SALES have started on most of the high street with up to 50% off end-of-line stock – earlier than the traditional January 7, ever since a new law in 2012 allowed retailers to choose when they wanted to start the campaign.
Spain's equivalent of the Boxing Day sales always started the day after the bank holiday for the Three Kings, which falls on January 6, as children get their presents from the Magi the night before.
Now, with Santa Claus taking more of a central role and retailers needing the extra business boost, sales are tending to start on the first working day back after New Year, meaning families and friends buy more as Three Kings gifts due to lower prices – as well as picking up a few bargains for themselves.
Larger chains, especially Inditex – which owns Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Bershka, Uterqüe, Zara Home and Oysho – continue to stick to old habit and start their sales on January 7, but other major chains such as Sfera, H&M, Cortefiel and Adolfo Domínguez have started already.
Discounts will eventually rise to up to 80% off in some cases, although they usually start the sales at 30% off.
Typically, stores will continue the sales until the end of January and some will continue into February, although others go on until all sale stock is sold – including lingerie firm Women's Secret, which continues until February 28 to take in Valentine's Day.
The fashion retail industry suffered a 3% drop in profits as at the end of 2016 compared with 2015 year-end figures, breaking with the two-year upward trend.
Researchers Acotex say the uncertainty caused by 300 days without a government, and poor weather conditions this winter discouraging shoppers from going out, have been partly to blame, but predicts a good post-Christmas sales campaign.
At this time of year, retailers make around 25% of their annual profits in the space of less than a month, and they expect to increase these by 5% based upon last year's January sales.
Consumers are reminded that discounted prices in the sales do not translate to 'discounted' quality, meaning all goods should be in exactly the same condition as when they were retailed new.
The original retail price should be clearly shown next to the sale price, any defects clearly pointed out, and the same payment methods accepted the rest of the year still valid – for example, if a shop normally accepts credit and debit card payments, they cannot insist on cash only during the sales.
Electronics still come with a standard two-year guarantee, and goods which turn out to be faulty can be returned.
'Change-of-heart' refunds, permitted on new, full-price goods up to 30 days after purchase, are generally, however, not accepted during the sales.
In the event of any dispute, customers can go to their local OMIC office or contact FACUA or OCU, consumer organisations which will give advice and take action if necessary.