Arriving in Paris in October, I found out that there are only two official sales periods in France a year, closely regulated by the government. Having waited three months for the winter sale start, I was full of anticipation. And confusion. I understood that it would be busy, and people would be shopping. It seemed that every week, there would be further price cuts. The sales would start on 7 January and finish on 15 February (after we leave).
But beyond that, I wasn’t sure how it would work. Colleagues cautioned that if you really want something, to get it right away so it isn’t sold out. Apparently people scout stores beforehand to see what’s available and check their sizes. There is a story that they would try to hide things in the corners of stores until the prices went down further, but that stores caught onto that… The little I could find on websites also had this same attitude of… frenzy, advising to find what you want, scout it out, and be ready to fight the crowds.
Various observations and conclusions, after being in Paris for most of the sales period.
- There are thousands of shops in Paris and an exponential number of items of desire. I’m really not sure it’s necessary to get so worked up, particularly when I don’t think the sales prices are as great as in other countries (certainly, not the crazy sales and discounts you’d find in the USA).
- Wouldn’t it be more relaxed to pop into your favourite stores occasionally during the sale period, see what is on sale, and if it might go down even more as the sales period goes on.
- The thing is: it’s unpredictable. It’s not clear what will go on sale, and while some shops do have a 2nd or final markdown, it doesn’t particularly seem to be on a weekly basis. A number of stores don’t seem to go lower then 50% off. The first week of the sale, with 20% only seems pretty lame.
- However, if you are really keen, the night before, large stores like BHV or smaller chain stores (like the IKKS store I stopped in at) start putting the sales prices on, even if you can’t buy them. So you can do some research.
- In the clothes stores, a selection of items from last season will be on sale, and there will still be a section with their new collection.
- Most of the chain clothes stores that I scouted out, like Zara and H&M, or higher-end ones like the Kooples and IKKS, have reductions ranging from 20% to 50%. This means that the beautiful and high-end French clothing stores like Agnes B, Zadig & Voltaire, or the Loft are still going to be far out of my price range. 50% of 200 euros is still 100 euros…
- Printemps was less crowded on the Saturday after the sale started than Galeries Lafayette, but it does seem more expensive. There, a selection of clothes was between 20% and 50% off… but there was one area, on the 7th floor of the homewares store that had super-bargains up of to 70%. What an odd mix. In the men’s section, there were Top Shop short-sleeve button-up shirts for cheap, right next to a Dries Van Noten tank top, that did not stand out except for its price tag of 400 Euros (70% off that means 120 euros, or about $180 Australian). Cough.
- Galeries Lafayette was huge and buzzy, and had much better deals, with lots of different racks up to 70% off. In addition to the highest end designers, they seemed to have a bigger middle-range than Printemps, for example, selling labels I like such as Ben Sherman and Scotch and Soda and their own brand.
- I also stumbled on a huge department store called Citadium that had only men’s clothes and was aimed at a younger market. Still, it had some fun favourites like Fred Perry, Cheap Monday and the Danish company Suit, and a whole bunch of weird streetwear which is not appropriate for my age.
In the end, what do you get when you cross a shop-a-holic with a fashion victim. C’est moi!
- I bought a scarf and t-shirt from IKKS that I was obsessing over. Because my women work colleagues really gave this impression that things WOULD SELL OUT, I got them online, because I worried that they wouldn’t be in the stores in my sizes, but I discovered that I would have been able to find them no problem and saved me the delivery charge, and over the course of the sale, the prices continued to drop. I paid a lot more than I could have. If I was to do it again, I would have ordered online… at the end of the sale, not at the start, and not worry about anything selling out. Because they didn’t.
- I treated myself to an Alexander McQueen pair of jeans at 70% off, probably the only time I’ll ever be able to afford something from him…
- And am planning on rocking some corduroy pants from Scotch & Soda. They’ve slowly seemed to creep back into fashion…
- I also surprised myself by getting a jacket and a vest from Zara. They really do a good job of translating high fashion trends into the mainstream, and at affordable prices, and though Zara goes on sale in other countries, I couldn’t resist these and was perhaps influenced by finding the prices in other stores still too high.
- As the weeks went on, I also bought a great dress shirt from Emile Lafleurie and a 50% off vest from COS. It was clear that either I needed to leave the country, or the sale season needs to stop, before I continue with my mad consumerism…
- I admit though that one of the reasons I succumbed to a shopping spree is that I realized that everything is expensive in Paris, so while the prices seem relatively more expensive than say, a good sale in the USA, they are in line with the high cost of going out to eat, and the general cost of living. At least that’s my excuse.
If anyone else has hints and tips from the Paris sales, why not share them in a comment?