How to Tackle the Boxing Day Sales

Updated 24 December 2015

Who loves the Boxing Day Sales?

I do but I know it’s not for everyone.

It’s a tough gig backing up with another round at the shops the day after Christmas.

However, depending on how you approach it, this can be a great day to shop and find some great savings.

Before you begin though, it’s good to have a plan of attack. This also ensures you have a relatively quick and efficient shopping trip so you are home in time to have a nanna nap, take in the Boxing Day test or gear up for the next social gathering.

Today I am sharing my approach to tackling the Boxing Day Sales. I’d love to hear your tips too in the comments below.

The SnS Guide to tackling the boxing day sales

1. Reconnaissance

Before you hit the shops, do your research.

If you are looking for bed linen, towels and kitchen ware, do a quick stocktake at home of what you already have and think carefully about what you need. Check online or in store for colours, styles and products of interest and price.

If you are looking to buy clothes, do an audit of your wardrobe and be realistic about what you actually need. You might always gravitate to the statement shoes and frocks (not looking at anyone here obvs) but what you might really need are a pair of shoes for work or some casual every day dresses.

Likewise, that yellow Mimco clutch might be fabulous this summer, but your hard earned cash might be better spent on a tan hobo for everyday or a black tote for work.

If you have time beforehand, visit your favourite stores and try on any thing you’ve had your eye on now, so you know what fits and you won’t waste time queueing for the change rooms on the day.

If you are after electrical products, saucepans or other big ticket items, check out online reviews and speak to sales people and ask all the questions you need to before Christmas, as they will be swamped on Boxing Day.

2. Plan your Attack

Study the form guide.

Check online to see what’s on sale and what’s in stock. I like to go through all the catalogues and advertisements in the newspaper. You’ll also receive email alerts in the days prior to Christmas and first thing Boxing Day.

Look online at your favourite stores and make a real or mental list of what you want or need.

Also factor in which stores you have vouchers for and plan your route around your local shopping centre to avoid doubling back in the busy crowds.

If you are buying heavy or bulky items, work out whether you will utilise parcel pick up (I did this one year and had no idea where to go – not great in the busy car park!) or whether you will buy the big stuff on the way out.

Also try to do a loop so you finish near your car or public transport stop.

Finally, be aware of the return policy on sale items. This will differ from store to store.

One year I bought several sale items online from a favourite clothing store during the sales. None of them were suitable and I was surprised to be told in store that only exchanges were offered (not a refund or a credit note). This was problematic as there was hardly anything left in my size on the sales racks, hardly any new stock in store and in any event, it was all full price.

Generally, big department stores can’t be beaten with their returns policies but it’s always worth checking before you buy.

3. Go Early 

It’s a big call I know but I think it is definitely worth getting there early (I aim to arrive at my local centre when it opens at 8am) instead of late morning as you can at least get a park and get the pick of what is on offer although this is more relevant for clothes and shoe shopping.

If you have your plan of attack and arrive early, you can be in and out in under 2 hours and avoid the worst of the Lion King stampede and parking chaos.

However, if you are looking for home products (bedding, kitchen ware, towels etc), you can probably leave this for a few days after Boxing Day as the traditional department stores’ stocktake sales usually last at least 2 weeks. I often head to my local David Jones or Myer on Boxing Day night or an evening a couple of days after Boxing Day when it is relatively quiet and everything I am looking for is still on sale.

4. Dress for Battle

On the day, think about dressing for comfort.

This means comfortable shoes like Birkenstocks that slip off quickly and easily, a dress you can pull off in one motion, and an excellent, all purpose bra and underwear for trying on clothes.

A messenger style bag which frees up your hands is also a good idea.

5. Creature Comforts

I like a coffee to keep me going on my shopping adventures so I try to grab a takeaway coffee en route or immediately upon arrival.

I have also been known to pack a bottle of water and a small snack (fruit or some nuts) as I don’t like to waste valuable shopping time lining up. It’s short and sharp for me!

6. Be Sensible

The trick to a successful Boxing Day shopping trip is to not get sucked into bargains for bargains sake.

The question I ask is would I love this enough to consider buying it at full price?

If the answer is no, then don’t.

And for clothes and shoes, if you don’t have the shoes/bottoms/top or accessories to go with it, think twice as you may be forking out more later on to actually wear your bargain.

I make a bee-line for the more expensive stores or products as this is where the greatest savings are to be had. Boxing Day is the day when I buy a set of saucepans, a Le Creuset dutch oven or a Mimco bag, all of which are usually marked down by 40 – 50%. I basically head for the products I would never even contemplate buying at full price. After all, I would rather save 50% off a leather bag once a year than a roll of Christmas wrapping paper.

If you adhere to this philosophy though, you won’t be doing a lot of shopping, rather you will be targeting specific stores and will therefore be in and out reasonably quickly.

The stores I will be making a bee-line for after Christmas will be Mimco, Gorman and David Jones. I usually try to nab some home wares (towels or servingware) or sleep wear from Country Road too.

Finally never, ever buy something that doesn’t fit properly. Aspirational purchases are a waste of money and this especially applies for shoes!

7. Be Wary of Online Stocktake Sales

In the days leading up to Christmas, many stores now announce their stocktake sales. It can be tempting to add to cart from home with a bit of online shopping and tick the sales off your list.

One year, as I watched the Carols, I compiled a full basket of items (mainly children’s clothes) at one of my favourite stores, paid for it and marvelled at my cleverness for having done all my Boxing Day shopping two days early, getting exactly what I wanted and not having to battle the crowds on Boxing Day.

Unfortunately, over the subsequent week, I received email after email notifying me that there was an error and items in my order were no longer available. In the end, only two items arrived. Because of the lag in the notifications, I had missed the opportunity to buy sale stock in my children’s sizes and there were only slim pickings left. This may not be true of all retailers or all brands of course, but it is possible given the public holidays and lags in time for stock levels to be corrected.

Another example of a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush.

Exclusively online stores may be more reliable, if they can keep track of their inventory across public holidays.

Do you go to the Boxing Day Sales? Why or why not? What are your tips and traps? What’s on your list this year?