IMG_5755The French soldes or sales come twice a year–in July and January. They’re the moment when retailers mark down old inventory to move it and make way for the nouvelles collections. Store-wide sales aren’t allowed outside the designated periods, though retailers can offer promos or promotions at will on a few items, kind of like loss leaders. P1100471This summer’s soldes started June 27–it’s always on a Wednesday, probably linked to the fact that school is in session only half the day on Wednesdays (and classes continue until the early days of July, so yes, it matters). They will be over August 7. For some reason, two departments (Alpes-Maritimes and Pyrénées-Orientales)  have soldes from July 4 to August 14.

Usually the soldes run for six weeks, but the government wants to shorten it to four, starting with the next winter soldes. (The winter soldes start the second Wednesday of January, unless that would be after Jan. 12, in which case they start on the first Wednesday.) IMG_5756The idea is that retailers get tired of having soldes for so long and that merchandise gets picked over quickly, leaving the dregs to lie about for too long. Shorter soldes would create more urgency.

Third markdown…

Each week of the soldes, retailers cut prices further. They start off with a tease, with most stuff marked to 20% or 30% off, then up to 40% or 50%, and finally toward 70% and more.

Fourth markdown.

I operate on the coup de coeur strategy for the soldes. If you really like something, it’s dangerous to wait for it to be marked down–your size or favorite color might be gone. If you have broad parameters, like “jeans,” or “shoes” then you might find something that tickles your fancy and doesn’t pinch your pocketbook. Some of the best deals are in small boutiques, which want to clear the racks for new items and which might not have a good system to get rid of remainders. The soldes also apply to other retailers, like electronics or appliances.

I did the soldes in Toulouse recently. Even though we brought water bottles, I started to feel overheated after a few hours of beating the pavement. We had waited out the first couple of weeks, not so much out of strategy than out of scheduling, but it was just as well, because by afternoon there were long lines for changing rooms.

The main shopping drag in Carcassonne with its pretty parasols that cast such lovely, soft shade.


The parasols of Carcassonne…the opposite of the Parapluies (umbrellas) of Cherbourg (culture tip: that’s the name of the 1964 movie that was Catherine Deneuve’s first big role).

I do have two coping strategies: Go early, as soon as the doors open. This applies to museums and other tourist sights, as well. Everybody says they’re going to get an early start, then they roll out the door around 10 or 11 and it’s almost lunch and so why not just wait until after eating. In fact, lunch time is the other strategy–it’s sacred in France, so if you go against the flow (when you want to get something done, otherwise, by all means, adopt the leisurely lunch!) you can avoid the crowds. P1100470Wishing you short lines and beaucoup de bonnes affaires!

19 thoughts on “Sales Season in France

  1. Shunning the soldes completely this year. Don’t need anything, don’t want anything, unless it’s cold and has cool ‘sweat’ pearls on the outside – yes, bien sûr, on the outside of a glass! 🙂

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    1. I’m with you–on a shopping fast–but I enjoy vicariously with friends. And my teen constantly needs stuff–shoes especially get destroyed and other stuff just requires new sizes, with longer arms and legs.


  2. I loathe and despise shopping (not a good fit for here, you might correctly assert). I’m the quick in and out knowing exactly what I need and getting just that girl. However, I will make a very quick foray into one or two favourite places during Soldes season and my strategy is quite simple. I go at the start for what I need and I go right at the end for a quick flick through what remains and if I get a bargain so be it and if I don’t so be it. I then retire to the nearest good cafe and imbibe of whatever is appropriate to the season! It’s one of the perks of having a family that are all grown up …. when they were children and ados I had to brave the sales and I used to limber up mind and body for weeks beforehand in the hope that I would be strong enough to survive!!!

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  3. Ah, les soldes! After living in the United States for so long, where stores are constantly “on sale” (à la Macy’s,) the word – and concept – have lost some of their appeal, I must confess. Since I don’t need much, I would have loved a chance to sit in that pretty Carcassonne street, in the shade of the colorful “parasols” at a café terrace, to observe locals and visitors in action. 🙂 Maybe next year… (Just shared your excellent article with French Girl in Seattle Facebook community.) A bientôt ! — Véronique

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  4. I have never understood the – shopping as a recreational sport ideal. The exception being garden centres and flea markets and off course Brocants. That chip seems to be missing from me. However, when in France, stores seem to call my name. I go into high end stores and boutiques, trying on the newest styles picturing myself strutting about my small island home. Pottery and linen jump into my arms. Shoes always find a spot in the suitcase.
    I’m looking forward to my next fix ;-))

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  5. Sales are exactly the same in Spain. Unless I have a huge coup de coeur I wait until prices go down to buy what I like. It’s a big risk, but I’ve got great deals thanks to that. Usually I go to on the first day of the sales and as soon as the doors open. It’s what works best for me too 🙂

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