Fashion Travel: London Sale Season

January is sales season in the U.K. and mainland Europe, and the weak pound makes London more affordable than ever.
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Most people spend the first weeks of January ripping down the garland, dismembering the Christmas tree and stuffing it anywhere it'll fit like some sort of pine tree mobster. Others leave the undecorating to staff and make their annual shopping pilgrimage across the Atlantic.

January is sales season in the U.K. and mainland Europe, as the continent's most famous department stores and designer boutiques offer their steepest discounts of the year.

While the euro has remained relatively strong against the U.S. dollar, the British pound is at multi-decade lows, making the U.K. fashion capital more affordable than ever for pond-hopping bargain-hunters.

Shopping Base Camp

Since you saved money on your airfare, as January is one of the cheapest flying seasons of the year, you'll be able to splurge a bit on your accommodations. You'll want to stay somewhere that's within walking distance to the best shopping streets around Knightsbridge and Oxford Street, London's main shopping thoroughfares. Check-in to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park located across the street from Harvey Nichols and Hyde Park.

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The interior of the

Mandarin Oriental

offers a distinguished decor of paneled-wood walls and regal marble staircase running the spine of the building. Rooms are more Queen Victoria than Victoria Beckham with extravagant wood-lined closets to hang your shopping booty and personal butler to press it in time for dinner in the lobby's Michelin-rated restaurant,


. Afterward, the Adam Tihany-designed bar offers a glam destination for exhausted shoppers looking for alcoholic hydration.

9 a.m. Shopping Strategy

Since you'll be trying on clothes most of the day, you've skipped the morning scones in lieu of coffee and a good run around Hyde Park. Your shopping blitz begins at


, the mothership of London fashion.

The store opens at 9:30 a.m. everyday but Sunday, when it opens at 11:30 a.m. Hitting London's largest department store at opening ensures that all the merchandise has been picked up from the dressing room floors and the ransacked shelves returned to meticulous order.

Start in the store's high-fashion areas where the best deals are found. Designers like Alexander McQueen and Burberry Prorsum are impeccably represented in mini display boutiques. Bargain shoppers will want to stay with British designers for the best deals, avoiding Italian and French designers that come with a hidden euro-premium.

Once your hands are full of yellow shopping bags, head to the tax-free office on the lower level to claim back your V.A.T. before heading to the Food Hall for a stand-up sushi lunch.

Afternoon on Dover Street

Created by Commes des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo,

Dover Street Market

is located in a six-story building off Bond Street. The micro-department store features designs from Commes des Garcons as well as Raf Simons, Lanvin, Hedi Slimane and Ann Demeulemeester.

The space is divided between a series of mini boutiques designed by local set decorators amongst the store's steel beams and exposed brick walls. The January Sale includes all floors and collections, connected by a narrow staircase and super-slow elevator that's not worth the wait.

Afterwards, hit Rose Bakery on the top floor with its few rooftop tables and menu of teas and homemade soups.

Time to Bond

It's the Rodeo Drive of the U.K., sprinkled with bits of Madison Avenue and SoHo. Don't waste time traveling by cab in the late afternoon, you'll get there faster on foot.

Since most of the high-end stores close at 6 p.m. during the week, you'll want to start on Old Bond Street where posh retailers like



Stella McCartney

offer fashion embassies frequented by Liz Hurley and Kate Moss.

The numerous storefronts of Old Bond Street

Once you've tired of the top-tier fashion houses, make your way to more affordable New Bond Street with its shiny outposts of



Nicole Farhi

. While these smaller stores won't offer the volume of merchandise found at the larger department stores, they will offer new spring and summer merchandise as well as a more charming shopping experience.

Evening With Harvey

You'll want to return to your hotel to drop off your bags, freshen up and then head across the street for your evening dose of sales.

For those yet to meet the pleasure of Harvey's acquaintance, the store has occupied the same street corner at Slone and Knightsbridge since the early 19th century when it was a local linen store. Over the years it's blossomed into London's most stylish department store for U.K. celebrities and fashionable royals.

Like Selfridges, the

Harvey Nichols sale

is staggered over the four weeks of January but with discounts increasing over the month.

The retail floor is lined in racks of Fendi, Lanvin, Stella McCartney and Dior with discounts ranging from 30% to 50% off. Not limited to just clothing, the store also offers extensive discounts on an array of housewares located on the fourth floor as well as the famous food market located on the rooftop perfect for a Champagne toast before the store's 8 p.m. closing.

Michael Martin is the managing editor of -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.