Sales are state-regulated in France and generally run during two periods of the year: once in summer, just before the massive exodus toward the sea and sun, and once in the winter, shortly following Christmas. Department stores, boutiques, designer outlets, and even hardware shops clear out items from the previous season, gradually slashing prices over the course of the sales period.
When do Paris 2014 Winter Sales Begin?
In Paris, biannual sales generally span six weeks, usually falling at the end of June and the beginning of January. Winter 2014 sales begin Wednesday, January 8th and end Tuesday, February 11th. Summer 2014 sales dates have not yet been announced, but check back here in around May for the official dates!
In light of the ongoing economic crunch, the French government has been relaxing rules and allowing stores to hold unofficial sales in between the habitual periods as well. There's no way to know when these will fall, but look out for signs reading "Promotion" (deal) or "Soldes exceptionnels" (exceptional sales) on shop windows.
Tips and TricksHow do locals "do" the sales? Well, to begin, while everything from shoes to shower curtains are on offer at a discount during the traditional "soldes" in Paris, most Parisians set out to make a steal from clothing racks. If you've wondered how so many Parisians manage such seemingly impeccable style, now you know: even price tags on designer items can be slashed down by up to 80%. Use these tips to navigate the labyrinth like a pro:
- Catch the worm by arriving early. As anywhere else in the world, the best deals are procured at Paris sales shortly after the floodgates open. But in truth, most Parisians get ready for the sales the day before, perusing around the capital for hot items and occupying fitting rooms, trying on one, two, or ten things for size ahead of the race.
- Avoid the frenzy. Braving the sales in Paris requires strategy, patience, and lots of energy! To avoid getting pushed out of the way by impatient fellow shoppers, the best time to hit the soldes is during the week, in the early morning or during lunch hours. One caveat, though: many Parisians take a day off of work to look for deals, so you may be surprised at how full stores are even during the work week.
- Dress lightly and comfortably. During both summer and winter sales, Parisians often dress as simply as possible to save time in the fitting room. Avoid endless laces or buttons, and wear comfortable shoes. Remember that you may have to be prepared to run around for several miles to find your dream item, so you may as well put on a good pair of walking shoes for this mini-marathon.
- Know when to splurge. Parisians are apt to say that the true magic in soldes is being able to spoil oneself a bit, to indulge in clothes, beauty products, home items, or even rare books that are normally too pricey to consider. This is why the savviest locals have made a science of the sales: it's all in knowing where the best values can be found, and when to zone in on them. These hotspots for deals range from classic department stores like Galeries Lafayette or Le Bon Marché, to small, up-and-coming boutiques or discount designer shops around Les Halles or the Marais district. To decide what Paris shopping area you'd like to target, make sure to check out our guide to the best Paris shopping districts.
- Balance quality and price. Most Parisians wait until the midpoint of sales season to go in for the kill, knowing that it's usually the second price-markdown that offers the best values. Waiting until the very end of the sales will provide the most substantial discounts, but choice is often limited by that point, and when shopping for clothes, finding the right size becomes a challenge during the last days.
- Shop around and read the fine print. Don't hesitate to compare prices on an item between several stores, and make sure to check the return and exchange policy before making any purchases. During sales in Paris, many stores will not allow for items to be returned.
- Can't make it to the Paris sales in person? Try buying online. Many top Paris stores, including Galeries Lafayette, have online stores offering sale items. If you're not too daunted by the French, you can also try navigating specialized websites like 1000 Bonnes Affaires or L'internaute, which provide quick overviews of the best deals being offered in hundreds of stores. Remember, though, that not all stores ship outside of France.