January sales: Five alternative discounts on offer
- 31 December 2013
- From the section Business
Gone are the days when the January sales season offered a welcome but narrow window for shopaholics to hunt for bargains on the High Street.
For a start, they do not have to wait for the new year. Many retailers started advertising cut-price deals well before Christmas.
Despite the advance of internet shopping, the image of snaking queues outside department stores is still how we picture the sales season.
Yet, it is not just High Street retailers that are offering bargains for cash-strapped consumers.
And, with the looming prospect of a hefty credit card bill arriving in January, people are trying to save money by looking for cheaper options.
So what discounts and money-saving tactics are around in the first month of the year?
Weddings and civil partnerships
Love is blind to everything but the calendar.
Official statistics show there are usually about a sixth of the number of weddings in January that there are in August.
With only about 6,000 or so weddings in England and Wales in the first month of the year, there is room to haggle for good deals on venues, photography and cars.
Civil partnerships are a little more spread out over the year, according to quarterly data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Yet, overall, good offers are available for these events, according to Sandy Moretta, director of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners.
"Suppliers who only work in the wedding industry will come up with good offers in January, and they expect people to negotiate and haggle now," she says.
Although there is a specific cost to some services, such as food or a wedding dress, there are often deals available as "some work is better than no work", she adds.
Table displays can be cheaper if there is a winter feel of sprayed twigs, rather than much more expensive flowers. The cost of drinks is also generally lower, with couples often choosing to serve mulled wine and hot chocolate to guests rather than champagne.
And Mrs Moretta says that January weddings can be great fun for guests.
"January is one of those months where people are not doing a lot, they might need a lift after Christmas, and they are less likely to be shattered or hungover as they are in December," she says.
Cut-price tickets are available for West End shows from the start of January to mid-February,
The Get Into London Theatre scheme, an annual promotion that has run for more than 10 years, sees discounts of between 25% and 55% on the face value of 45 productions.
"We want to make theatre as inclusive as possible. We want to see people who have not necessarily been to the theatre before," a spokesman for the scheme says.
There is no booking fee or packaging charges for these tickets.
However, theatregoers may have to be flexible over which show they want to see and when.
Each theatre production decides individually what proportion of tickets will be made available for the cut-price promotion.
It may be the quietest time of year for the theatre, but some shows are still very popular. As a result, it is extremely unlikely that the cheaper tickets will be available for shows on a Friday or Saturday night.
Flights from the UK are far less packed with holidaymakers and business travellers in the first weeks of January - a time sometimes referred to as the "dead zone".
But the lack of demand means that flights can be cheaper, although this depends on whether the destination is in low season for tourists.
Some of the seven-day deals on offer for the start of January have included four-star self catering in Madeira for £195 and four-star all inclusive deals in Egypt for £405.
The end of December and start of January is traditionally the time that the travel industry launches its best deals for the summer, according to Sean Tipton, of travel association Abta.
These can include discounts and free places for children.
"It is very much a buyers' market," he says.
Shoppers may have flocked to charity shops to pick up Christmas cards in early December, but they might not necessarily put these stores on their list of January sales destinations.
Yet, figures from the Charity Retail Association show that like-for-like income has been increasing in the first quarter of the year, compared with previous years.
The latest figures show that, in 2012, the average weekly turnover per charity shop from January to March was £2,087, compared with £2,038 for the same charities in the same quarter a year earlier.
A spokesman says that specific January sales are usually limited to the bigger charity stores. In 2013, the British Heart Foundation said it had turned to opening larger furniture and electrical shops to build profits.
Meanwhile, the spokesman says that local charity shops are trying new measures in January to get themselves noticed on the High Street.
With house prices starting to rise sharply again across the UK, there are unlikely to be many bargain basement deals in the housing market.
However, estate agents say January is the time when the a whole host of new properties are put up for sale.
Seller behaviour means that the free time over Christmas is when many families come to a final decision about whether to put their home on the market, according to Jan Hytch, president of the National Association of Estate Agents.
That means that the new stock in the new year feeds through to increased sales a few months later, known in the industry as the "spring bounce".
In contrast, very few properties are marketed in November and December, which means very few sales are completed in January.
Transaction figures from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show that sales in January and February are around two-thirds of the levels seen in the summer.
... And one store where there will be no sale
It is surely the most seasonal of stores, but the owner of the Nutcracker Christmas Shop says he has never needed to have a sale in January.
Robert Newman founded the business in 2001 and has opened all-year Christmas shops in Crieff, Edinburgh, and Callander in Scotland, and Stratford-upon-Avon in England.
He says he can ensure the stock comes in at the correct time of year, but there is always demand from shoppers.
"Not everyone has to have a sale," he says.
"We have never had one, and we have no plans to change."