5 Havens for Discounts in the City of Light
As one of the world's fashion capitals, you'd expect to find at least a few good budget shops and designer outlet stores in Paris. Parisians know that finding the perfect pair of slacks from a discount designer shop or antique lamp from a flea market is tout un art-- a genuine art. Particularly if you're visiting Paris on a limited and strict budget, make sure to bookmark this page for great ideas on cheap shopping opportunities in the city.
When we say "cheap", though, we don't necessarily mean that quality has to be taken out of the equation. Locals pride themselves on finding fine clothes or home items for next to nothing. Read on for just a few of their secrets.
Vide-greniers (Attic Sales)
The epitome of bargain shopping has to be yard sales. While you won’t find any front yards in the middle of Paris, the French do have their own version of getting rid of old household items: vide-greniers – literally, “emptying the attic.”
Often taking over several blocks in designated neighborhoods, vide-greniers feature secondhand clothing direct from the merchant, from very used to practically new. Those motivated to dig will certainly reap rewards, often scoring brand-name items for a fraction of the original price – don’t be afraid to bargain here.
Summer and Winter Sales
Twice a year, stores in France slash the prices of a majority of their off-season clothing and open the doors to swarms of eager shoppers. Every January and July, as much as 75% is taken off retail items, for a month of bargain hunting in most stores in the country (home furnishings, books, antiques, and any number of items go on sale in addition to clothing).
One word of warning: Make sure get to shops fast. French people mean business, and if you wait until the end of the month to pick up that coveted peacoat or swimsuit, there is a good chance your size will be gone. The benefit of waiting it out, however, is getting the really cheap prices.
Next up? The hallowed vintage store. There are dozens of such shops in Paris – far too many to name here. The easiest place to start is by visiting three neighborhoods where you’ll find a plethora of quality vintage items on sale.
In Montmartre, right behind the Abbesses metro station, Chine Machine stands apart as being one of the few vintage shops in the area with a dynamite customer service and appropriately priced, funky clothes for women. Near Hotel de Ville and the Centre Pompidou is another top spot for loads of vintage shops. Free’P’Star offers a no-fuss, decently-priced selection and has three locations, all within walking distance from one another. Around metro Jacques Bonsergent, you’ll find another cluster of great vintage stores. Start with Frip Sape, which offers low prices and a treasure trove of secondhand goods, including a nice selection of leather boots. Once you’ve tackled these vintage havens, you’re ready to break out towards the individual retro gems. GoldyMama offers higher-end pieces from the likes of Chanel and Jean-Paul Gaultier, as well as run-of-the-mill street fashion. Stepping into this tiny boutique is like going back in time, where a friendly staff will help when you need it, but leave you to happily shop when you don’t.
Kookai ready-to-wear boutiques offer some of women’s fashion’s most up-to-the-minute trends, but prices can be a bit steep for the average shopper, at least outside of sales season. Here at its outlet store, you’ll find those stylish wears for around half the price of the boutiques – with items from last season or surplus stock from the latest collection. While some outlet shops in Paris sell defective pieces or out-of-date styles, Kookai Outlet is definitely a diamond in the rough.
Some concept shops in Paris also carry high-quality vintage items. These don't generally come cheap, but again, if you take advantage of sales season in summer and winter you can snag good deals.
Trendy Global Chains
If you’re not really into rifling through bins of secondhand clothing or last year’s fashions, check out global fashion chains such as Zara, H&M, and Promod for year-round, low-end prices on the latest styles. While each store has its own slightly different style, they all have sections for trendy, casual or professional wear, and all of the collections at these global chains are inspired by runway trends.
You'll find at least one branch of these chains in most of the major Paris shopping districts, especially on Rue de Rivoli (1st and 4th arrondissements), at the Forum des Halles, on the Champs-Elysees and at three of the popular shopping malls in Paris.
In addition to the familiar stores mentioned above, check out these popular French and global chains:
Uniqlo: Japanese Chic, for Cheap
In such a fashion-conscious city as Paris, even tourists may feel the pull to wear the latest trends. The Japanese chain is a perfect way to get the styles of the moment for less than in some of the smaller boutiques featuring local designers. For men and women, the printed t-shirts are especially fun, as well as some of the basics, like trousers and summer wear. The main location is in close reach of some of Paris' top department stores, too, making it convenient for an afternoon of shopping.
Petit Bateau: Not Just for Les Enfants
This beloved French chain is not just for children anymore. Locals love Petit Bateau for its classic lines, unquestionable quality, and unbeatable prices -- especially during sales season. While the variety for adults is nowhere near what it is for the younger ilk, there is still much in the way of t-shirts, sweaters, and other basics that will make you feel oh-so-French. If you’re looking for the classic Parisian long-sleeved shirt in white with navy blue stripes, there is no better place to find it than here. There are several locations around Paris.
Andre Stock: For Shoes
If you like a good bargain, there’s nothing more satisfying than getting quality shoes for less. Shoe prices in Paris are notoriously high for the quality, so no shopper should feel guilty about looking for a deal. Andre offers good quality for moderate prices, and here at its outlet store, you’ll find last season’s shoes for much less. As far as selection goes, the styles are constantly changing, so you might need to come twice or three times before finding something that fits your style. But make no mistake – “outlet” in this sense does not mean “defective.” The shoes here might not be in the latest issue of Vogue but you’ll still find that reliable Andre quality.
Tati: "Ultra-Hard Discount" Clothes and Home Items
Tati is the somewhat beloved, somewhat maligned standard for French bargain shopping. It’s not glamorous, it’s not classy, but it is definitely cheap. In fact, the French refer to it as "le hard discount" store par excellence. The quality generally follows the prices, but if you’re looking for basics, especially light clothes for the summer or accessories, Tati offers some great deals.
Flea markets are another great way to find bargain items in Paris and are part of a true cultural tradition. The most famous of the "puces" (literally, fleas) is the outdoor market at Clingancourt/St Ouen. Stepping out of the métro at Porte de Clignancourt can be overwhelming at first, but it will be well worth your while to check out the markets here. There are 14 markets englobed in the Marché aux puces, as it is known locally, and they offer enough variety to strike just about anyone’s fancy. From cheap, imported goods to antique wears and used clothing, strolling through the massive Marché aux puces is a great way to spend an afternoon. Just be sure to take care of your belongings here and beware of pickpockets.