On Wednesday, January 8, the huge sales in France known as les soldes began. This semi-annual event provides stores the chance to deplete their stock to make room for the new and shoppers the opportunity to take advantage of discounts as deep as 70 percent. This year, the sales will continue until Tuesday, February 4.
Les soldes are regulated by the government. Sellers aren’t allowed to raise prices before discounting items, and the original price must be clearly indicated along with the discounted price. Prior to this year, les soldes lasted six weeks, but the loi Pacte de 2019 changed that. Departments set their own dates; four of them — Meurthe-et-Moselle (54), Meuse (55), Moselle (57), and Vosges (88) — have their soldes from January 2 to 29.
To make sure you get the best discount and come home with a maximum of items for a the minimal cost, here are our tips for how to navigate les soldes.
#1. Avoid the chaos
Shopping shouldn’t feel like the Highland Games (ye who pulls the sweater across the bargain bin shall win!). Set aside weekday mornings for shopping. The Parisians will be at work and the majority of tourists will be trying to get to museums before the crowds.
#2. Keep size conversions on hand
#3. Figure out what you actually want
At the beginning of the four-week period, the stock will be at its fullest. The still-trendy jacket, a full set of dishware, and the shoes in your size will all be there for the taking. However, the discounts will be low. Maybe 15, 20, or 30 percent off, the average discount on a sale rack in the United States. With each passing week, the options will deplete and the discount will deepen to 50, 60, and 70 percent off. By the final days, that still-trendy jacket may be gone, the dishware might not be a full set, and shoes are no longer available in your size. This is the trade-off you must navigate.
To keep yourself from losing out on everything you want, make a list of the things you definitely want and what you’d be willing to spend on each item. That way, when you see an attractive trench coat for 30 percent off that falls within your price range during the second week, the prospect of a deeper discount won’t make you put it back on the rack and potentially lose out on it.
If you come across an item that you want that wasn’t on your list, ask yourself “would I rather pay this price or not have it at all?”.
#4. Let VAT tax become your friend.
Non-European Union residents, save your receipts, especially if you spend €175.01 or more on the same day, in the same store. Of that 20 percent VAT tax, you should be able to get 12 percent back. Some stores like Galeries Lafayette will provide you with a filled-out copy of the form if you use one of their kiosks and the cash or credit reimbursement on the spot. Otherwise, ask for a detaxe form from the store and fill it out before you get to the airport. If your form has a PABLO logo at the top, you can use the the self-service PABLO machines to validate the tax return, then go get your money from a Travelex counter.
#5. Go to the right locations
Quash those dreams of getting a Dior dress for cheap right now because it’s not happening. Head to Sephora for makeup, Fnac for books, Galeries Lafayette for clothing, Etam for underwear, Merci for housewares…
#6. Careful with what you wear and bring
Heels will make your feet suffer, a backpack will be a burden on your shoulders as you swipe through racks, luggage will hinder your ability to walk through the aisles. Leave your food behind and have your coffee sur place instead of à importer and brought in the store, since many establishments won’t let you in with anything to eat or drink.
#7. Ask salespeople for help
French people think that American salespeople are agressive (“hi, welcome to Zara, let me know if you need anything, I’d be more than happy to help”), and Americans are strangely intimidated by the French ritual of salespeople saying “bonjour” and asking if they can help you find something. Don’t be afraid, they’re there to help. Explain what you’re hoping to buy and what you’re willing to spend, and they can point you in the right direction.
#8. Don’t forget the internet
E-shops also participate in les soldes. Le Slip Français, La Redoute, and Meuf Paris, for example, all participate. A tip: order what you want online while in the U.S. and get it delivered to your hotel or Airbnb while you’re in France. That way you don’t have to pay for shipping costs. Just make sure to warn your hotel or host that you’re expecting a package.
#9. Use apps to calculate prices
Soldes faciles is an app calculates discounts for you. Just enter the price and the percent reduction, and the app will spit out the new cost and how many euros you’re getting off the original price. There’s also a setting for a double-discount, to calculate percentages off of percentages. Calcul soldes is another app that not only lets you calculate discounts and double-discounts, but it keeps track of all your purchases. Calculate the discount on the books, linens, and home decor you buy, then look at your total receipt and see how much you’ve spent total. This is especially helpful for keeping track of your progress to reaching the €175.01 minimum to qualify for the VAT return.