Despite record amounts spent on gifts such as perfume, accessories and CDs, fashion and shoe retailers will be offering unprecedented bargains after they suffered disappointing levels of pre-Christmas business.
Ron Woodman, marketing director of the Metro Centre in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, said: "In fashion, there has probably not been a bigger sale with this level of price cuts. It is predominantly going to be a fashion- driven sale."
The Centre for Economic Business Research estimates that up to pounds 6.7bn could be spent in the non-food sector in the January sales, 9 per cent up on last year.
Retailers were hit hard before Christmas by mild weather of around 9C, which severely curtailed the appeal of winter clothes and footwear.
Chris Fear, marketing director of Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock, Essex, said: "We expect 50 per cent off many fashion items. People have been holding off and waiting until the sales to buy. The money is there, so this coming Saturday the advice is: get out there early."
An example of the bargains available in footwear is a pair of Russell & Bromley knee-length velvet boots which have been reduced from pounds 225 to pounds 95. A pair of shoes which normally sells there for pounds 120 will be offered for pounds 29.
Prices for household goods have also been sharply cut. St George curtains which before Christmas cost pounds 119 at John Lewis will now be pounds 69. Similarly, china pottery is on sale at less than 65 per cent of full price.
Retailers have complained of sluggish sales, and stores such as House of Fraser began their January discounts last weekend. Sales are have been under way nation-wide at Laura Ashley, Warehouse, Dolcis and Ravel since before Christmas.
Out-of-town shopping centres have benefited at the expense of high streets. A record 130,000 customers a day spent an average of pounds 96 each at the Metro Centre, compared with pounds 63 last year.
Sale guide, pages 14 and 15