There are many things that the French do well and one of them is holidays. There is a real commitment to free time and family time in France and Paris, yes Paris the otherwise busy capital city becomes a ghost town in August because the summer vacation period has arrived. You go from being able to buy a baguette on every corner to searching for an open boulangerie, the plus side there is free parking in August! As a perfect prelude to the summer holidays the sales begin. In France the sales are state regulated and happen twice a year, although laws on sales have been relaxed so you will see small offers and reductions at other times of the year the summer sale is still the main event. So there may not be sales every weekend but the benefit of this is that you get real reductions, for example last summer I bought a dress reduced from €300 to €30. I am wearing it below. These bargains are not on every rail but they are there.
Here are my tips for getting the most from the summer sales in France, even if you don't live there.
1. Remember that it is not just clothes that go on sale. Home wares, hardware stores, appliances, almost everywhere has a sale. If you are travelling from overseas for the sales be realistic about what you can carry back. If you are on the Eurostar this are less restrictions with regard to weight but you still need to be sensible.
2. Do your research. This is easier if you are resident in France a few days before they start, the official date this year was the 25th June, look around the shops and if you like to try things on do it then. There will be queues for the changing rooms. If you are not a French resident all is not lost you can have a little look online and plan to visit the shops that have more of the things you like. Chances are if you are not a resident in France you have come specifically to shop in the sales or are on holiday. Either of those instances mean that you are not needing to get all your shopping done on a lunch break so the odd changing room queue is not too much to bear. Also if you have done a little online research hopefully you will be taking lots in to the changing room in one go.
3. Develop nerves of steel. This I have in abundance. My mother's family is Indian so I have haggling in my blood, the key to haggling is you genuinely being able to walk away. The moment they know you want it regardless you have lost your power. My haggling background has given me the nerves of steel to wait. You have 4 whole weeks of sales and if you wait until the middle of them many stores slash their prices again. So yes there are further reduction but there is also a chance you will lose out on an item.
4. Don't be trapped by what I call the Ebay effect. Often I have sat watching an item and in those last moments the price goes shooting up simply with the frenzy of the auction. I have seen second hand, battered Ikea futons go for just £10 less than a brand new one. That is crazy behaviour, (those people DO NOT have nerves of steel). Just because something is on sale it does not make it a great buy. How often have you looked at a tag and thought wow that is such a great reduction. Before you buy ask yourself, why are you buying it? Will I wear this? If you are buying it just because it is down from 300 to €30 don't, that is a waste of €30
5. Know your size. I don't mean your dress size because that can change three times in the same store. Measure your bust, hips and waist in inches and centimetres. Make a note of them and take a tape measure with you to measure clothes. It is not as accurate as trying something on because sometimes there is a dart in an odd place for your body shape or sometimes things that look great on the hanger just don't look right on, but it can save time. There is no point taking things to try on that are way off.
6. Have alone time. Personally I have never been a huge fan of the girlie shopping trip. This is not because I do not like my friends or because I don't in fact enjoy the odd jaunt to the shops with said friends. But. Yes there is a but. If I have serious shopping to do I am focused, I have places to get to and goals to achieve. I don't want to have someone wait around for me, I would feel rude, nor do I want to cut into my sale time doing the same for someone else. If you go for a trip to 'do the sales with your friends. I strongly suggest splitting up and meeting up for lunch and dinner. If you want a second opinion ask the sales assistant, the are used to it, it is the French culture to shop alone.
7. Rent is expensive in Paris so many stores are not massive and even during sale season they do not have their shops packed to the rafters - they don't think it looks nice and does not sell clothes, I am inclined to agree. If you don't see your size it is worth asking, you never know.
8. Last but not least. If you really do not feel up to braving the sales go online. You will miss out on the smaller stores with no website but you can still grab some great bargains. Monoprix and Camaieu both have great site. If you are shopping online knowing your measurements is imperative.
I hope you find these tips useful. Happy hunting my friends and bon chance!