EVERYONE loves a bargain because we all like to think we’re getting the best for less. After Christmas, for many that bargain comes in the form of the January sales.

I hate the January sales. In fact, I hate sale shopping in general.

I have friends who love it and are very good at it, always managing to find a diamond in the rough.

Me? I always find the rejects.

But buying good quality fashionable items doesn’t have to be expensive. Dress agencies offer the best for less and give a great deal to both the buyer and the seller, while customers support independent traders.

Dress agencies take quality unwanted items and sell them on at a reduced price. They then give a percentage of the sale back to the donor and take a percentage for themselves. Items that don’t sell are either given back to the individual or donated to charity.

Exchange and Smart, in New Street, Worcester, has 17 years of experience and specialises in smart-casual items from high street brands such as Per Una, Wallis and Next and designers such as Armani, DKNY and Paul Smith, but not sale items, in sizes six to 20.

Owner Sally Blundell said: “Everything we take has to be cleaned beforehand according to the instructions and we only take clothes two years old or less.

Everything is displayed in sizes and we stock according to seasons.

Women can come in and treat themselves to an entire outfit.”

It’s a similar story at The Niche, in Friar Street, which opened in January 2002. Owner Anne Neary also sells top-end high street and designer clothes, stocking daywear, eveningwear and jewellery.

They stock everything from Russell and Bromley to Mulberry and Prada to Paul Smith.

Anne said: “It’s a win-win for everybody. We only take things in mint condition and we try to offer a wide variety. If it’s not fashionable we don’t take it, but classics don’t date. And we cater for all ages. We get a lot of mothers and daughters coming in and shopping together.”

Anne said many people just leave clothes for her to price, but if there’s a certain price someone wants for an outfit that will also be taken into consideration.

She said: “Our customers like something a bit different, that’s why they shop here. They’re fed up with all the same things on the high street.

“Where else could you buy Prada or Burberry at our prices?”

Anne said the business is also very fortunate to be located in a building dating back to 1535.

She said: “It gives a lot of character. It’s important to have really good premises when you have a second-hand shop. The quality of the premises and the location, together with the quality of the stock all give that ambience of really good quality and a lot of people don’t know it’s second hand.”