With the end of the holiday period and the beginning of a New Year comes the sales season. Investment bankers may have spare cash to splash on luxury items, but it’s always satisfying to buy something for much less than you expected.
This year, those well-known, if not well-loved, early morning queues to get a bargain on Boxing Day were replaced with online hauls and next-day delivery.
Favouring online shopping over in-person purchases has been a growing trend in recent years, which the coronavirus pandemic has fast-tracked.
This has been reflected in e-commerce companies providing some of the biggest IPOs of 2020, which you can read more about here.
The pandemic has certainly affected the luxury goods market, with Forbes reporting in November 2020 that it would drop by 23%, and looks unlikely to pick up until 2022 or 2023. The reduction in spending has stung Europe and the Americas particularly hard.
Alternatively, the Chinese luxury market grew by 45%, owing to an increase of at-home spending that would have previously been splashed out on holidays in Europe and America.
Companies have had to move their focus online in an attempt to maximise income during store closures. For most, discounting items and promoting deals has been at the forefront of their efforts to entice shoppers, with the offers extending beyond the traditional sales windows of November to January and May to July.
However, for luxury brands the closure of shops is particularly unwelcome, as the in-store shopping experience and excellent customer service constitute a significant part of the enjoyment of the purchase.
Luxury brands are famously averse to discounting their products, for fear that doing so would damage their image of exclusivity. So averse, in fact, that some brands have been known to burn their excess stock rather than try to offload it through sales.
Burberry came under fire in 2018 for such behaviour, and has since promised to end the wasteful practice. The British brand is also one of the few high-end fashion houses to have a ‘sale’ section on its own website, although this is fairly unsurprising given the reported toll the pandemic has taken on Burberry’s sales.
It’s even less surprising, then, that Burberry’s stock price has seen a fall of around 14% over the last year. LVMH’s stock, on the other hand, has risen by 23%, and there’s no sign of a sale on the Louis Vuitton website.
Although current economic difficulties have forced some luxury brands to take the plunge and put some items on sale, the savvy shopper would still be better off avoiding brands’ own websites when looking for the best deals.
Instead, look to their stockists for discounts. For example, Selfridges, Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Flannels, online shop Net-A-Porter (and its counterpart Mr Porter) all have sales in which you can save on luxury brands, and offer shipping to a wide range of countries.
For example, this versatile Giorgio Armani jacket, available at Saks Fifth Avenue, is great for transitioning from winter to spring, and is reduced from £2,092.23 ($2,695/€2,333.26/HK$22,527.80) to £1,255.34 ($1,167/€1,399.96/HK$13,516.68).
Even with sales it’s all about location, location, location. Or, more accurately in this case; currency, currency, currency.
Paying in US dollars will gain you a 57% discount, whereas paying in pounds sterling, euros or Hong Kong dollars will get you a 40% discount.
Therefore, if you travel a lot and shop internationally, it could pay to double check the local prices of discounted items before investing in them, whether online or in person.
This Prada coat will undoubtedly keep you cosy in the cooler months, and is stocked at Selfridges. Reduced from £2,550 ($3,000/€2,985/HK$7,150) to £800 ($940/€935/HK$22,850).
Currency or location does not affect the discount with this winter warmer, as you’ll get almost 70% off paying in any of the aforementioned currencies.
These blue cotton-corduroy trousers by Victoria Beckham, sold through Net-A-Porter, will add some colour to your wardrobe ready for spring, reduced from £590 ($790/€690/HK$4,630) to only £177 ($395/€207/HK$1,852).
This is another item whose discount varies internationally, as you can get 70% off in the UK and France, but only 50% in the US and 60% in Hong Kong.
What about those brands who still refuse to discount their products, or are not available through third party stockists?
Rolex and Louis Vuitton are two of the most famous and sought-after luxury brands, but even this year you’d be very lucky to find (authentic) items at much less than the retail price.
If you are looking to buy these brands’ products, the best discount available will be at a duty-free shop at an airport.
Of course, most of us are unlikely to be travelling via plane anytime soon, so perhaps it’s time to start saving before treating yourself to a holiday and a new watch or bag post-pandemic.
Prices and links are as of 6th January 2021.