Britain may be a nation of shopkeepers, but it's also a nation of bargain hunters – especially during seasonal sale periods when shops offer huge discounts and incentives. It's not just the high street shops and major department stores that drop their prices though; many independent boutiques offer hefty savings and you can grab even bigger bargains at outlet centres such as Bicester Village near Oxford and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in York.
Post-Christmas and January sales are famous for being one of the best times of the year in Britain to make big savings, so it’s a great time to visit. Here we round-up how to make the most of Britain’s biggest sales, as well as other key saving periods throughout the year.
Boxing Day and January sales
The biggest sale of the year kicks off on Boxing Day (26 December). It may be a public holiday in Britain, but many shops open early to sell their discounted Christmas stock.
John Lewis famously launches its sale on 27 December to allow its staff to enjoy a Boxing Day break. The Harrods Boxing Day sale is now legendary, and crowds flock to the iconic department store in London's Knightsbridge to queue around the block overnight (serious bargain hunters start queuing as early as Christmas Eve) in order to hunt for the best bargains. Customers are even given Harrods blankets to keep warm. In previous years, the Boxing Day sale event has featured live reindeers and a performance by Florence + The Machine.
Popular high street store Next has more than 500 branches across the country and is known for the generous discounts it offers in the Boxing Day sales, with some of its stores opening as early as 6am. Selfridges department store (in addition to the London flagship store, there are also outlets in Birmingham and Manchester) is also popular at this time of year, particularly for the designer handbags and clothes on offer.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are both public holidays in Britain and the long weekend is always a regular fixture on the sales calendar. Many shops use this opportunity to sell off some of their unsold winter stock. Department store Debenhams has more than 240 stores across the country and at Easter (and at many other times of the year) you can take advantage of its popular 'Blue Cross Sale' that sees items discounted by as much as 70 per cent. After the Easter holidays you can also pick up heavily discounted chocolate eggs at Britain's main supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Waitrose.
Summer sales (June and July)
The date that shops launch their summer sales very much depends on a number of factors, including the weather and general trading conditions. Unlike the Boxing Day or Easter sales, the summer sales do not launch on a specific date and individual shops can start their own sales at a time that suits them. The summer sales usually kick off in July or late June and, depending on performance, can stretch into August. If it's a particularly hot summer, shops can offer considerable discounts to lure people in from the sunny streets.
Black Friday (the fourth Friday of November)
The American tradition of shopping for bargains the day after the Thanksgiving holiday has caught on in Britain, and Black Friday is now a major event in the yearly sales calendar. Many people buy up all of their Christmas presents, as the sales launch on the fourth Friday of November. The date is now considered to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season. Whereas Cyber Monday focuses on online sales, Black Friday is all about in-store discounts. You can expect to see crowds of eager shoppers up and down major British high streets as well as shopping malls and department stores, with many extending their opening hours. Marks & Spencer often promotes discounts of up to 50 per cent, and offers a number of promotions at this time.
Grab bigger bargains at Britain's outlet stores
Britain's outlet centres offer deals all year round but you can grab even bigger discounts during the main sale periods as items are marked down even further. While some stores might not observe the Easter or summer sale traditions, most outlet centres offer heavily discounted stock in the Boxing Day and Black Friday sales.
Britain's most famous outlet centre is Bicester Village near Oxford, a 45-minute train ride from London or an hour's drive from Birmingham. It's home to more than 130 boutiques including brands such as Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith. McArthurGlen has designer outlets in six locations across Britain, including York (a two-hour train ride from London) and Cheshire, a 45-minute train ride from Liverpool. Clarks Village in Somerset, an hour's drive from Bristol, features around 90 stores including top British brands including Clarks, Hamleys and Hobbs.
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