Retail therapy: top tips for shopping in the Paris sales

Need a bit of retail therapy? There's nowhere better to go than Paris, particularly as the sales start this January.

That frenzy of retail therapy otherwise known as the Paris sales kicks off again in January. Shopping in the city is not as elegant or dignified as at other times of year. But who cares about rifling through troughs of cut-price garments in one of the most chic places on earth when you can jet home with a dream Chanel frock or Zadig & Voltaire knit for a snip of the regular price?

In 2015 sales start in Paris and the rest of France sales at 8am on January 7 and end on February 17. Boutiques have been giving discounts to their most prized and regular customers for a week already. If you received a text inviting you to a vente privée, you’re practically Parisian.

No need to break out in a cold sweat at the thought of the best bargains already snapped up. Smart bargain-hunters wait until February when prices are slashed again and the real scream-hallelujah-dance-for-joy bargains can be enjoyed.

For the Full Monty in-your-face soldes experience, go to Galeries Lafayette (40 bd Haussmann, 9e). Queues form outside well before 8am when the famous department store opens - and then there is almost a stampede. For women’s fashion, skip the main entrance and use the Porte Auber side entrance – it is the closest to the escalator leading up to the 1st floor and iconic ‘temple of fashion’. Le Printemps (64 bd Haussmann, 9e) and Le Bon Marché (24 rue de Sèvres, 7e) across the Seine are other big addresses.

No need to camp out before sunrise. Department stores indulge in ouvertures exceptionelles (exceptional opening hours) the first few days of the sales - 8am to 9pm or 10pm the first day, then from 9.30am. Smaller boutiques stick to regular hours, opening at a modest 10am.

Clothes shops organise stock by size. Know your size in France and if you’re 40 or above gloat in the fact that, given most Parisian femmes fatales slip into a petite 36 or 38, you’ll have racks and racks of garments to sift through.

Sale garments are colour-coded to reflect discounts of 20% to 50%. Bring a calculator and know your colours - shops don’t use the same ones. Exchanging a sales purchase or getting a refund is impossible. Pas d’échanges ou reimboursements. No exchanges or refunds. Understood?

Craving a dash of Parisian Zen and understated elegance? Jump on the métro (line 9) to Oberkampf in the Haut-Marais where designer boutiques like Isabel Marant (47 rue de Saintonge, 3e) and Finger In the Nose (60 rue de Saintonge, 3e) don’t need to or care about brandishing a ‘Soldes!’ sign during their January sales.

This article was published in January 2012 , refreshed in December 2012 and January 2015.