As we move into mid-January, retailers are scrambling to rid themselves of unwanted merchandise and adopting a variety of ways to do so. 

With dire predictions about retail prospects in 2018 continuing to circulate, it’s little surprise that signs indicating stores are on Sale appear more numerous and seem to have greater urgency than usual.

And with Christmas for many having been less successful than hoped for, there is a substantial amount of merchandise to be cleared ahead of the ‘new-season’ arrivals. And there is also the notion in some quarters that this is a last hurrah before the consumer shuts up shop.

“Digital signage is to the fore, while more upscale operations have taken time and trouble to create Sale windows with an appearance of craft”

All of which means that the usual white-on-red Sale signs normally associated with this point in the retail calendar have been ditched by a significant number of retailers, and a variety of different approaches have been tried instead.

Digital signage is to the fore, while more upscale operations have taken time and trouble to create Sale windows with an appearance of craft about them, designed to appeal to more than the most acquisitive basic instincts.

Anthropologie, Marylebone High Street

There is almost no reason for strings of ornamental bells in silver, gunmetal grey, cerise and racing green to be used as the backdrop to a Sale window, other than to attract attention.

Set against a plain, off-white background, the bells help to focus the gaze on red letters stating ‘Sale’.

These have been given a 3D feel by creating two sets of 2D letters and linking them with a series of rods before suspending the whole display from the ceiling.

As is so frequently the case with Anthropologie, there is a ‘make-do and mend’ feel to this window. In terms of making a splash, it is one of the highlights along Marylebone High Street.

Emma Bridgewater, Marylebone High Street

Sometimes the simplest window schemes are the most effective, even at Sale time.

The window of Emma Bridgewater on Marylebone High Street is a case in point, comprising a series of white decals depicting pieces of crockery grouped together to form a slope on the right-hand side of the glass-line. Above this and in the middle of the window is a ‘Sale’ call-to-action decal.

Within, the retailer has carefully avoided the jumble-sale feel that characterises so many interiors at this time of year, with the store-scape being both ordered and ‘country kitchen’ at the same time.

Reserved, Oxford Street

As one of the newest arrivals on Oxford Street, you’d expect Polish fashion retailer Reserved to make something of a splash – and it does not disappoint.

A series of red-and-white frames that fit into each other provide a setting for the mannequins in one of the store’s windows (a display trope copied just inside the entrance).

On the other side of the main door, a large screen flashes the ‘Sale’ message in different red-and-white forms continuously.

There is nothing understated about what has been done here and, standing at the entrance, the eye is drawn to the rear of the store by yet more light-boxes and screens shouting ‘Sale’.

& Other Stories, Oxford Street

A new store from H&M fascia & Other Stories is both modern and contrary to the normal Sale modus operandi.

Red is eschewed and a candy-pink takes its place as the backdrop on the Sale light-boxes in the window.

This is one of the more minimalist Sale windows on the strip, with just three torsos and some black clothing used for the scheme.

Even the ‘New Items Added’ light box is restrained, although the pink and white fluorescent lighting does guarantee that the passerby will take a look.

A quick glance beyond all this and into the shop, however, will be sufficient to assure the shopper that this is a retro-style Sale, as far as layout is concerned. Runner rail after runner rail of reduced stock awaits inspection.

Gap, Oxford Street

There have been signs in the window of this Gap branch indicating that there are cut-price bargains to be had for so long that the bigger and brighter ‘Sale’ banners look a little like crying wolf.

‘Up to 70% off’ is one of the bolder slash-and-burn signs along the street, although closer inspection in-store reveals there are not a great many markdowns at this level.

Gap has one of the most retro approaches to shifting remaindered stock in the whole of the West End. And, although it uses a combination of light-boxes and screens to given dynamism to the message, one wonders whether it wouldn’t have the same effect with good old-fashioned cardboard.

Heal’s, Tottenham Court Road

Finally, Heal’s boasts a long row of flags along the store frontage, alerting shoppers to that fact that it’s bargains ahoy.

At a time when the majority of retailers are turning to digital tools to get their messages across, there is something reassuring about what has been done here, with a mix of the traditional and the department store in its grandest days.

Also worth noting are the words on the flags that state ‘The Heal’s Sale’ – indicating perhaps that this is an event, rather than a mere workaday display of reductions.