This time of year isn’t just about mince pies and gaudy sweaters. As the mercury drops, Brits start looking forward to the Boxing Day sales with relish. The UK high street may be famous for its year-round deals, but the post-Christmas knockdowns still offer the year’s biggest and best bargains.

Don’t let the name confuse you: Boxing Day is actually the British moniker for 26 December, which is when the sales properly kick off. Stake an early claim on marked-down classics: by the time the discounts rise to 75% off in late January, you may only find spur-of-the-moment-buys that will languish unloved at the back of a closet.

    • Be prepared

      High street stores often place soon-to-be discounted items at the front of the shop before the sales start. Check these out and start putting your wish list together. Don’t despair if you can’t get there in person: it’s still worth comparing prices online.

      While you’re at it, note down opening hours – these can change during the sales. Most shops are open seven days a week in the UK, but hours are shorter on Sundays and times vary from store to store. Check for loyalty events, too: high-end department store Harvey Nichols offers access to sales previews and other promotions through its loyalty app, Rewards

    • Make sound investments

      Now’s the time to invest in luxury big-ticket items and classics that won’t date, rather than the likes of Topshop’s controversial see-through jeans. Think luxury tailoring, timeless evening wear or soft knits, like London-based Bella Freud’s sought-after cashmere jumpers.

      Whether you’re after new togs, gourmet delights or the latest tech, the Boxing Day sales are the perfect opportunity to buy high-quality items that would usually be out of your price range.

    • X marks the spot

      There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to Londoners’ style and the same is true for the city’s eclectic shops. Decide what you’re looking for, then map your days accordingly. If you’re not sure where to start, visit Bond Street for luxury boutiques and Dover Street Market (18-22 Haymarket) for magazine-worthy finds.

      You’ll find everything from cut-price electronics to iconic department stores and British stalwarts Marks and Spencer’s and Whistles on Oxford Street. Quieter Marylebone High Street is lined with elegant boutiques; try Matches Fashion for designer gear and Emma Bridgewater for distinctly British ceramics.

    • That’s my department

      When sore feet and London’s unpredictable weather start getting a little too much, make a beeline for the capital’s brilliant department stores. Find everything from cutting-edge beauty to home accessories under one roof at Liberty (Regent Street, Carnaby, W1B), Selfridges (400 Oxford Street, W1A) and Harvey Nichols (109-125 Knightsbridge, SW1) – with generous discounts and life-saving cafés to boot.

      If you’re feeling intrepid, join the hordes camping out at Harrods on Christmas Eve. Live reindeer have even been spotted at the launch of the store’s legendary sales. 

    • Sales are not just for Christmas

      To snap up a bargain at any time of the year, look out for sample sales and outlet stores. British labels such as Anya Hindmarch, Matches Fashion and Joseph have set up shop in the Hackney Walk shopping district (Morning Lane, E9) in trendsetting East London.

      Snap up a classic Burberry trench for a fifth of its usual price. It’s also worth signing up to the newsletter from The BOX in Shoreditch (4-6 Ram Place, E9) – recent pop-up sample sales have included House of Hackney and Isabel Marant, so you might get lucky while you’re in town.

Ready, steady…

So you’ve done your research and your list is prepped… but when should you hit the shops? The pros generally go on the first and last days – you’ll find the best pieces at the start and the biggest bargains towards the end. If you’re feeling confident, that’s also the time to try haggling, as shops are under pressure to offload their last pieces. Go first thing in the morning, ideally on weekdays, when it’s much quieter. Be careful not to get so carried away, though, that you miss flaws. Many sales items can only be exchanged, not refunded, and you don’t want to wind up being out of pocket.