No pain (the wallet-opening workout, the deft crowd- dodging drills and the discouragement of seeing what you bought your mum for Christmas in a shop window at half the price), no gain (if you find what you're looking for, it'll no doubt be far cheaper now than at any other time of year) is the motto of the day and, for the well-trained buyer, the effort may even be worth it.
To get in to good shopping shape, the path to success begins with decent preparation. Wandering lazily into town for a peek into Debenhams may well result in a surprise bargain but it may just as likely end in a tired, grumpy body and a carrier bag full of cushions that don't quite match your curtains and a retro-style cardi that's more frumpy than funky.
Instead, start early in the day, plan a route that won't involve impromptu monetary detours and go armed with a specific shopping list.
January is a good month to revamp the house. For Londoners seeking luxurious decorative items, head for Carden Cunietti to grab yourself 20 to 75 per cent off candle-holders, cushions and glassware.
In south London, Designers Guild has reduced bed linen, blankets, towels, upholstery, tableware and accessories and in the east, there's Same, the funky furniture, lighting and home accessories store with up to 50 per cent off selected stock, including sofas from Asplund and coloured crockery by Dibbern. Beyond London, House is putting all its favourite things from 1998 into one mail order catalogue and knocking 20 per cent off them all. Choose from rustic china, French wire shelves and baskets, classic enamel pitchers and sisal baskets.
For kitchen and tableware, Jerry's Home Store is offering Dualit combi toasters for pounds 139, pounds 20 less than usual, and Mulberry Hall has all manner of china, crystal and cutlery in its sale, including 60 per cent off Villeroy & Bosch seconds, 50 per cent off silver frames and cutlery and 30 per cent off selected Spode bone china tableware.
Meanwhile, luxury kitchenware specialist David Mellor is offering 20 per cent off most ranges of cutlery, 10 percent off everything else in the shop and up to 90 per cent reductions on many one-off pieces. Graham & Green's sale includes a 24-piece plain stainless steel cutlery set reduced from pounds 99.95 to pounds 39.50, Richard Sapper chairs are reduced by 40 per cent and a six-candle chandelier is half-price at pounds 25.
For the ultimate in linen try the Monogrammed Linen Shop for Lily of the Valley embroidered single sheet sets, reduced from pounds 179 to pounds 125 and half price gingham napkins at pounds 3.25 each or The White House for luxury white towelling bath robes reduced from pounds 79 to pounds 49, fine cotton percale bed linen at half price, short cream silk neglige sets reduced from pounds 775 to pounds 385 and baby Dior snow-suits reduced from pounds 95 to pounds 47.50.
Hedge your bets whatever you're after at Heal's. From handmade beds at 15 per cent off to dried flowers for 50p a bunch and Heal's own-label cologne reduced from pounds 13.95 to pounds 4.95, you should find something worth getting the credit card out for.
And on the first day of the sale, Frasercard holders will be entitled to an extra 10 per cent off any purchases made at House of Fraser stores. Sale goods here include Summerhouse checked bed linen reduced by a third and Artame six-piece Cookware sets half price at pounds 100, with a free roasting dish.
For ergonomic furniture, try Back2. Beds will be discounted by 15 per cent and anatomia kneeling chairs will be reduced from pounds 220 to pounds 80. Meanwhile, Simon Horn Furniture specialises in French and classical wooden beds and goods include giant rosewood sleigh beds reduced from pounds 5,335 to pounds 2,100 and rosewood lit bateaux reduced by over pounds 2,000 to pounds 975.
But, if it is somewhere to put all your presents, the Holding Company is the place to go. Quirky storage items have up to 50 per cent off throughout January, including 20 per cent off Elfa shelving systems and 10 per cent off simple chrome racking.
Christopher Wray is the place to find good lighting. Non-catalogue and discontinued lights, including table lamps, pendant lights, wall-brackets and exterior lighting, will be reduced from between 10 and 50 per cent and, for larger purchases such as kitchen appliances and white goods, try Buyers & Sellers. Goods here include the sleek Gaggenau SK532 American- style side-by-side fridge-freezer with stainless steel doors, reduced from pounds 3,800 to pounds 1,995.
And, of course, no good shopping workout is complete without some good old beauty buys to lift those weary spirits. Molton Brown has a covetous skin-care essentials pack in a clear zip-lock bag for pounds 17.50, Space NK Apothecary has up to 50 per cent off selected lines and Aveda is also offering customers a lucky-dip for people spending over pounds 15 on three items, or pounds 20 on four items, in its London shop.
Best Of The Sales
For the Home
Carden Cunietti, 83 Westbourne Park Road, London, W2 5QH (0171- 229 8559). (Goods pictured right.) All January.
Designers Guild, 267 King's Road, London, SW3; and 6 Relay Road, Ariel Way, Wood Lane, London, W12. 9 January for 1 or 2 weeks.
House, 42 Salisbury Street, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 7PR (01258 454884). (Crockery pictured below.) Starts 28 December,
Same, The Bridge, 146 Brick Lane, London, E1 (0171-247 9992). All January.
Jerry's Home Store, 163 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6SN. 28 December to 2 February.
The Holding Company, 241-245 King's Road, London, SW3 (0171-352 1600); 41 Spring Gardens, Manchester, M2 2BG (0161-834 3400); telephone for mail order on 0171-610 9160. 27 December to 17 January.
Monogrammed Linen Shop, 168 Walton Street, London, SW3 2JL (0171-589 4033). 4 January to 31 January.
Mulberry Hall, 1 Little Stonegate, York, YO1 2AW (01904 620736). 2 January.
David Mellor, 4 Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8EE (0171-730 4259); The Round Building, Hathersage, Derbyshire, S32 1BA (01433 650220). 2 to 16 January.
The White House, 40-41 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London, W1R (0171-629 3521). 28 December.
Space NK Apothecary, 4 Thomas Neal's, 37 Earlham Street, London, WC2. 27 December to 23 January.
Aveda, The Aveda Institute, 28/29 Marylebone High Street, London and various outlets from 27 December.
Molton Brown, 58 South Molton Street, London, W1 (0171-499 6474). 28 December.
Christopher Wray, 591 King's Road, London, SW6 2YW (0171-736 8434) branches through the UK. London from 27 December, Manchester from 26 December to mid-January.
Graham & Green, 4, 7 & 10 Elgin Crescent, London, W11 2JA (0171-727 4594); 164 Regent's Park Road, London, NW1 8XN (0171-586 2969). 5 to 31 January.
Heal's, 196 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1P 9LD (0171-636 1666); 234 King's Road, London, SW3 5UA (0171-349 8411); Tunsgate, Guildford, GU1 3QU (01483 576715). 28 December to 17 January.
House of Fraser, stores nationwide. 26 December to 24 January for Scotland; 27 December to 24 January for England.
Buyers & Sellers, 120-122 Ladbroke Grove, London, W10 5NE ( 0171-229 1947). 29 December to January 31.
Back2, 28 Wigmore Street, London, W1H 9DF (0171-935 0351). 20 January to 20 February.
Simon Horn Furniture, 117-121 Wandsworth Bridge Road, London, SW6 2TP (0171-731 1279). From 29 December to 31 January.