My alter ego, Bargain Betty, had to eat her words this Labour Weekend.

That's because I'm a great cynic when it comes to Labour Day, Boxing Day or Easter sales. The general public are primed to believe that they're going to get the bargain of the century.

The reality behind the huge SALE signs that plaster our high streets and malls on public holidays is usually a paltry 10 to 20 per cent off here and there. That's hardly a bargain. A sale isn't a sale in my books unless it's 50 per cent or more off the recommended retail price (RRP).

By way of background to my Labour Day bonanza, I'd failed to find any cheap and cheerful summer T-shirts I liked when I made my annual pilgrimage to Glassons.

A quickly cobbled together plan B was to take a trip to the Dress-Smart Outlet Shopping mall in Onehunga. My experience of outlet malls hasn't always been good. Often the discounts off the RRP are less than you'd get by waiting for the sales in the chain's regular shops. Not this time. I snaffled some stonking bargains.

I'd barely got through the door when I was waylaid by JK Kids Gear, which had 35 per cent off its already reduced prices. I walked out with a nice pair of boys pyjamas for $6.50 - RRP $29.95.

Then at Pumpkin Patch I picked up a tunic top reduced from $22.99 to $4.99. That's a bargain - although neither purchase would have been worth it if we hadn't been short of those items.

You've got to be careful with reductions on the high street and at outlet malls as they often come with fine print. Quiksilver had 60 per cent off signs plastered across its window, which does qualify as a sale on the Betty register. But it turned out this was off the RRP, not the already reduced prices.

Back on T-shirt track, I headed for Max Fashions, which was offering 25 per cent off all reduced prices in store and a heap of stock.

After a good rummage I picked up my three summer T-shirts at various bargain prices ranging from $7.50 to $18.75.

However, as much as I like a bargain, I could really feel these retailers' pain. Retailing must be pretty tough at the moment if you have to discount to this extent.