The beginning of January can only mean one thing when it comes to shopping – the sales!
However, if like most of us you can open your wardrobe and find the items you bought this time last year because they’re unworn and still have the tags on, this guide is for you.
Award-winning stylist Susie Halser, 36, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, who specialises in styling ‘real women’ on a budget and has over 24,500 Instagram followers, has put together this expert guide to bossing the sales – and the key mistakes to avoid making.
From only buying items in the right size – not ones you hope you’ll be able to squeeze into later – to always trying on before you buy, this list is the perfect remedy for wasting money.
Here are Susie’s 15 top tips for getting the most out of post-Christmas bargains.
Award-winning stylist Susie Halser , who specialises in styling ‘real women’ on a budget, has put together this expert analysis on the mistakes to avoid making in the January sales
Never buy in a smaller size
Yes, you may have found your dream top/dress/jeans, but if they don’t fit you right now, you must leave them on the shelf.
So many of us buy clothes with the aim of losing a bit of extra weight so we can fit into them. It’s also incredibly tempting if we feel we’re getting a bargain with a cheap item that we love.
But if it doesn’t fit you now, don’t buy it. You wouldn’t grab a pair of cheap shoes that don’t fit. Even if you do end up losing weight before the summer, your dress size, realistically, is not going to change that much.
Try before you buy
Yes it’s a faff and you’ll probably need to queue for a while to get to the changing room, but you’ll save money by trying on an outfit before buying it. Because sale items are more risky, it’s worth giving them a test drive to check the fit.
If the queue really is hideous, opt to try it on over your clothes while you’re in the shop. Obviously don’t strip off, but no one would blink if you tried on a jumper over a T-shirt, for example. It’ll save time and aggravation!
Susie recommends only buying items that fit you now – rather than picking up something smaller in the hope you’ll lose weight
Give it a once-over
Sale items get treated terribly. They are thrown on the floor, barely hung up or just screwed in a ball. They will also have been tried on by lots of people, so the chances of damage are going to be greater.
In particular, look out for make-up stains on white tops, missing clasps, broken zips, pulls, bobbles etc.
Some things can be easily fixed at home or by a tailor, if you really love it. Or you may even be able to get extra money knocked off at the till if the item is damaged.
Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap
Everyone loves a bargain, and when a store has priced an item at half the original price or even cheaper, it’s sometimes tough to leave it behind.
But, in my experience, there is usually a good reason why something is in the sale in the first place. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Susie says give each item a once over, checking for make-up stains on white tops, missing clasps, broken zips, pulls and bobbles
When an item is well made, it flies out of the shops really early in the season. You rarely see one of every size crop up in the sale.
What I usually find left on the sale rails are, for example, the shirts that haven’t worked on any body shape, or the dresses where the cut is wrong, or trousers that are ill-fitting.
Not every sale item is a bargain
Most shops have genuine stock in their sales – I know this because it’s items that I have seen stocked throughout the season.
However, I have noticed that many larger stores will buy in cheap stock just so they can sell it during the sale period, or they will sell really old stock from previous years.
During the sales, these larger stores have stock on their rails that I have NEVER seen – and considering I am in the shops four days a week throughout most of the year, this is a red flag to me. You will likely be buying old, tatty items that have been sitting in a warehouse for years.
Susie revealed she has noticed that many larger stores will buy in cheap stock just so they can sell it during the sale period
Buy classic over high-fashion
Do not be tempted to spend your money buying high-fashion pieces in the sales. If they have been left on the rail, by the time you get them home, they’ll already start to look very dated.
Use sale time wisely. Instead, buy classic items that are going to have longevity, and will last, such as knitwear and tees. For example, if tops with statement sleeves have been in fashion all season, it’s likely they will be on their last legs soon.
Resist grabbing the first deal you see
You might think rushing in, being the first in line and grabbing 20 per cent off bargains straight away is good for your pocket, but you might need to think again; the best deals actually come a few weeks later.
If you can be patient and hang on for another two weeks, the stores will get many of these items returned, at which point they are likely to slash the price down even further to 50 per cent or even 70 per cent off, just to clear the stock in time for the new season. It’s well worth the wait.
You might think rushing in, being the first in line and grabbing 20 per cent off bargains straight away is good for your pocket, but you might need to think again; the best deals actually come a few weeks later, according to Susie
Stock up on basics
There are styles that last – designs that we are definitely going to see on the rails again next year. So use the January sales as a time to stock up on these.
Whether it’s a trench coat, a puffa jacket, plain jumpers or shoes, it’s worthwhile stocking up. Yes, the design will be slightly different come A/W 2021, but on the whole, you’ll definitely be taking home a good deal if you buy these items while they’re cheap.
Don’t wander aimlessly from shop to shop
If you’re serious about hitting the sales, have a plan of action in mind. What do you need? Boots? Trainers? A new coat?
Before you arrive, map out the shops to head to first and don’t get distracted. Having a plan in mind means you will buy what you set out to buy – rather than going home with either nothing or a few items that you’ll probably never wear but thought you should buy.
