falls into the “need” category.
If you are planning a big purchase like a coat, ensure the colour and length will work with what you already own: you won’t save money if you buy a hugely reduced MaxMara coat in brown and find you have to buy boots, shoes, bag and skirts to match it. Just occasionally, however, do work on the “love it” principle: if the coat looks so fabulous on you that you can’t bear to walk away, buy it. It will always make you feel fabulous — and you can’t put a price on that.
When considering how to fill gaps, it is worth bearing in mind that planet fashion’s love affair with the dress is far from over. Buy the right one and you can wear it for the rest of this season. It can go over a sweater or under a boyfriend jacket or cardi, teamed with heavyweight opaques and ankle boots, and then be remixed for spring with a lightweight jacket, bare legs and gladiators. If you haven’t succumbed to the charm of “interesting” trousers (ankle skimming, peg-top/carrot-top, harem), the sales are the perfect moment to get your eye in, because these difficult trousers are not going away. Buy the best pair you can afford, because a good fabric and cut will improve the fit and fall.
Tailoring is also back to stay, and it is one of the areas where quality really tells, so it is worth investing if you can. Labels to look for include Moschino, Antonio Berardi, Nicole Farhi, Betty Jackson and Dries van Noten.
If your sales shopping is less about filling gaps and more about getting ahead of the trends for spring 2010, details to look out for are draping; quirkiness; icy pastels (lilac, mint, tangerine, aqua); laser and exotic prints; stripes; lace for daywear; skirts (on the knee or shorter) with frills and tiers; ultra-feminine touches like ruffles, frills and lettuce edges; fierce platform shoes; kitten heels with pointed or almond toes.
Your guide to bargain hunting
18 Culford Gardens, SW3. Now on. Short cocktail and evening dresses were £700, now £350; long dresses £1,500, now £700 or less.
December 27; on-line (www.brownsfashion.com) December 25. Up to 50 per cent. Jil Sander leather boots were £580, now £405; YSL buckle bag was £865, now £600.
56 Beauchamp Place, SW3. Dec 29. Leather skirt was £495, now £395; taffeta mac £395, now £295; grey flannel jacket £495, now £395.
Westfield London Shopping Centre. Now on. From 20 per cent off leather bags, coats, jackets and accessories. Further discounts in January. Quilted bow tote was £349, now £279; Blaze leather trench was £575, now £499.
Fenwick, Bond Street
December 28. Reductions of up to 50 per cent on all labels, plus extra 10 per cent from 10am to 1.30pm on opening day. Schumacher coat was £539, now £325; Sandro sequin crew neck jumper £245, now £169.
Fenwick, Brent Cross
December 27. Up to 50 per cent, including lingerie from Fantasie, Lejaby and Lepel; 30 per cent off Nicole Farhi, Armani, MaxMara and DKNY, including Armani faux shearling jacket, was £340, now £238; Diesel puffa coat was £170, now £119.
New Cavendish Street, W1 and branches. Now on (until January 25). Up to 50 per cent off dresses, coats, leatherwear, skirts and trousers.
Oxford Street and Brent Cross. Starts December 27.
St John’s Wood. December 26. Michael Kors dresses in jersey, fine wool and cashmere, including neon pink strapless cashmere dress, was £815, now £570; pink fox coat down from £5,000 to £2,500; 30 per cent off Antonio Berardi tailoring and his dresses with exposed zip, £905, now £633; Joseph furs, sheepskin and leather at least 30 per cent off.
74 Marylebone Lane, London W1. Now on. Up to 55 per cent off all labels. Cream and grey day-to-dinner dress by Rebecca Taylor, was £400, now £180; across-the-body bag by Avril Gau was £420, now £210.
Westfield London Shopping Centre. December 26. 50 per cent off all womenswear by the top Australian designer. Day and evening dresses from £49;long velvet dress was £340, now £170.
Westfield London Shopping Centre. December 26. Up to 50 per cent off on selected lines, including grey wool coat with oversize shawl collar, was £119, now £95.
Hinde Street, W1 and branches. Up to 50 per cent. Puffa coats by Add were £279, now £239; Tania cashmere cardis were £289 now £200; suede gilets, were £675, now £400; J-Brand jeans, £189, now £130.
Rigby & Peller
December 26. All sale items reduced by 50 per cent.
December 2. Website (www.saraberman.co.uk). 30 per cent off. Striped cardigan £265 now £185; black leather bag £325 now £227.
W1, Manchester and Birmingham. December 26. Up to 75 per cent on womenswear and accessories.