SALES season has kicked off in Spain with bargains of up to 70% off to be found on the high street – and retailers hope their buoyant Christmas will continue as families stock up on presents to give out on Twelfth Night, or the 'Three Kings'.
From yesterday (Saturday, January 2) through to late February – or possibly later if stocks last – all types of stores and especially clothing retailers will slice their prices.
Typical discounts at the start of the sales period tend to be around 30% to 50%, but can reach 70% or 80% towards the end.
Packed streets, ever-ringing tills and barely elbow-room were seen in shops across the country yesterday and some popular stores even opened to find queues trailing back down the street.
Consumer organisations have warned shoppers to be careful of impulse buys and to ensure retailers stick to the rules – although it is rare that they do not do so, isolated cases have led to disputes.
These rules include ensuring the original price tag still features prominently on the item alongside the reduced sale price, and that the quality of discounted goods be identical to when they were being sold for the full amount, unless otherwise clearly stated.
All sale items carry the same guarantee as non-sale items – for most products, particularly electrical goods, this is two years – and payment methods accepted cannot be limited during the sales; meaning, for example, a shop which accepts credit or debit card transactions may not insist on cash only just because its wares are now cheaper.
In the event of any unresolved problems or wishing to be armed with full facts before raising a query with a retailer, shoppers can go to their local consumer protection office – OCU, FACUA or OMIC – for free-of-charge advice.
Until just a few years ago, the high-street sales would start on January 7, once Spain's main present-giving day was over and children were returning to school – but since the start of the financial crisis in late 2007, heavily-slashed price campaigns have started between Christmas and the Three Kings to encourage shoppers to buy as much as possible for their Twelfth Night gifts.
Even more recently, shops have been given the freedom to hold sales whenever they wish rather than solely in summer and post-Christmas, meaning end-of-line stock is easier to shift and customers given an incentive to spend year-round.
However, most stores, from boutiques to shopping-centre staples and major department stores tend to keep their main discount season for the Christmas and New Year slots, and simply set aside a permanent shelf or railing for out-of-date stock being sold off at lower prices.