Festive flash points for the party season

Gold brocade strapless cocktail dress with peplum waist, from Coast's Christmas collection, down from �150 to �75.
Gold brocade strapless cocktail dress with peplum waist, from Coast's Christmas collection, down from �150 to �75.
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Hot-foot it to the flash sales and transform yourself into a party princess on the cheap

Cinders, you SHALL go to the ball!

BHS silver jacquard dress, was �38, now �30.40

BHS silver jacquard dress, was �38, now �30.40

If money’s too tight to mention but you’d love to glam up for a special occasion as the Christmas party scene swings into action, fear not...

A flood of flash sales on the high street are coming to your rescue.

Every few days, one major retailer after another stages a discount bonanza.

Instead of waiting for New Year’s Day, retailers are saying bah humbug to tradition. Discount signs are going up all over the place in a bid to get us to part with our cash in a December splurge.

The stores need to get their cash registers ringing the festive bells to ensure they meet their sales figures. But it’s great news for us. We can bag a sackful of cut-priced Christmas presents AND treat ourselves to some luxurious bit of festive frippery into the bargain.

It means gilding it up for Christmas can be done far less guiltily.

To get the most out of the sales, though, it’s best to keep a cool head.

Draft a battle-plan.

When the sales banners go up and the red price tags appear, it’s easy to get carried away.

A little bit of advance planning will mean you don’t end up coming home with bags full of items you’ll never use or wear.

Before you shop

Instead of sending a note to Santa (or your partner!) keep a wish-list for yourself. Make a note of the things you want, but can’t afford at full price, and who stocks what. Then you’ll know exactly where to look when the sales start.

If there’s a particular shop you love, find out in advance when exactly its sale begins. Some retailers hold ‘early bird’ openings or sneak previews for loyalty card holders or those who have signed up to get email alerts. Your inbox could end up holding the key to your Christmas box.

Do your fashion homework. If you know what colours and looks are likely to be big next year, you can look out for them on the sale rails.

Find out if any of the items you’re after will be available online. Some shops will have more of a selection online than in-store and, if they offer free delivery, you’ll save on transport and parking costs, not to mention time and hassle..

At the shops

Make sure you try everything on so you know they fit and suit before you fork out.

Don’t let an attractive price lure you into buying something you don’t really like. A half-price coat isn’t a saving if you never wear it, after all. Ask yourself whether you’d still like the item if it wasn’t reduced. If the answer’s ‘no’, steer well clear.

Keep an eye out for bargains for the kids. Buy clothes and shoes they can grow into. Children’s clothing is usually timeless, so items bought now will be good for next winter too

Before you splash out, ask the shop for its returns policy. Your rights to return or exchange are the same whether the item is in the sale or not, but certain damaged items may be non-refundable.

Some shops offer only exchanges or credit notes, so if this is the case, make sure it’s a retailer from which you could happily buy something else. Similarly, different shops have different time-limits for returns, so make sure the cut-off point is realistic for you if you’re likely to want to return your purchase.

Be assertive. If the item/size/colour you want is unavailable, ask the sales assistant to check stock at nearby branches and, if it’s in store, ask if they’ll hold it for you.

Back at home

You may want to collapse on the sofa and put your feet up, but you need to try on what you’ve bought. You may decide you don’t like them now you’re away from the shop buzz, or find something doesn’t match with what you’d thought it would.

Be honest with yourself. If there’s anything you’re not going to wear, take it back while you still know where the receipt is.