More than 90% of shoppers say January sales have lost their sparkle, Mastercard reports

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More than 90% of Britons have fallen out of love with the January sales due to the glut of deals and promotions throughout the year, research shows.

The latest data from Mastercard reveals that pre-Christmas sales have overtaken the January sales as the nation’s favourite moment to bag a bargain.

While 48% of people made cut-price purchases in the days immediately before Christmas, 44% of British consumers bought discounted items in the January sales.

At the same time, people expect better deals in the sales than ever before. Two-thirds (65%) of consumers said an item has to be reduced by more than 30% to qualify as a bargain, while more than a quarter (26%) said they wouldn’t get their wallet out unless the price of an item was slashed by more than 50%.

More than a third of shoppers (37%) admitted their expectation of price cuts is higher than last year. And 77% of consumers said they ensure they shop around for the best price before making a purchase.

The research discloses that retailers have to work harder than ever to win custom. More than half (58%) of consumers want retailers to offer more than just a discount – they expect free delivery or even a free gift to secure their loyalty. A further 50% said they never buy anything online without first checking for a discount code.

Having a good online presence was found to be crucial for retailers, as 74% of consumers said they prefer internet shopping to take the stress out of the sales, while 73% said it makes finding bargains easier. More than half (56%) of consumers said they are now less likely to go sales shopping in-store than in the past.

The results suggest that disenchantment with the key annual sales periods is being driven by a combination of sales fatigue, and scepticism around pricing.

More than half of people (58%) said they could not face the crowds, while over a third (37%) said they did not trust the accuracy of discounts advertised. 31% of shoppers shun the sales to avoid buying things they don’t need, 26% find the sales too stressful to bother with, and 24% said they can never find anything they really want.

An overwhelming 93% of British consumers believe there are now so many different sales during the year that the traditional promotion periods like the January sales have lost their impact.

However, the poll also reveals a generation split on the issue. Among those aged 18-34, less than one in five (18%) felt there are too many sales throughout the year, compared to 34% of those aged 34-54 and 52% of over-55s.

“The January sales appear to have lost their lustre for many shoppers, as sales fatigue has set in.” said Mark Barnett, President of Mastercard UK and Ireland.  “This situation has been heightened by pre-Christmas price cuts, together with Black Friday and CyberMonday, they are cannibalising the Boxing Day and January sales. By the time the New Year discounts hit the shelves, many consumers have already had their fill of bargains.”

While the January sales remain the time when most people expect to find the best bargains, the study suggests this year’s offers have been a disappointment for many consumers.

More than one in five (22%) said the January sales had been a flop compared to previous years, while more than a quarter (26%) said Black Friday and Cyber Monday were worse in 2016 than the year before.

Yet 41% of those polled said they still expected the best deals in the January sales, compared to 22% who thought Black Friday and Cyber Monday would deliver the greatest discounts.

These findings were mirrored by Mastercard spending data that shows retail sales growth on Black Friday dipped from 5.7% in 2015 to 3.7% this year.