For locals and tourists alike, sales season in Paris brings both a sense of great opportunity and dread. On the one hand, there's the prospect of finding fantastic deals on clothes and other items generally out of reach for most budgets.
On the other, les soldes (as the sales periods are known in French) bring the far less attractive prospect of crowds, traffic, noise, and racks that have been left barebones from overzealous fellow shoppers. Learn how to survive the annual sales in the city of light by reading our expert tips and suggestions But first, a few cultural explanations are in order.
Why Only Twice Per Year?
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 the Winter 2020 Sales Begin in Paris?
Biannual sales in the city of light now span a mere four weeks, following the passage of new regulations that reduced the period from six weeks to around a month. "Les soldes" almost always fall at the end of June and the beginning of January, with a few exceptions at select stores and shops. This is true for online retailers operating in France, as well.
Summer Sales in Paris
If you're visiting during the summer, you'll get another crack at the bi-annual craze.
In-Between Sales: "Les Promotions"
In light of the ongoing economic crisis, 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 "Promotiones" (deals) or "Soldes exceptionnels" (exceptional sales) on shop windows.
How to Make the Most of "Les Soldes"
How do locals "do" the sales? Well, to begin, while everything from shoes to shower curtains and designer clothing lines 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 percent. Use these tips to navigate the labyrinth like a pro:
- Get there 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 crowds and 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 on something unique. 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 sales in person? Try buying online. Many the most popular Parisian 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.