July in Brussels (Belgium) means two things – no sun and the start of the sales! Anticipation for the sales is already rising end June. People stop buying things because the ‘sales’ are coming. Others start to bookmark their favorites online waiting for the ‘sales’. And others are planning how best to escape the July ‘sales’ madness.
Sales did not mean much to me before moving here. The countries I lived in usually have sales for whatever reason. Spring, buy two get one free, weekend sales etc. But Belgium is like clockwork with regards the sales (less so with regards public transport if you want the whole spectrum). There are sales in January. And there are sales in July. And that’s that!
Preparing for the sales in Belgium is almost like preparing for an Olympic sport. Days are marked in the calendar and taken off as holiday. Comfortable shoes are tested. Summer diets go full blast.
Then July 1st arrives! And Belgium goes nuts!
As a seasoned sales’er and resident of Brussels, you might think I am exaggerating here. Not one bit. All of Belgium invades Brussels and the shops are taken over by adrenaline filled females on the one side and ready for war men on the other. The shopping race begins.
How do the ‘sales’ look like you wonder? Shops take all their clothes / products away from the windows and start plastering their fronts with ‘sales – solden – soldes’ signs (nothing like politically correct sales!). The more organized shops will have different sales sections with 30%, 50%, 70% off, other shops go for the jungle approach – discover, grab and fight. Of course to confuse everyone, all shops also display the ‘new collection’ which inevitably always looks so much better than the ‘old (sales) collection’. This leads occasionally to disappointment, because you just managed to get your hands on that great item in the sales section only to discover it is ‘new collection’. The posh brand shops will keep a reserved calm about the above mentioned females. The high street chains give up after a day or two and stop re-arranging their ware. The cues wherever you go are endless! And this goes on for 1 whole long month. Although the sales race is really a 1st week only event.
Being what the shops like to call a ‘standard’ size my sales choices are pretty much laid out: either I get in at the beginning and buy what I like although still at almost full price. Get in last and end up buying a disco paillettes dress I really did / do not need. Which brings me to my top 5 sales tips learned, tried and tested through years of shopping:
- Know that sales start on July 1st come rain or come shine. If you are serious about your sales take a day or two off to really enjoy the sports.
- Know your clothes size per shop. Although you might be inclined to think that all clothes sizes are the same, there are huge differences between a Zara M and a Ralph Lauren M – and exchanges/ returns for the right size might be a day too late.
- If you are really serious about the sales (and who isn’t?) then go for a scouting trip the week before the sales start. Try out the clothes you like, identify the products you want to buy.
- Stick to that priority sales list! Distraction is a wonderful hobby during the sales (note paillettes dress above!)
- Go for up market (posh) brands first then hit the high street. The very simple reason behind this is that somehow the up market shops have proper sales from the beginning which are worth the investment sales buy, whilst the high street is a mix of clothes from past and current collections, and more affordable all year round.
From lessons learned and sales survived my approach this year a bit more high tech – make a priority list, try off line buy on line. Except of course the impulse buy of water glasses from Zara Home. I mean, common’ who can resist Zara Home?!
Over to you shoppers – any sales tips you would like to share?
this blog post also appeared on Fans of Flanders