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Germany's winter season sales are in full swing

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Germany's annual winter-season sales are presently in full swing until mid-February. Although Germany conducts sales throughout the year, this is the time for business owners to clear out shelves and make room for new merchandise, to include spring and summer clothing. During the ongoing clearance sales, people can save up to 70 percent on items.

Merchandise such as electrical equipment, groceries or household goods are usually exempt from clearance sales, but people may be able to get good bargains on clothes, shoes, towels, curtains, fabric or carpets. "Winterschlussverkauf" means winter sales. People can figure out what is on sale by taking a close look at price tags. Only those items that are labeled with a marked-out price and are replaced with the new price are part of the clearance sales. Some industries offer merchandise manufactured specifically for clearance sales, usually of a lower quality, so it is important to look at the prices and compare items.

Furthermore, shoppers will be guided by large signs above the shelves that state "Schlussverkauf" or clearance sales, carrying the crossed-out and new prices.

Many stores will set up the popular "Wuehltische," or rummage tables for customers to dig through. This is an experience: don't be surprised by the behavior of eccentric shoppers while going through the Wuehltische. Those tables get a lot of attention and work under the motto, "first come first serve." Some people may occasionally use their elbows to find what they need.

Keep in mind that in most cases, clearance merchandise cannot be returned for a refund.

With the challenging road and weather conditions, or for people wishing to enjoy a traffic and stress-free day of shopping, a train ride to Trier, Cologne or elsewhere may to be a better option. The Deutsche Bahn offers a variety of tickets at different costs. Groups of five people or more can travel at reduced cost on slow trains to any city within Germany. The closest train stations to the base are in Bitburg-Erdorf, Speicher and Wittlich-Wengerohr. Stop by a train station for more information or go to www.deutschebundesbahn.de.

Most mid-size to larger stores throughout the country are open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. On Saturdays, possibly the optimal shopping day, Germany's larger departments stores are typically open from 9 or 10 a.m. until 8 or 10 p.m. Retailers in smaller cities, like Bitburg and Wittlich close between 2 and 6 p.m. in the pedestrian areas. Some supermarkets may remain open until 9 or 10 p.m. daily.