Shop ’til You Drop at the Paris Sales!

Les Soldes en Paris. Photo, Paris Shanghai fashion

If, like me, you love to shop, especially if there is the lure of snaring a great bargain,  I’ve got some very useful tips to help you make the most of the whole SALE shopping experience.

One of the great attractions of Paris is the excitement building up to the start of the end of season sales.

Visitors to Paris are often mystified about the French system concerning retail clearance sales—Les Soldes.  For those of us who are not French, it usually comes as something of a surprise to learn that the commencement and finishing dates of the seasonal sales are fixed by the state.

Paris Soldes. Photo, Kelprof

The general rule of thumb is that the January winter sales start at 8.00am on the first Wednesday of the month.  Accordingly, the next end of winter sales will start on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  There is even a set duration of six weeks, making 20 February the last winter sale day.  The summer sales are scheduled from 28 June to 08 August 2018.

The department stores and the big-name designer brands adhere quite strictly to the official dates, but smaller, individual shops may be persuaded to be somewhat more flexible.  If you are leaving Paris a day or so before the official starting date, it’s always worth asking a store if they are able to offer you the sale price.  Rather than miss making a sale, the answer might be yes.  However, any earlier than a day or two and they are unlikely to oblige.

Printemps Dept. Store Soldes. Photo, Pinterest

It is something of an oddity for those unaccustomed to such tight government control, but France being a highly regulated country, this whole system fits very much within the French psyche.  Stores wanting to have a sale outside the officially-sanctioned times would have to apply to “the powers that be” for permission.  The mere thought of wading through the mountain of paperwork required would be enough to dissuade even the most determined retailer!

Galeries Lafayette Dept. Store Soldes. Photo ablacarolyn

One positive aspect, from my perspective as a former fashion retailer, is that the haphazard nature of stores seeming always to be on sale (with the resultant confusion, if not outright cynicism, of the customer), big stores jumping the gun and stealing a march on small traders and suchlike, simply doesn’t happen in France. Everyone is on the same level playing field when it comes to competing for the customers’ discretionary shopping Euro.

BHV Dept. Store Soldes. Photo, The Tourist in Paris

However, when times have been tough for French retailers the authorities have occasionally relaxed the rules, allowing retailers to use euphemisms such as ‘Prix Exceptionel’ or ‘Promotion’, if they want to clear excess stock outside the official sales dates.

Advertising the second mark-down. Photo, Prisianist

The initial mark-down (demarque) percentage is often something like 30% off full retail, but as time goes by, the discounts get bigger.  Many savvy Parisians wait for the second mark-down regarding that as offering the best deals. So, if you’re prepared to take the risk that the fabulous outfit or bag you’ve lusted after will still be around after the flush of sales interest has cooled, come the end of the sale period it will be reduced by a further 50%–perhaps more if you’re lucky, and someone else hasn’t grabbed it by then.

Plan your sale shopping carefully.  If you can, do some reconnaissance of the stores you’re interested in a day or so before the sale starts, and avoid weekends if possible. Scout ahead and check the shops’ opening times as some open earlier on the first day of the sales.

A successful day at the sales! Photo, nrionline

Lastly, don’t forget to wear light, easy to remove clothing and comfortable footwear as the crowds will be huge, stores overly hot (even in winter), and the normally well-mannered French become just a tad too pushy in their rush to snare a bargain—in fact, it’s more of a take-no-prisoners approach!

My next post will be all about the strategies to help you find the right bargains.

 

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