Friday, December 23, 2011

London Boxing Day Sales survival tips - keeping a sane mind and enjoying it

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It's time of the year again. Just after we are being stuffed of turkey and nursing a severe hangover, London's high street shops open in full force for the Boxing Day sales. This is the one day when madness descended on Oxford Street, Regent Street and Knightsbridge - traffic come to a standstill with throngs of shoppers literally raiding the stores. It's not uncommon that some retail shops actually do not make any profits for the entire year until after Boxing Day.

But for the rest of us who would prefer to feel our stuff before making that purchase instead of shopping online, braving the crowds is a necessary evil. Here are 5 tips on surviving Boxing Day sales in one piece.

1. Plan your route

It's a cruel joke that the biggest sale of the year falls on one of the days with the shortest daylight (probably by design too), so it's prudent to cover as much as possible when the sun is up. We tend to be more calm and prudent when there's ample sunlight - the last thing you want is to go on a irrational spending spree during a sale.

Planning your route is the key. Instead of going by the map, plan your route using the tube lines instead. Cutting down travelling times is the priority here - take the tube even if it's just a single stop. Instead of spending your time on the streets, spend that in the shops instead. To find out the best route to the shops just enter your start point and destination at Transport for London (TFL).

Of course, London's Tube system isn't as reliable as before. Other than frequent service disruptions in the aging network, it has to contend with drivers' strikes. Make sure you check out TFL's website for the most updated news at least a week before and make adjustments to your route.

2. Keep up the calorie intake

All that running around takes quite a bit out of you. With the pumped up adrenaline, you probably wouldn't notice. But once fatigue sets in, it will hit you hard. It's not just about getting the best bargains here but also to make the process enjoyable, there's really not much point of going through the day combatting both the madding crowds and hunger pangs, is there?

Pack a light sandwich, a couple of fruits (marathon runners start the run with bananas so go figure) and a small 500ml bottle with water for the day. Don't worry about the weight, it'll diminish as they are being consumed throughout the day.

3. Don't hesitate

This advice came from a seasoned Boxing Day shopper. Being a prudent shopper, you are likely to put purchases on hold in view that you may come across a better deal in the next shop. His advice? When you come across something that catches your fancy, buy it or at least hang on to it. Otherwise, there's a good chance it will no longer be there when you come round again later on that day.

4. Go minimal

Wear sensibly. The temperature during Boxing Day is likely to drop below 10C if not lower. That said, you are likely to spend most of the time indoors so leave that thick coat at home. Lighter clothing also makes it easier if you are looking to try out that shirt, which you have been eyeing for some time.

Bring a brolly if you really have to but it's unlikely to make a difference if the wind acts up. Last of all, leave your huge purses or wallets at home as pickpockets is known to prowl the streets looking for easy targets during Boxing Day sales. Besides, you would probably only need two cards on that day - your Oyster card and a credit card (maybe two).

5. Claim VAT whenever possible

London's Boxing Day sales is known for having some of the best deals around and people are known to fly into London just for this. Other than capitalizing on the weak pound, you can save considerably on VAT refund (up to 20%) if you are from outside the EU or planning to leave the EU within twelve months from the time of purchase.

To claim VAT refund, look out for the "Tax Free Shopping" label on the store front before making the purchase. The store would hand over a refund form upon request at the counter. I know that Selfridges has a department that would help you fill it up as well. You'd need to submit that form to the customs officials at the airport to claim VAT refund. For more, refer to HMRC's site on How to Claim your VAT refund in UK.

Have a great time shopping! Let me know if I've missed anything. Also, check out 5 best online shopping websites

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