Don’t forget, if you’re thinking of braving the Zara sale, get there at opening time because it will be heaving after an hour (and they also receive a huge number of returns which is why their queues are always so long).
Don’t buy items with limited wear
You may well have fallen in love with a bright pink sequin jumper but, realistically, how much wear will you get from it?
I always ask my clients to imagine wearing the item in three different ways. For example, could you wear it with jeans, a skirt and trousers?
Another good tip is to look for clothing that you can easily transition across the seasons. Turn summer dresses into winter dresses by changing the footwear or throwing a fine knit jumper on top.
The stylist – who specialises in ‘real women’ and their style – says she always asks her clients to imagine wearing an item in three different ways
The more wear you can imagine from an item of clothing, the more worthwhile the purchase will be.
Buy clothes for the season ahead
While it may be tempting to buy jumpers in the winter sale, you will actually be better to look for summer items for next season.
Although it means you won’t be able to wear these items yet, it does mean that you’ll have them ready for when the warmer weather hits.
Alternatively, look at winter coat shopping during the spring/summer mid-season sale. You’ll get some great bargains and you’ll have a lovely new coat waiting for you when autumn comes around again.
Don’t trust the size on the hanger
As mentioned above, clothes are treated badly when they’re in the sale – so checking the size of the item on the hanger matches the size detailed in the garment is a must.
Never trust the size on the hanger is correct! The same applies for footwear – always check you have a correct pair, and that you’re not about to head home with one size seven and a size five.
Sophie recommended using the January sales to experiment with new styles and looks
Select your store branch according to your style
Your shopping location should change depending on your style and the type of items you’re looking for.
In a sleepy local high street store, for example, the more basic items will fly off the rails, but the more daring items will be sat there waiting for you to purchase.
Meanwhile the same shop in a more trendy area will see more of the basic items left in the sale as the daring pieces will be more popular.
Don’t always play it safe
If you’ve always fancied the idea of wearing big earrings or buying a slogan T-shirt, but haven’t wanted to spend lots of money to find out whether they’d suit you, now’s the time.
Use the January sales to experiment with new styles and looks. You will be pleasantly surprised and it will inspire you to buy better quality items once you have plucked up the courage to experiment.
Stock up on snacks – and choose your shopping outfit wisely
Sale shopping isn’t pleasant or easy. Parking will be harder, shops will be hotter and more crowded.
Use the January sales to experiment with new styles and looks – and make sure to dress appropriately. Pictured: stock image
Leave yourself plenty of time to get around, and aim to get there as early as possible. Be kind and considerate to the sales assistants who will be dealing with lots more customers – as well as rude ones!
Take water with you as well as snacks so your energy levels don’t dip. Leave your coat in the car and just wear jeans, a tee and trainers. As well as avoiding getting too hot, this outfit will allow you to try on tops on top of your T-shirt, along with coats, jackets and cardigans.
Susie offers online style sessions as well as one-to-ones. Follow her on Instagram here.
Where to shop on the high street for YOUR body shape – according to Susie
● Next: They will work well for your curvy hips as their jeans will fit well on the waist too. They are also great for smart trousers and summer shorts.
● H&M: Great for tops that show off your lovely delicate shoulders and décolletage. Look for ones with detail on the shoulders and pretty prints.
● Oasis: Look for pretty tops or embellished collars and necklines.
● River Island: Their jeans will work well for your shape and they offer a great online Curve range if you’re above a size 18.
● Next: Great for jeans and basics that don’t cling to the tummy.
● Mint Velvet: A higher price point but their clothes flatter curves as well as a fuller bust.
● Topshop: Their jeans work well for your curvaceous shape and will fit well on the hips as well as the waist. You may need to size up as Topshop sizing isn’t too generous!
● Dorothy Perkins: Their dresses work well for hourglasses as they accentuate your waist and skim over the hips.
● Warehouse: They excel in A-line cuts, particularly winter skirts that you can wear with a fine knit tucked into the waistband.
● Zara and H&M work well for jeans and trousers because they are cut a little narrower on the hips.
● H&M are great for rectangle shapes as they are cut well for their silhouette and they usually have a great choice of prints, patterns and fabrics. Try their slacks trousers which will fit well on your hips.
● Mango is great if you like a more simple, chic look and it’s affordable too. Perfect for rectangle shaped ladies.
● New Look: Great for skirts that are cut a little narrower on the hips, therefore showing off your narrowest point.
● Hush: A higher price point but their dresses and tops are cut generously for the strawberry top half.
● River Island: Their jeans will show off those killer legs. Choose light colours and rips.
● Warehouse: Great for tops and blouses that fit well on broader shoulders and a fuller bust. You may have to size up.
Unfortunately the in-store ranges are sparse for plus-sized ladies but there are many options online which work so well for my clients. Most shops have an online “Curve” range. Some of my favourites include:
● Mango Violeta Range, New Look Curve, Very Curve, River Island Plus and Dorothy Perkins Curve
● If you prefer to shop in store, I’m a fan of Yours Clothing for plus-sized ladies. It’s not a visually appealing shop but the clothes are great and so flattering.
● Evans have also become better in recent years and they are brilliant for stylish shoes in a wide fitting size.