Monday saw the start of the January sales; and shops that had marked down their prices, not a mere 30 percent, but a reasonable 70 percent (considered how overpriced designer items have been over the past few years) looked as though a bomb had hit them. For the rest, the sales resemble a performance that has been on at the theater for decades and still manages to play to packed houses. People take the plunge, splash out ever larger sums of money and finally emerge quite spent, with credit cards the bank has blocked, but with the illusion that they have won at an auction of impressions – which is something not unlike playing in a casino. And as in gambling, so with the hunt for bargains; a one-off triumph leads people to think that the next victory lies lurking in the next shop window. However, not to be forgotten is that sales are where both the best and the worst purchases are made, of clothes and accessories that will never be worn and which, of course, cannot be returned. A cool head is needed, since the panic-buying syndrome might, in the end, lead to a collection of useless items. Like last year.