Far be it to encourage seasonal sales fever. Just let me give you a few tips that will minimise physical damage, mental anguish or pointless spending:
Photo credit STV
1. Check ^%$^.com site after midnight every evening (if you're still up) or first thing. The sale in the stores will almost certainly start the same day.
2. Check on-line sale inventory, buy on-line if they have what you're looking for, it will go very quickly and they may not have what you are looking for in store. If what you are looking for has gone or they don't have the size then you can think about the stores.
3. Check the price and talk to yourself. Is 10-20% off really worth settling for your least favourite colour or the not-so-desirable version of the range?
4. If what you wanted is not on sale, but still showing at full price on-line, it very probably won't be in the stand alone stores either this sale, but you could check dept store concessions, because there have been some strange irregularities at sales particularly at dept stores when communications from brand to concessions get muddled.
5. Some dept stores and big chains also 'price adjust' if you've bought the same item recently and is now on discount. It never hurts to ask (if you can get someone to answer a phone or email).
6. If you intend to go to the large stores and you know what you want (and you know the store). Prioritise your strategy. Basically, if shoes are the most important go straight to the shoes area and then visit the other sections in order of want/need.
7. At many of the high-end designer leather goods and fashion houses, bags are the most popular trophies (followed by SLGs, fashion jewellery and accessories and shoes and then RTW). If you want a bag, go way before it opens, almost everyone in the queue will be wanting one, so count the people in front and that is your position regards bags. Quota may apply, go with a list, number 1 being priority number 1. If they stop you from buying after 1 or 2, you won't be so heart broken.
8. Menswear goes as faster than women's and there's less of it around. Some men will buy their entire wardrobe at sale time, so if you want anything specific, are a popular size (or are a woman needing a present for a man) get to it! Note too that trophy hunting guys tend to be the slimmer sort, XXXL guys will usually score the designer bargains way after everything small and average has gone. The last point doesn't always apply for shoes, as it's the daintier male feet that can afford to be later to the party. Ladies, men's shoes are often better made than ours, if your looking for a brogue, lace-up or loafer you may like to wander into a whole new world ;-).
9. It's simple arithmetic, but it's hard to think straight at sales. The saving on higher priced goods will save you more money. Buying things which never interested you will actually cost you dearly. Get the thing you really really want or go home
10. Even when returns are possible consider the purchase as though they aren't. Do you really want the bother of hauling a set of 'stuff' back somewhere in/out of town unnecessarily or paying for shipping there and back for nothing?
11. Nothing's worth losing an eye for and hideous experiences are harder to forget than positive ones, there's always next season. Please.
* These are tips for seasonal sales and not sample sales which are entirely different, and which I shall pontificate on soon i.e. when the season's sales are over and people can think straight again