Shoppers flock to the 'January' sales: Rhys Williams finds glad tidings for retailers as the traditional hunt for bargains begins

THE CROWD control barriers that lined Oxford Street yesterday suggested English football on a night out in Europe. But the way the London shoppers tackled that December ritual known as the January sales contained all the ferocity of a night in playing Scrabble.

John Anderson, Selfridges commissionaire, cast his expert eye up and down the road: 'Aye, there's a lot of money changing hands today.' Retailers across the country agreed. House of Fraser is predicting a 10-20 per cent increase on last year's first-day sales. Debenhams reported queues of more than 700 outside its central London store at opening time, while Lunn Poly expected sales of holidays to reach 20,000, nearly double the figure for the same day last year.

The men's shoes department at Selfridges was virtually gridlocked (a cut through the Timberland display being the only viable route to the down escalator and the calm of sunglasses and drinks), but angry words and elbows - as big a part of the sales furniture as broken china - were absent.

The patter of tiny sales talk was allowed to carry on uninterrupted. 'That's much better, sir,' an assistant assured a man trying on a Giorgio Armani jacket (down from pounds 399 to pounds 315). 'Better on me or on anyone who tries it on?' the man wondered. 'Oh no, sir, better on you, of course.' Sold. The perfect fit sacrificed for the right price.

Janet Taylor, an office worker from Finsbury Park in north London, had spent two hours in the store and still had not bought anything. 'I don't know why I'm here really. I spent all my money on Christmas.'

The bouncers that Next had employed to regulate the flow of shoppers into its Oxford Street branch seemed a bit much. Although their manner was less of the standard 'You can't come in here with jeans on, mate' and rather more 'Blimey, look at the state of you, get inside and spend some money'.

Prepared to queue (for 10 minutes anyway) and eager to spend were two newcomers to the 'January' sales - Sally White and Ann Jones, both up for the day from Haywards Heath in West Sussex. 'We came up for the Early Birds bargains at Debenhams. We've bought some sweaters.' And what were they looking for in Next? 'Oh, more sweaters.'

Jean Chitty, of Maidenhead in Berkshire, and Marion Eames, of Sunbury, Surrey, stood outside Marks & Spencer at Marble Arch and sported the latest in shopping bag chic - several egg-yolk yellow numbers (Selfridges again) and a traffic-light green model from M & S. 'This is my first time,' Ms Eames said, fresh from buying a seascape for pounds 99 (down from pounds 179). 'But Jean's a regular.'

Cue Ms Chitty, proud owner of some pink bath towels: 'Oh yes, it's just as busy as in previous years. Although there wasn't a jazz band outside to entertain the queues this year.' And Ms Eames: 'We'd have done a little turn, if they'd asked us.'

However, the season of goodwill and civility went only just so far. In Bristol, Marik Stalinski spent the night in his car to make sure he was first in line for a Chinese cabinet at Maples, Waring and Gillow. Sadly he fell asleep and woke up to find that dozens of people had barged in front of him.

Clarke holds key, page 9

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV & HGV Mechanics

£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee