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Reader question: Further sales reductions

6 January 2009

Dmytro, London: As a young professional who just started working here in the UK I find your advice really helpful, especially about basic wardrobe items: like shoes, suits etc. I have a question on sales in London shops – many of the more expensive ones (like Ralph Lauren, Reiss, Hackett) have 30% sales on their items maximum. Do you think the price can still go down, or should I accept the one they offer me today? Because I have already found some nice, but still quite expensive pieces.

Hi Dmytro, glad you find the blog helpful. As to your question, the short answer is no – it’s worth waiting. But it’s worth explaining why in a longer answer.

I don’t know where in the UK you live, or which branches of the various stores you mention you have been to, but my experience is that the shops have often already discounted more heavily than that. And they will do so more.

Let’s start with Ralph Lauren. In previous years, the standard discount in the RL sale was 30% off Polo and Black Label, 50% off Purple Label. That was certainly the first offer in the past two years in London.

There would be a ‘private’ sale just before the full sale – done by sending everyone on the RL mailing list an email and a flyer in the post, inviting them. You get to the stock a few days early, but essentially this is just a way for a brand to stagger the sales rush and encourage customers to give them their contact details.

The fact that this sale is no secret, or poorly organised, is evident from the fact that you can just turn up and ask about what’s on sale. No voucher required. And, as previously reported here (search for Ralph Lauren to find it) staff are frequently off message as to when there was or wasn’t a sale.

So. The RL sale proper this year started on December 27. It has now been running for just over a week and will run until almost the end of January. But around a week before then there will be additional discounts, pushing the total up to 50% to 75%.

These final reductions are also normally announced to customers by email. If you search for Ralph Lauren on my posts, you will also find reports of my favourite ever sale – the further discounts on Purple Label/Edward Green shoes, which bring a £550 shoe down to £230 normally.

The only risk you face in waiting this long is that the stock runs out. Given that discounts have generally been higher and quicker to appear this year (all RL stock was put on around 50% straight away) stocks will be running low. I asked about a particular black Purple Label shoe last week, for example, and they had already run out of my size.

Reiss also does a round of further reductions, normally just by putting a new set of prices in red pen on those little green labels. I’m not sure this is announced. In fact, a friend of mine who used to work at Reiss tells me they always discount by around 70% in the last week or so of the sale. But then, as she worked there she could reserve items and didn’t have to worry about them going out of stock.

The question of whether to wait for the further reductions, and risk stock running out, is really a question of how much you need or want a particular item. Once you have a reasonably complete wardrobe, it is easy to shop around late in the sales – because there’s nothing you really need. I don’t know whether you have that luxury.

I hope this helps. Good luck.