Shop wisely at the sales

Our money expert, Lucy Tobin, offers tips on how to shop wisely this festive season
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The lure of the sales is approaching. Some shops, nervous of their Christmas takings, have already launched snap sales. If you buy wisely, they can be an excellent opportunity to save money. But retailers have become increasingly savvy at setting up honey-traps for your cash.

The Office of Fair Trading this month warned that shoppers are being robbed of billions of pounds a year through retailers’ psychological tricks. It is cracking down on “bait sales”, where shoppers are lured into stores by a huge reduction on a high-profile product only to find it has quickly sold out and other items then become just as enticing. Other ploys include “drip pricing”, where retailers - particularly online ones - advertise a low price which is then pushed up by extras like credit card fees or delivery.

The very best way to avoid these wallet-sapping tricks is to make a list: that way you will only buy exactly what you want. But you also need to be savvy about the way you shop. This is particularly true of supermarkets, which stock their shelves in a highly tactical way.

The most-profitable goods, for example, will always be on the level with customers’ eye-line. Reach up or down and you’re likely to find alternative brands or deals that will help you save money. The same is true of the aisle ends: they are highly-visible and used by all kinds of shops to try to sell you extras that you didn’t intend to buy.

The normal shopping advice has always been to avoid shopping when you’re hungry. Stores are now increasingly trying to play on customers’ tiredness too. They flog sweets and other little extras near the till, often on “special offer”, in the hope you’ll succumb to an impulse buy. Steer clear: if you do want a treat, others in the store are likely to offer much better value.

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