The new seasons have hit stores, which means they need to make room. But as red banners go up, the sale rail can be a minefield of items no one else wanted, suddenly able to snare the unwary shopper thanks to a 50 per cent off sticker.
However, nestled among the leopard print sweats are glimmers of sartorial gold. You just need eyes and elbows sharp enough to snag them, before the hordes descend.
“You need to get in as early as possible,” says Hannah Jones, personal shopping manager at Topman. “Any one-off pieces, or the last few of a particular style, will be sure to go early in the sale. This is when you will discover those golden finds.” Naturally, sales pieces don’t restock.
Mindset is key, says Jones. “Shop the sale as you would full price. Be smart about your finds and take your time to find those hidden gems.” Just don’t let your picks be steered by numbers; if you wouldn’t have considered it at full price, avoid. Spending 70 per cent less on something you’ll never wear is still a waste of money.
For a less running-of-the-bulls-like experience, take your discount hunt online. Digital preparation pays dividends, says Sam Lobban, buying manager at Mr Porter. “If something is just out of your reach financially – add it to your wishlist.” Once the sale lands, scan your coveted items for pixellated red stickers. “Chances are at least one will have been reduced in price.”
Your laptop negates the need for overnight camp-outs, but it’s still the early bird that catches the Acne overcoat. Stock lists tend to refresh at midnight or 8am; making sure you’re on site then means less chance of that Sold Out box popping up when you try to select your size. It’s also when heads-up emails land. “The first people to know about a sale will be those on the mailing list,” says Lobban. “Sign up to ensure you get a head start on the rest.” Even if you unsubscribe once your wardrobe’s restocked.
As your competition leaf through pages of discounts, make filtering your personal shopper. “Rather than trawling the entire sale category and hoping that you stumble across something, you can be much more strategic,” says Lobban. “First of all, filter by your size. Then, progressively narrow it down by product type, designer etc. This makes shopping sales online far less discombobulating.” Just be sure to read the small print.
“Most of us are guilty of impulse buys when it comes to shopping online sales. There’s nothing wrong with that, providing you don’t get stuck with something you don’t want. Check if the returns policy is different for sale. Some retailers or brands may have an exchange only or non-return policy when it comes to sale items.” Unless you fancy shoring up Oxfam’s January stock of Prada Hawaiian shirts.
Sale Shopping Tips
1. Bare Necessities
Avant-garde pieces get the biggest markdowns. That’s because no one wanted them in the first place. Focus instead on those wardrobe staples that transcend fleeting trends – think less longline graphic print tee, more quality grey marl sweatshirt.
“Your best bet is to go for versatile and timeless pieces,” says Luke McCarthy, Editor at The Idle Man. “This way, you’re getting a bargain on something you can wear all year round: plain sweats, decent denim and smart footwear.”
2. Suits You, Sir
“January is one of the slowest months for suit sales because party season is a long way away,” says Millie Rich, Online Stylist at Thread.com. “You can have your pick of a wide selection of suits, which can be discounted up to 80 per cent.”
We can all justify spending a fair whack on good tailoring, but by jumping on the markdowns, you can still achieve quality at a fraction of the cost.
3. Watch The Throne
A Swiss watch from a prestige brand is hardly an everyday purchase – we’re likely to buy but a few in our lifetime, which is exactly why you should take advantage of markdowns on entry-level labels.
“January sales don’t just apply to menswear,” says Muhaddisa Fazal, Fine Buyer at The Watch Gallery. “You can sometimes get up to 50 per cent off on accessible – yet still respectable – brands like TAG Heuer, Burberry and Frederique Constant.”
4. Suede Runner
Looking ahead at next season’s key trends ensures longevity (handy for those cost-per-wear calculations). For 2016, get ahead of the curve with a quality suede jacket.
High fashion heavyweights Dunhill and Richard Green paved the way with a sea of bombers, painter coats and anorak updates that others are emulating for both SS16 and AW16. Which means you get a new season look at late-in-the-day prices.
Mango Man SS15
5. Tis The Season
Since footwear is less beholden to trends, shoes that end up on sale tend to be gaudy designs that you’ll give up on before New Year’s Eve.
Look instead for twists on classics. “The best things to keep an eye out for are the seasonal pieces from the sneaker brands,” says Olly Smith, footwear buyer at Harvey Nichols. Common Projects’ mainline Achilles, for example, is never discounted since the same model can just roll into next season. But one-offs date – which means savings.
“Get in on collaboration sizes that are still knocking around during sales period – especially the Saucony x Universal Works and Nike x Acronym.”
Saucony x Universal Works
6. Navy Train
Forethought is your friend among the sales rails. As others battle over winter gear, look instead for versatile transitional pieces so you’re prepped when spring arrives and don’t have to buy new season stuff full whack.
Some version of a straight-leg navy trouser always appears in the markdown frenzy and hit the in-between sweet spot. “I’m increasingly seeing a mixture of tailoring and casualwear on the runway,” says Leata-Mae Freeman, freelance menswear stylist. “Since navy trousers are a nice alternative to denim, they make for a perfect jumping off point.”
J.Crew Winter 2015
7. Lounge Lizard
Decent loungewear is now deemed a necessity – washed-out trackies and faded band T-shirts from your NME days no longer cut the mustard.
As gift season winds down, you’ll find plenty of reductions on good quality loungewear – nobody is buying sleepwear for their brother/father/cousin/in-law/bit-on-the-side post-December, so you can fully reap the financial benefits.
David Gandy For Autograph AW15
8. Oxford Comma
It will still be extremely cold for a good few months to come, which is why sale time is the right time for an Oxford shirt investment.
“You’ll find an effortless essential that works all year round,” explains Rich, “and typically more expensive brands like Our Legacy and Edwin will look sharper and last much longer for a lesser cost.”
Shopping the sales properly is all about being savvy. Don’t be blindsided by bargains and you won’t head home with a bulging bag of regret.
Do you stock up on red label goods, or grab a few key pieces? And what’s the worst sales mistake you’ve ever made?
Tell us in the comments below.