How To Shop The Sales Like A Fashion Insider

There's a fine art to finding stylish bargains

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Love them or loathe them, the January sales are the best time to inject something new into your wardrobe – and right before that all-too-familiar end-of-season fatigue kicks in.

But before you start, it’s important to think carefully about what you want to achieve. Are you looking for that ‘wow’ piece to wear on New Year’s Eve, an evergreen investment bag, or do you need to refresh your basics? Perhaps you just have to have those trend-led pom-pom shoes that you’ve seen on every hot list since September. Follow our experts’ tips, pinpoint the gaps in your wardrobe and go with a game plan. Strategy is everything.

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Donna Wallace, Accessories Editor

Scout out what you want before the sales begin. Try it on and know which size you need, so you won’t have to waste precious time queueing for the changing room. If you’re planning to do your shopping online, double-check that you are able to return items if you change your mind about them. 

Felicity Kay, Fashion Assistant

Some shops put their sales stock in store a day or two before advertised because they can’t get all the items on the shop floor overnight. For this reason, it’s worth checking in a day or two earlier than the actual start date if there is something specific you’re after.

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Billie Bhatia, Fashion Assistant 

Dress for the sales: slip-on shoes and minimal layers for when you need to try things on, and a cross-body bag makes for hands-free browsing.

Michelle Duguid, Senior Fashion Editor

I curate my perfect sale purchases all season on a couple of my favourite websites, such as matchesfashion.com and net-a-porter.com, and store them in my online wish list. The websites always send an email out to alert you when your wish-list pieces have gone on sale. Sometimes I buy at that point (if I know that things are going to sell out) or I wait until the morning of the final reduction and pounce! 

Natalie Lukaitis, Beauty Contibutor 

Sales are my time to invest in quality. I go for silk, leather and cashmere – all the beautiful fabrics that normally cost a fortune.

Anne-Marie Curtis, Fashion Director 

Just because it’s a bargain, doesn’t mean you should buy it. I always go through my wardrobe mentally and ask myself, ‘What would I wear this with?’ If I can’t think of anything, then it stays on the rail.

Kenya Hunt, Fashion Features Director

Don’t be the impatient shopper who buys something in a second-choice colour if the shade or style you want is sold out, rather than searching for the first choice at other places. I’ve been there – it’s better to look for the style you truly love. And many e-commerce newsletter algorithms are based on your purchase history, so pay attention to those to see what’s new in from the brands you shop the most. 

Kirsty Dale, Executive Fashion Director 

I often get lucky shopping outside of central London, hunting down pieces that will usually sell out in the main branches of a store, but that you can often find in the regional locations. And I always ‘up shop’, looking at the brands and labels I love but usually can’t afford, rather than wasting time hunting through rails in stores I shop in more regularly. When all else fails, I end up in the underwear section – a new bra or pyjamas are fail-safe sale-pleasers.

Hannah Swerling, Senior Commissioning Editor

I use the sales to stock up on clothes for work. My top tip is to sit down in the changing room when you’re trying things on. That way you know that what you’re buying is comfortable for all those hours spent desk-bound. 

Alannah Sparks, Fashion Editor at farfetch.co.uk

Use the discounts to capitalise on those basics with a twist. Look for subtle subversions that only high-end designs produce, and look ahead to next season, too. For example, this season’s ultra-frou-frou pieces (ruffles, organza, Victorian flounce) will still be relevant for SS16, worn with no make-up, boyish flats and a bit of black leather to cut across the sweetness.

Melissa McGinnis, Buyer for Designer RTW at Selfridges

Know what you want. If you’re looking for a bag, head straight to the accessories department, and get there as early as possible. This is more often than not the busiest department. 

Laura Larbalestier, Buying Director at Browns

Shop with a clear idea of what you need, what you’ve had your eye on during the season and what your total budget is. Certain categories are always worth investing in, namely knitwear, coats and jackets.

Scott Tepper, Fashion Buying Director at Liberty

Get a size up, if necessary, to score your dream piece. That last black Roland Mouret dress may be two sizes too big for you, but a good seamstress can fit it to your proportions.

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