Bargain hunt

Seven days’ worth of socks

Seven days’ worth of socks

First published in Shoptalk

Counter the VAT rise with some savvy shopping. Lisa Haynes reveals the best ways to bag a bargain during sales season.

WITH manic present buying and festive trolley dashes behind us, you might think queuing up at the tills would be bottom of our 2011 to-do lists.

But the New Year saw a surge of shoppers on the high street to beat the VAT increase and capitalise on post-Christmas sales and queues started forming outside the Next store in Gateshead’s MetroCentrewere as early as 3am for the 4.30am opening on boxing Day.

A successful day at the sales is certainly one way to lift the January blues – and the rest of the year blues too. Women spend eight months of their lifetime bargain hunting, according to a recent poll by, with almost half saying they always try to avoid paying the full price for an item. But how do you end up with the deal of the century rather than the leftover dregs of the sale rails?

‘‘The key to savvy sales shopping is planning rather than impulse buying,’’ says head of John Lewis fashion advice, Amanda Slader.

‘‘Sales provide customers with the opportunity to build up a staple wardrobe of basic and classic pieces, as these are always the best bargains.’’ So elbows at the ready. Give your wardrobe a New Year lift by embracing the sales extravaganza.

The sale commandments

We may be in the midst of winter but put back the chunky knits, winter coats and boots with slashed price tags. Unless you’re planning to “buy now, wear later”, they won’t get a lot of use before being packed away for the spring season.

Amanda Slader offers her top tips for bagging a bargain with staying power: ✔ Take an inventory. Before you leave the house and hit the sales, inspect your wardrobe and make sure you know what you have and what you’re missing.

✔ Keep it classic. Aim to build a staple wardrobe. It’s important to remember that a little black dress is a future classic and a much better investment than last season’s statement trend. The sales are a great time to pick up other timeless classics such as a trench coat, figure-flattering day dresses, and basics such as well-fitting jeans or the perfect pumps.

✔ Complement your existing wardrobe.

Take into account the cut, colour, shape and styles that suit you. Make thoughtful purchases that reflect your signature style; the sale is not an excuse to drastically change your look.

✔ Try it on. If it’s not a good fit then it’s not a good buy. It’s always worth asking if there are more sizes available in the stockroom.

✔ Be thorough. Make sure you’re aware of any faults before you make your purchase.

Unless you’re willing to repair it yourself, it’s not a good investment.

Online bargains

WHILE some shoppers thrive on the buzz of January sales, the thought of clothing mountains, crowds and queues bring others out in a rash.

But these days you don’t have to pound the pavements to snap up a sale bargain. Retail experts dubbed this festive season Clickmas as so many shoppers logged on for early Christmas Day reductions.

Many of us are shopping online every week, 11 per cent of us daily and 37 per cent of us once or twice a week, according to, ensuring the internet is the place to be for eshopping without the high street hassles.

‘‘The best bargains are for those who know exactly what they’re looking for and it’s definitely worth researching,’’ says Arabella Dymoke, managing director of thegoodwebguide. ‘‘Sign up for newsletters from the retailers that interest you. You’ll then be kept informed of sales, previews and updates, allowing you to shop the bargains before everyone else.’’ High street favourites are also branching out on the internet with specific discounted sites, so check before you shell out for current prices in store.

‘‘Check outlet shops – quite a few of the high street brands now have shops on eBay,’’ explains Dymoke. ‘‘It’s important to remember you probably won’t be able to return items to the bricks and mortar shop and you might also have to pay via a PayPal account. LK Bennett, Kookai, Karen Millen and Jigsaw all have an eBay outlet.’’ And if you’re a Park Avenue princess with a high street budget, don’t despair.

Dymoke says: ‘‘For designer fashion, The Outnet ( is a great site to pick up seriously good bargains with up to 80 per cent off. Also check out non-stop designer discounts at and’’ ■ John Lewis is offering free How To Shop The Sale Rail tutorials nationwide throughout January. Call 020-3073-0564 or visit

Most iconic dress of 2010

Forget the New Year Honours List, the chart every celebrity wants to top is all about style.

Lady Gaga’s top-to-toe meat outfit was named as Most Iconic Dress of 2010, according to a recent survey. The pop star’s carnivore creation stood out for 43 per cent of the 1,453 women polled by Kate Middleton’s sell-out blue engagement Issa dress came in second with 39 per cent of votes.

Giles socks it to them

Beat the January blues via your feet.

Designer Giles Deacon – and old boy of Barnard Castle School – has collaborated with Happysocks to release a limited edition week’s “worth of socks” with a cheery design for every day of the week. Available in small or large, £70, at Selfridges (

Pants perfect

Get your underwear drawer fit for a Queen.

As corsetiere to Her Majesty, Rigby & Peller have the fancy pants sussed but are branching out with a new range of everyday underwear, Essensuals. The range features three shapes – bikini brief, g-string and boy short – available in black, white or nude.

Available from for £15 at

Special thanks...

IWOULD like to nominate the staff at Holly Lodge Care Home, Maddison Street, Shildon, for the love, care and professionalism they showed while caring for my aunt, who sadly passed away on New Year’s Day. Due to the County Council closing their old people’s homes, my aunt, who was 90 years old, was forced to be re-housed a few months ago.

Following a bad experience with the home she first moved to and illness, she was then transferred to Holly Lodge. The staff at Holly Lodge have been brilliant as they have dedicated time to her needs and given her the tender loving care she needed in her final days.

Shirley Race, Bishop Auckland

● If you want to give a public thank you to a company or individual, email or write to Jenny Laue, Features, The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington DL1 1NF.

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