Unlike in the United States, retailers in Amsterdam and the Netherlands don't put on huge sales throughout the year or even at the end of each season. Here, and in many other European countries, January and July are the major clearance months when stores offer the biggest discounts. In the past, this was mandated by regulation and tradition. These days, Amsterdam no longer has to hold sales only during fixed times of the year, but these two months are still when you'll find the lowest prices on seasonal items. So, if you happen to be braving the chilly days of January or the high-season crowds of July in this Dutch capital, you'll be rewarded with major deals in Amsterdam's best shopping areas.
Note that in Amsterdam, you'll pay a VAT (value-added tax) of 21 percent; if you're from a non-EU nation, save your receipts to apply to get that back, or look for shops that offer tax-free shopping for non-EU residents. Stores that display tax-free shopping signs in their window may even be able to refund the tax onto your credit card at the point of purchase if you show your passport.
Where to Find the Sales
Every year during January and July, store windows become emblazoned with sale posters reading "uitverkoop," "opruiming" (both meaning "clearance sale"), "solden," or just "sale." Even stores on some of the more posh shopping streets, such as Haarlemmerstraat, Utrechtsestraat, the Nine Streets (Negen Straatjes), and Cornelis Schuytstraat—where prices during the rest of the year may keep some shoppers at bay—participate in the biannual sale.
The more economical stores—like budget-friendly Dutch department store HEMA, whose one-euro breakfast is a year-round deal—also slash their prices during these times. It's not only fashion retailers that participate, either. Shoppers can find sales in many types of stores.
Types of Savings
Expect to be rubbing elbows with hundreds of other bargain hunters looking for deals of up to 70 percent off. Savings start at 10 percent off and increase to more than half off the original price tag. Usually, only a small part of the store is designated to displaying sale items.
Additional Sales Throughout the Year
Smart shoppers may even find deals outside of these two Black Friday-like events. Dutch stores were previously only allowed to have sales at certain times of year (this is actually still the case in Belgium), but those laws have since loosened up, and more sales have started to pop up during other times. End-of-season sales have become more common, especially at global franchises. Mid-season sales take place during spring, in March and April, and fall, in September and October.
One of the most famous sales in the country, the three-day sale at De Bijenkorf, is held annually in September, as it has been since 1984. Visit De Bijenkorf's scenic location on Dam Square to experience the cultural phenomenon.