How to shop the sales this Christmas

From the trends that won’t disappear, to the classic pieces we need in our wardrobes, Annmarie O’Connor brings us her investment buyer’s guide to the Christmas sales.

Investment buying and sale shopping traditionally have little in common. One respects the kudos of a considered purchase while the other revels in the knee-jerk reflex of a 20 percent off sign.

That said, their paradoxical pairing can help even the most seasoned shopper get more bang for their buck. Fancy more savvy than silly this season? Then prepare for some insider trading.

Before jonesing for any January bargain, an honest inventory of one’s resources and lifestyle needs are in order. Why? Even those who make a list and check it twice are prone to running retail ramshackle when triggered by a herd of hungry bargain busters all vying for the same deal.

Granted, we may no longer be roaming the fashion Serengeti in this season’s loincloth but that primitive hunting instinct is hardwired in the ‘aul noggin.

The prospect of seeing something in short supply has a habit of short-circuiting the cognitive load of logic, something referred to in behavioural economics as the ‘Scarcity Error’ - where rare is seen as valuable (even if it’s not).

Combine this proclivity with the effect of the word ‘now’ and the brain’s valuation process, well, can often be off the mark. What’s more, sales have an inimitable way of making you stock up on items you’d never have bought in the first place.

(Remember that fringed mesh belly top with the tags still intact? I rest my case.) Therefore, unless you possess the singular focus of a highly-trained marksman and a metric tonne of self-control, chances are you’ll wind up spending mindlessly when caught up in the stampede of a hungry herd. Our aim? To marry purpose and potential for a more productive result.

Ready? Let’s do this.

First off: align your finances with your shopping goals and lifestyle needs. Investment shopping isn’t the preserve of luxury fashion labels. It’s about buying the best your budget can afford to ensure a canny cost-per-wear ratio (CPW = price ÷ estimated amount of wear time).

Assess how your time is split on a weekly basis – day, night and weekends – making sure to factor in occasions that crop up regularly in your calendar.

For example, a stay-at-home mother of three who likes to go to the theatre may get a stronger cost-per-wear wear from jeans and fitness wear but may get an equally great return from a full-length wrap coat and leather handbag that are worn less.

Similarly, unless you’ve been saving for a rainy shopping day, spending any more than 5 per cent a monthly pay cheque on clothing can but the kibosh on current (and future) cashflow.

Earning minimum wage but lusting after Louboutins? Find an investment for your tax bracket, not your credit card limit.

Next up: If you’re going to throw good money at a big-ticket fashion item, consider the bigger picture.

Don’t get tempted by an individual piece (however glorious) unless it fits in with your current closet collateral.

You will either a) never wear it, or b) wind up shelling out more cash to find pieces that’ll keep it company.

A surer bet is to invest in quality cuts and fabrics (the best your money can buy) that’ll see you in good stead, leaving a bit of wiggle room to splash some cash (not credit) one or two trend-led pieces. Speaking of which…

Trends are like salt: a little adds flavour; too many and you’re looking at high blood pressure.

In the interests of wardrobe wellness, opt for ‘rollovers’ – the trends you’ll be seeing into spring/summer - if not a bit further.

So, what’s proving it’s staying power for 2017? Pyjama dressing and sports luxe continue to dominate the fashion landscape.

Call it lazy or call it downright clever but the louche and the laidback is where it’s at folks. The new twist? Divide and conquer by wearing a lounge pant with a heel and a crisp tux jacket or a baseball jacket with a prim pencil skirt.

In this case, opposites attract. Still in the game? The omnipresent slip dress. This time look at adding an extra tulle sheath when pairing with your white tee and trainers. For those who’ve fallen hard for the cold shoulder, expect the crush to continue albeit with less considered cut-outs, more casual flashes of collarbone.

Combine with the failsafe trench (cinched at the waist and casually shoulder slung as seen at Simone Rocha) for serious style naps.

Better yet, wear it over a petticoat dress or lace-edged skirt (the new 2.0 layered look) and ankle boots.

Wait! There’s more. All of the brocade and voluminous sleeves you never bought? There’s still time to bag some swag as these canny pieces find expression well into the warmer months.

There’s still more wear time to be had from a/w 16 band jackets (go full brass buttons on this one!) and Dries Van Noten-inspired collegiate stripes.

Partial to pink? Then you’re winning already. Prepare to see shades from bubblegum to more mature mauves and magenta making a Pantone appearance.

Now that you’ve created a blueprint, it’s time to get shopping. Tackle department stores first; then filter out to boutiques and smaller shops. Bigger stores generally do bigger sales as they need to get rid of old stock and make room for the new.

For those really intent on slaying the sales, do some prep work and find out whether your earmarked stores have either one-off or progressive markdowns. There’s nothing worse than spotting the jacket you bought at full price on sale for 30 percent off and later that month at a whopping 70 percent.

It’s enough to make your debit card depressed. That said if you really want something – buy it.

Holding out for that hero piece doesn’t guarantee finding it in your size, if at all.

And therein lies the rub. With sales, there are no guarantees.

Serendipity and smart planning receive equal billing. Sometimes fate leads us by the hand to magically discover that unforgettable find; other times it leaves us queueing from 5am in the snow for a pair of mythical, lesser-spotted designer shoes in a size 8. Them’s the breaks.

Mitigate the risk and you’ll guarantee a satisfactory return; go hard and you may go home empty-handed. Then again, you may win and win big!

The real deals

How to shop the sales this Christmas

Rick Owens jacket — now €1515, will be €1,060 at Samui.

How to shop the sales this Christmas

This Faversham Coat was €220 and is now €133, saving you 40% at the Finery London sale on now.

How to shop the sales this Christmas

Finery London: Harvey Dress was €107 now €74, save 30%

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