I’m curious about the January sales. Why is it that shops and department stores think they can wheel out the stands and racks of items nobody buys during the year and expect people to snap them up because of a sale tag?
Yet at this time of year we seem to be overcome by a feeling of not having spent enough money over Christmas. We feel compelled to get rid of our last few pennies just to make sure we’re flat broke until Easter. There is an outbreak of aggressive advertising: Sale Now On! For One Week Only! Everything Reduced! Massive Clearance!
But how do they get away with such misleading claims? The slogans could be a bit more honest: Rubbish Sale Now On! Massive Clearance of Wicker Linen Baskets That We Ordered Too Much Of! Unfashionable Leather Pants That Nobody In Their Right Mind Would Wear Now Half Price!
Even though ‘sales’ are now a year-round phenomenon, we still trudge around the shops en masse this week, pawing at garments and fiddling with unusual kitchen appliances. Clothing retailers love the sales because – thanks to the ever-changing nature of fashion – they have a large amount of unwanted items to get rid of. Let me set a typical scene for you, in a typical department store at this time of year.
In the menswear section you spy a canary yellow shirt on sale. It may not be your colour or style, but it is on sale, reduced from €79 to €29. Unfortunately the only sizes available are extra small and extra-extra-large. You think to yourself: ‘I suppose I could always lose a bit of weight, or maybe even put on a few pounds?’ There’s a massive saving to be had here and you don’t want to lose out. You decide to go for the small size, vowing to shed a few pounds over the next couple of weeks. Then you notice a brown and navy woollen cardigan with bright green buttons and maroon suede elbow patches. You privately concede that you never wear cardigans, and usually find them repulsive, but this one has been reduced from €79 to €19. It’s only available in extra-large but you buy three of them anyway. Next you have a look at the jeans.
The only pairs that are actually on sale don’t fit you properly. They’re not too bad in the waist but the leg is too long. Maybe you could take them up? They’re stonewash denim unfortunately, but didn’t you read somewhere that stonewash is due to make a comeback any year soon? The fact that they’re grey instead of blue can be remedied by a simple dye, you reason, so that convinces you to get two pairs. They might even go well with the cardigans. Oh look, socks at half price. Admittedly, you have plenty of socks but these are half price and come in bales of ten pairs. They may have an unsightly turquoise and purple paisley pattern on them, but you can’t go wrong with two for €4.99. You lob six packs of them into your shopping basket.
How about some electrical goods? There’s a television going for just €119. The helpful shop assistant explains that while it’s a black and white set, and not compatible with DVD players and hard drives, it does come with a three-month guarantee and a free set of rabbit ears. Never mind the technological obsolescence, the TV is snapped up. Then you notice an electronic butter curler. In truth, you don’t need one as you’ve never curled butter in your life. But hang on, it’s at the knockdown price of €14.99, and it was designed by John Rocha and comes with its own carry-case. It’d be crazy not to buy at least three of them. And what’s this over here? An electronic novelty tin-opener in the shape of a jukebox! It’s reduced from €50 to €17 and comes with a free €1 voucher towards a four-pack of Lustre pear halves. You grab two of them; one might be a future birthday gift for a relative.
By now you’ve frittered away the next six months mortgage repayments, but just check out your car boot of bargains! You can barely close it for all the great deals you’ve picked up.
However, this is when the realisation sets in. Suddenly, on the car journey home, it dawns on you: Oh no, I’ve just gone out and spent a small fortune on a pile of worthless, unnecessary junk which in reality I’ll never wear or use.
Luckily for you, all the rubbish is crammed into your boot so you do what any sensible person would do. That’s why, during the January sales, we see cars pulled in at the roadside, boots open and people desperately trying to offload all the goods they’ve just purchased. John Rocha electronic butter curler anyone? Do I hear 50 cent? No? How about 20?