New season stock has started to hit stores, which means retailers need to make room. But as the red banners go up, rails become a minefield packed with cast-offs capable of snaring the unwary shopper with a 50 per cent off sticker.
However, nestled among the ghosts of seasons past are glimmers of sartorial gold. You just need eyes (and elbows) sharp enough to snag them.
“You need to get in as early as possible,” says Hannah Jones, a personal shopper who has worked with the likes of Topman. “Any one-off pieces, or the last few of a particular style, are like to go early.”
For a less Running Of The Bulls-like experience, you can take your discount hunting online. Just remember that it’s here that digital preparation pays dividends. “If something is just out of your reach financially – add it to your wishlist in advance,” suggests Mr Porter buying manager Sam Lobban. Once the sale lands, scan your coveted items for pixellated red stickers. “Chances are at least one will have been reduced in price.”
Of course, it’s not all a numbers game, the right mindset is also 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.” In short, spending 70 per cent on something you’ll never wear is still a waste of money.
With all that in mind, and a fistful of cash (read: unwanted gift cards) in hand, here are eight essential tips for bossing the sales this season.
Sale Shopping Tips
Tap The Trends
Looking ahead to next season’s key fashion trends ensures whatever you buy now has legs (especially if they’re jeans). Suede jackets, for example, have been providing healthy cost-per-wear calculations for seasons and are unlikely to go anywhere soon.
“Most of us are guilty of impulse buys when it comes to shopping online sales,” says Lobban. “There’s nothing wrong with that, providing you don’t get stuck with something you won’t wear.”
For that reason, it’s important to check the returns policy. 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.
Suits You, Sir
With calendars unencumbered by black tie dos and summer wedding season still months away, suit sales tend to take a nosedive, taking price tags with them.
“January is one of the slowest months for suits,” says Millie Rich a stylist at online personal shopping service Thread. “Therefore, you can have your pick of a wide selection, which can be discounted up to 80 per cent.”
The extra savings also allow for a few more tweaks in the tailoring department so you can enter the New Year looking like you spent the holiday season on Savile Row.
Make A List, Check It Twice
Your laptop negates the need for an overnight camp-out, but preparation is no less important. Stock lists tend to refresh at midnight or 8am, so being ready with a hit-list can ensure you’re the early bird that catches the Acne overcoat.
As your competition leaf through pages of discounts, make filtering your personal shopper. “Rather than trawling the entire sale category […] filter by your size,” says Lobban. “Then, progressively narrow it down by product type, designer etc. This makes shopping sales online far less discombobulating.”
Signing up to mailing lists in advance can also help you get a head start on the rest, even if you unsubscribe once your wardrobe is stocked.
Sure, a big red sale tag makes that pair of leopard print joggers less risky (financially, at least). But to get the most bang for your menswear buck, it pays to focus on wardrobe staples.
“Your best bet is to go for versatile and timeless pieces,” says men’s style writer Luke McCarthy. “This way, you’re getting a bargain on something you can wear all year round.”
Plain basics such as white T-shirts, dark indigo denim and smart footwear are all solid places to start.
Watch The Throne
Unless your surname is double-barrelled or your grandad invented a popular piece of confectionery, a Swiss timepiece from a luxury watch brand is hardly an everyday purchase.
“But sales don’t just apply to clothes,” says Muhaddisa Fazal, a buyer at The Watch Gallery. “You can sometimes get up to half off accessible, yet still respectable, watch brands.”
To take advantage of markdowns, it pays to know which labels to look out for. After discounting, Tag Heuer, Burberry and Frederique Constant go from arm-and-a-leg to almost entry-level investments.
‘Tis The Season
It’s a universally acknowledged fact that footwear is less beholden to trends than clothing. Therefore shoes that end up on sale tend to be gaudy designs that you’ll likely kick to the back of the rack before New Year’s Eve.
“The best things to keep an eye out for are the seasonal pieces from the sneaker brands,” says Harvey Nichols footwear buyer Olly Smith.
Common Projects’ mainline Achilles low, for example, is rarely (if ever) discounted since the same model can just roll into next season. But one-offs and collaborations date, which means savings.
Forethought is your friend when it comes to the sales rails. While less savvy shoppers battle over the last of the winter gear, grab yourself a few transitional pieces, so you’re prepped when spring arrives.
“Since navy trousers are a nice alternative to denim, they make for a perfect jumping off point,” says menswear stylist Leata-Mae Freeman.
Mid-layers that can be worn now under an overcoat and solo when the sun returns are also an excellent purchase, so keep an eye out for shackets and overshirts, too.
In 2018, no self-respecting man should be caught dead in a faded band T-shirt and pizza-stained shorts. But who wants to spend their hard earned on stuff most people won’t ever see?
Fortunately, as gift season winds down, it’s possible to find reductions on plenty of slovenly sweats. After all, nobody is buying sleepwear for their brother / father / cousin / in-law / bit-on-the-side after December, so you can fully reap the financial benefits.
Make use of any leftover Christmas cash to upgrade your downtime with ultra soft loungewear sets cut from materials like brushed cotton and even cashmere.