Elbows At Dawn

Alex Fassam
Latest posts by Alex Fassam (see all)


We are in a recession. There are no two ways about it. I don’t care what the tabloids say about the free flow cash we have circulating, we are strapped for money. It’s as simple as that. People, like you and me, are watching our Gucci purses with both eyes and clutching hard at our Tom Ford A/W 12 clutches. We don’t want to throw away our money on tat.

But funnily enough, every year we do so unknowingly in what I can only describe as a jungle form of shopping – Sales.

Every year the January sales hit us consumers hard, and fast too. Just as fashion moves fast in terms of style, so do our sales. With each retailer brandishing over a whopping 6 sales a year, it’s no wonder us Brits like our bargains. Not sure about America, but  there is a universal truth that binds us all: “who doesn’t love a bargain?” With the retail industry importing over 80% of clothes from offshore manufacturers, our big wigs in head office are constantly creating sales to get rid of the old stuff and in with the new. If you like fashion you’ll love the rawness of new collections and the need to get the latest stuff. If you’re not so into it – may God have mercy on your soul.

But with sales everywhere, are we as intelligent and fabulous consumers, getting more bang for our buck. No. I’m going to be blunt. We’re really not. Because for so many of us we buy before we think.

Rational thinking goes out the window when you’re in a sales department of your favourite shop. With bargain hunters elbowing you in the ribs and preppy teenage girls and their mums storming through the shop to grab the latest bargains it’s no wonder that any sane human doesn’t think straight.

Let’s paint a picture

You’re in your favourite shop. You’ve found a top that you may or may not be buying for a party on Saturday. It’s reduced by 25% and, although you don’t want the sales assistants to know, you’re still trying to figure out how to reduce the original price by 25%. On the right of you is what can only be described as a bag lady, rummaging through the shelves grabbing everything she can, which will more than likely be sold at a car boot sale for a higher price. And to the left of you is a pushy mum trying to get her little princess those boots she simply couldn’t do without. Questions flying through your head “Do I need this?” “Can I afford this?” “What food item will I have to sacrifice from my weekly shop to justify paying for this?”. You’re being pushed from pillar to post and you snap. You buy it. Enough is enough. You know if you put this item down you probably won’t get another chance to buy it and hey, who doesn’t need another top. It’s worth it.

But what we’re forgetting, as the smart people we all are, is that many shops refunds and exchange policies are very different for sale items. You as a consumer have basic rights for a refund and there is no debate about that, but many retailers are now only offering in-store cash vouchers in exchange for your items. Big retailers will also, without a receipt, only give you what it’s worth in the current sale price if you bring it back 2 weeks later. Fair enough I say. It’s not hard to remember a receipt.

Another danger of sale shopping is what I call “not so perfect” sizes. You buy a garment purely because of the design, colour and price but not because it’s your size. You buy an XL tee because “Well I can always wear it with skinny jeans”. Or you buy too small trousers because “Well, I could do with dieting a bit more”. It’s a false economy. You buy something purely on a thought, not because it might be right for you.

This is where retailers are falling down in-store and why online is so popular. Shop at ease and shop for your right sizes. Personally I am so enthusiastic about our high streets and love to shop. It’s a hobby. But I can see why online shopping is so popular and that’s not to say I never do it. I do. Quite a lot. But you can never beat a good shopping session.

Some say shopping is a pastime, but to me it’s an addiction and one that needs to be treated the right way.

About Alex Fassam

To make myself somewhat remotely grown up I sign my name Alexander, but most refer to me as Alex. A blogger, retail enthusiast and, for my sins, a student studying at London College of Fashion. In between studying and working you may find me in Oxford street doing what I like to call "extreme shopping".