This year was the first time I've ever braved the January Sales on Boxing Day. I'm not a big fan of sale shopping, I hate the hustle and bustle, and the mess of it all. Probably due to working in fashion retail for four years, I know how much hard work and time goes into setting up a sale, and how much of a terrible job it is to tidy it at the end of the day.

I thought I would share a few tips for how to prepare for shopping the January sales.
Firstly, the sales online are never as good as the sales in store... in my opinion. Obviously this differs slightly for certain stores, and for the odd item or two which are web exclusives, but in general, I find the in store sales to have more choice. You also don't have the problem of websites running slow when the sales launch etc.

The online sales however, are a good place to start. If a sale goes live online at midnight, you can't be in store until 9am, but rather than panic buying and getting 'click happy' online, use the sale to your advantage and study it. Make a plan in your head of what you want to find in store. This definitely makes it easier than going into the shop simply looking for a bargain. If you know what you want, you won't waste your time looking at everything on a rail, and therefore will hopefully get what you want before anyone else beats you to it.

Prepare for every shop, and get your priorities right. You know which shops will be busiest, and where you want the most from... so head there first. The earlier you get to the shop, the better. Not only because there will be more choice, but because it will be tidy. Those poor little sales assistants have spent hours size ordering/colour coordinating/product blocking/price ordering the sale rails, so at 9am, everything is in its place, making it really easy to shop. After an hour or so, everything is messed up, and the items you're searching for, are most likely on the floor, under the rails, or being walked on. Half of the time, people hide sale items elsewhere in the shop as well - people are really crafty when it comes to sales!

When shopping in store, you have the benefits of being able to try clothes on before you buy. However, the changing rooms (if open - some stores keep them closed on busy sale days) will be packed, and queues will be huge. It is worth it though. Most stores return policies on sale items now state that you cannot return items, you can only exchange. Always be aware of this if you decide not to try before you buy.

Don't rely on returning or exchanging an item on a busy sale day (Boxing Day/ New Years Day) some stores will decide not to accept returns these days, to prevent holding up queues.

Make sure you cover all areas of the shop before queuing up to pay. Don't forget to look at the jewellery when you're half way down the line... you will regret it. January sale queues will be massive, and you won't want to queue again.

If the store has baskets (most do, even though you've probably never noticed) - use one! It's so much easier than struggling to carry clothes, shoes, accessories all in your arms. A basket can also come in handy for giving yourself a bit of space while you're looking through clothes rails. Sale shoppers can be aggressive, they will push you out of the way if they want to... a basket can help prevent that (a bit!)

Sale shopping is stressful, but try and shop nicely. Don't throw clothes on the floor, if you drop something, pick it up, even if nobody else does. Be polite to other shoppers, and they will most likely return the favour. Also, remember how hard it is for the sales assistants... they don't want to be at work during sale, it is the most awful time to work in retail, and it is HARD WORK. Try to understand how upsetting it is to spend an hour tidying just one row of the sale, only to turn around and see that it's worse than when you started it. It's not their fault that the queues are massive, or that the shop is a mess, so be nice to them, they will appreciate it massively!

And don't forget, the best bargains don't always go on the first day. From experience, I know that pretty much every shop you go into will have a stock room full of sale stock. Every single day the shops will be replenishing their sale rails with more stock from upstairs, so that one thing you were looking for might appear the next day. Keep checking back. Remember, it will be quieter and tidier a few days after the launch.

Last of all, good luck! Braving the sales is a nightmare, but it's really worth it when you come home with bags full of bargains!

Photo from http://fabfrocks.blogspot.com