Need a bit of retail therapy? There's nowhere better to go than Paris, especially during the biannual soldes (sales) for around five to six weeks in summer (late June to August) and winter (early January to mid-February).
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?
Boutiques give discounts to their most prized and regular customers. If you receive a text inviting you to a vente privée, you’re practically Parisian.
No need to break out in a cold sweat mid-way through at the thought of the best bargains already snapped up. Smart bargain-hunters wait until later during the sales 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 side entrances on rue de Mogador – they are the closest to the escalators and lifts 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. Following the establishment of Paris' 12 'international tourist zones', all three of these department stores are now also open on Sundays.
No need, either, 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.
Clothes shops organise stock by size. Know your size in France and if you’re 40 or above gloat over 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%. Use 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 remboursements . No exchanges or refunds. Understood?
Craving a dash of Parisian Zen and understated elegance? Jump on the metro (line 9 from Galeries Lafayette) to Oberkampf in the Haut Marais where many designer boutiques don’t need to or care about brandishing a ‘Soldes!’ sign during their sales.
Last updated in July 2017.