Newspaper images of shoppers fighting their way into stores would have deterred many from the high street Sales.
The prospect of scrambling through rails of clothes in search of standard sizes holds limited appeal. As does the thought of queuing in the freezing cold at 5am on a January morning – even for a cut-price designer handbag.
As online fashion retailers’ web sites and service continue to improve, even more fashion devotees this year will be looking to see if the internet can quench their thirst for a bargain. But, so far, in many cases the online fashion Sales have been distinctly underwhelming.
Web sites screaming “Sales; more items have just been added” promise a lot. And yet trawling through page after page of drab product is almost as tedious as sifting through crammed and untidy rails in a shop. And finding a suitable product with the right size still in stock can be equally challenging online during the Sales as it can be in store.
Somewhat bizarrely at River Island, there is no online Sale at all – a tiny red sign in the corner of one page whispers “Sale in store only”. And yet in the other corner of the page it is proudly states: “Winner, best online shopping” in the Company magazine online shopping awards.
Some online retailers have it cracked. Whistles, for instance, has an ordered and well thought-out Sale section that is likely to encourage shoppers to splash the cash. Elsewhere it is an altogether more chaotic experience.
In terms of stress levels of Sales shopping online versus in-store there is no comparison, yet many online retailers still have a significant amount of work to do to inspire their customers to buy. If and when they crack this, the high street may have even more reason to worry during the festive season. Until then, retailers can still rely on dedicated bargain hunters storming their stores at the crack of dawn on Boxing Day.