January Department Store Sales
December 24, 2002 8:07 PM   Subscribe

"There Is Only One Sale" is the traditional January sales slogan of Harrods' department store in London, where the elbow-fest begins next Monday. With disappointing Christmas retail sales being reported more or less everywhere, it looks like the U.S. National Retail Federation's statement "What's going to be crucial now is the week after Christmas" is not the usual BS. Sales in Europe are still month-long extravaganzas where unique bargains can be had. In the U.S. they seem to be more frequent, shorter and somewhat diluted. Assuming you're normal (a stingy, somewhat gullible and opportunistic shopper like the rest of us), what are your post-holiday shopping objectives? Which department stores will you be hitting? Or is it all just a big con?
posted by MiguelCardoso (10 comments total)
If you are ever in Boston Miguel you must go to Filene's Basement. I have'nt been there in a number of years, but it's known for some hardcore elbow action. The women sharpen them before they go shopping.
posted by anathema at 8:47 PM on December 24, 2002

It's a big con, much like continually harping on the low low retail sales numbers and big big sales they have caused in a concerted attempt to convince people they should go buy more stuff. (And how much longer can the US plausibly blame every bit of bad economic news on Al-Qaida? Seriously--I watched a thing today where they did just that.)

In my experience, you don't really get fantastically good deals on anything you actually need in the days following christmas, you just get deals on the stuff retailers hoped to sell before the holiday.
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:58 PM on December 24, 2002

you buy now!
posted by quonsar at 9:03 PM on December 24, 2002

I'll go with option C, it's a big con. I would also argue that in big department stores, there is no such thing as a "unique bargain" anymore [if there ever was], even though I loved Filene's Basement, back in the day. But according to your post, I'm not even "normal" so maybe you weren't talking to me.

What I need is a good deal on free time and maybe a cut rate on common sense and a really low low price for integrity and decency. Do you know where I can pick those up?
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 PM on December 24, 2002

No matter how low the price, it can never truly be considered a good deal, unless you actually need the item.
posted by Beholder at 11:14 PM on December 24, 2002

I agree, Beholder. But sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between apparent desires and true necessities - an old and treacherous dichotomy in political philosophy.

The temptation arises when one falls into rationalizations about stuff we wouldn't need if it was expensive, but feel that might be useful if the price is low enough. Every consumer's cupboard of unused purchases is almost like a department store of its own. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:49 PM on December 24, 2002

As someone who enjoys shopping, I can tell you right now that unless you're looking for a specific "door crasher" item, the best thing to do is wait for the 2nd week of January. That's when 40% becomes 80%.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:54 AM on December 25, 2002

Looking at the BBC news, it seems that the sales have started before Christmas in the USA. Which means that the modern British shopping experience - jump on a plane to New York, and save the cost of the flight on what you buy there - is even more attractive.

But I'm with the 'big con' contingent here. And I'm in two minds about the Harrod's sale. On the one hand, if you stay away, it hastens Mohamed Fayed's financial implosion, which will be fun. On the other hand, if we keep him going a little longer, he'll be no shrinking violet. The gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway, it's boring, but the Next sale is pretty decent, but not at the Oxford Street shop. And Peter Jones' sale is a great spectator sport, just to see the Sloanes tearing each others eyes and hairbands out to get to that perfect scarf, darling.

Nowadays, though, I'm happy to follow something like jessamyn's route and save myself time, by ordering things online. It means that I have more time when shopping for things where you can't simply pick an item from a catalogue.

One thing that has changed, in recent years, I think, especially with the talk of 'rip-off Britain': people look at sale prices and keep a mental note that the 'fantastic discounts' offered in January translate back to 'fantastic markups' in December.
posted by riviera at 1:28 AM on December 25, 2002

"shopping objectives?"

Do people actually take their consumption quite that seriously?
posted by majick at 7:12 AM on December 25, 2002

Do people actually take their consumption quite that seriously?

sure. for instance, several of my jeans have worn out and i need some new ones. the thrift store rarely has my size, and i find the walmart/target types aren't comfortable and don't last long enough.

my preference is for gap jeans. i like the way they feel and they look reasonably good on me (all things relative, my friends). the trick is, gap jeans can be found on the sale rack for between 8 and 15 dollars. these are generally their specialty jeans, but i've seen the basic styles there too. all it takes is just a tiny bit of persistence - i.e. be willing to come back in a week or so if the sale rack doesn't have anything good.

i've purchased 1 dollar leather belts and numerous pairs of jeans and shirts for less than 10 dollars there. since the non-sale price is generally 35 dollars and up, it's well worth the effort.
posted by lescour at 7:42 PM on December 26, 2002

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