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c. 1900s-1980s

A century of January sales

You love a bargain? Get in line.

You love a bargain? Get in line. Literally. 

Yes, ’tis the season to find a discount. But for how much longer? The launch of the post-Christmas sale has become ever more pre-Christmas, with January sales appearing ever earlier in December.
And with the internet, do we now actually need to cross the threshold of a bricks-and-mortar store? Forming physically into lines certainly brings drama to the urge to spend money on items we never knew we needed. But battling with the throng — and for some, camping out all night — can be an utterly exhausting experience.

1906: Bargain hunters waiting to enter a shop in the January sales
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

But before online shopping, it was the only way to play. And it’s a game we’ve been playing since at least the beginning of the 20th century, as these pictures show. What bargains have we hunted for across time? You name it, we splashed out on it — everything from socks to fur hats.

1921: Crowds of shoppers, Regent Street, London, during the January sales
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The marauding hordes do generally remain under control, just. But at 9am on January 11th, 1981, around 400 people fought their way into Harrods’ television department, each seeking to grasp one of 40 raffle tickets. The bearer of each ticket would secure him or herself a 26′ Dynatron Remote Control Television sets. The TVs retailed at £799 (around $3500 today), and were on sale at half price.

The result? A melee. One woman fell and split her head, and the sales manager was roughed up.

1956: The January Sales begin, London
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
1949: Women queuing outside C&A in Oxford Street, London to enter the January sales
Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
1954: Hackney’s Crazy Sale, London
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
1955: A group of shoppers rummaging through a collection of fur hats at the opening of a winter sale
Keystone/Getty Images
1960: Women “fight” for cheap men’s socks in a department store, Frankfurt, Germany
DPA/Picture Alliance/Getty Images
1970: Shoppers crowded behind the glass doors of C&A’s in Oxford Street, London
Evening Standard/Getty Images
1977: Bargain hunters burst into Debenhams department store at nine o’clock in the morning for the start of the sales
Evening Standard/Getty Images
1981: Fighting crowds at Harrods, London
Mike Pattison/Mirrorpix/Getty

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