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SALE TIME AT HARRODS

Harrods' 128th annual January sale begins Jan. 7, and it's not just the Brits who start queueing up the night before, sleeping bags and brandy flasks in hand, to get first crack at the bargains. There are just as many tourists as locals.

For sale-jaded Americans, it may seem like a lot of trouble for 25 to 50 percent off (fall and winter fashions are 75 to 80 percent off), but this is not your average Presidents' Day weekend sale at Harrods, which consists of 330 departments and 20 restaurants spread out over 1 million square feet on seven floors, if only because the tony store accommodates commoners' budgets just twice each year (there's also a July sale).

A few tips for bagging the best bargains: The sale runs Jan. 7 to 31, but the best stuff goes the first week. Avoid Jan. 10, the sale's first Saturday, when Harrods card holders get an extra 10 percent off and crowds surpass those of opening day.

The real pros pinpoint the location of items they want on the day before the sale starts, identify the closest elevators and try on apparel for size before the crowds descend. Buck the crowds by starting on the top floor (athletic gear and active sportswear), then work your way down.

Don't expect everything to be marked down. New-season fashions and classic designer stuff, like Hermes, Gucci, Barbour, Louis Vuitton and Prada, are ritually excluded, as is Harrods' livestock department.

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